And Then It Is Winter December 3, 2023
I wonder where all the years went! I know that I lived them all. You know, time has a way of moving quickly and catching you unaware of the passing years. It seems just yesterday that I was young, just married and embarking on my new life with my mate. Yet in a way, it seems like eons ago, and I have glimpses of how it was back then and of all my hopes and dreams. But here it is, the winter of my life and it catches me by surprise.
How did I get here so fast? Where did the years go and where did my youth go? I remember through the years seeing older people and thinking that they were years away from me and that winter was so far off that I could not fathom it or imagine fully what it would be like.
But here it is! My friends are retired and getting gray. They move slower and I see in them an older person. Some are in better shape and some are in worse shape than am I, but I see the great change. They no longer are like the ones I remember who were young and vibrant – but like me, their age is beginning to show and we are now those older folks that we used to see and never thought we would be. Each day now I find that just getting a shower is a real target for the day! And, taking a nap is not a treat anymore, it is mandatory because if I don’t on my own freewill, I just fall asleep where I sit!
And so now I enter into this new season of my life unprepared for all the aches and pains and the loss of strength and ability to go and do the things that I wish I had done but never did. But, at least I know that though the winter has come, and I’m not sure how long it will last, that when it’s over on this earth, it’s over. A new adventure will begin!
Yes, I have regrets. There are things I wish I hadn’t done and things I should have done. But there are many things I am happy to have done. It’s all in a lifetime.
If you are not yet in your winter, let me remind you that it will be here faster than you think. So, whatever you would like to accomplish in your life, please do it quickly! Don’t put things off too long! Life goes by so quickly. Do what you can today, as you can never be sure whether this is your winter or not. You have no promise that you will see all the seasons of life. Live for today and say all the things that you want your friends and loved ones to remember. And hope that they appreciate and love you for all the things that you have done for them in all the years past (and that they will forgive you for the things you should have done but didn’t).
Life is a gift to you. The way you live your life is your gift to those who come after.
Make it a fantastic one. -Author Unknown
How to Avoid A Spiritual Failure November 26, 2023
In his final hours in Rome, awaiting an inevitable execution, a very lonely apostle Paul suffered some additional heartbreak. “Demas,” he wrote, “hath forsaken me, having loved this present world” (II Timothy 4:10). We are left to speculate as to the particulars-what dread fears or powerful allurements led this faithful friend and co-worker to abandon the kingdom of God and to forsake his burdened brother. It was not as though he had fled the field at the first approach of trouble. During Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome Demas had evidently been a steadfast companion (Philemon 24; Colossians 4:14). Now, unexpectedly, this heart-mauling betrayal and desertion.
Paul said that Demas “loved this present world.” The “world” is many things. John describes it as a way of thinking where lust, materialism and pride abound (I John 2:15-16). What was it that got to the faithful Demas? Was it fear of death or imprisonment? Or was it something more subtle like a nostalgic longing for the old easy ways free of constant warfare? We are not told which one of these undid Demas but one of them found its mark.
Breaking points can come to us too if we are not very careful. A deep hurt we cannot find it in ourselves to forgive. A disappointing marriage. Failures with our children. Lost health or prosperity. Anything we had never imagined happening to us. And often it’s just plain prideful stubbornness. At any rate, don’t ever say you’d never do what others have done. You’ve never been all the places you could be. Peter learned a valuable lesson about that (Matthew 26:31-35). It is far better that we know our weaknesses and watch and pray that we enter not into temptation (Matthew 26:41). Satan loves an arrogant and self-confident man.
Another lesson to be learned from the failure of others is that those who at last go back, at first look back. Departures of apparent suddenness are really the end of a process. Our Lord warned that those who put their hand to the kingdom plow and look back longingly at the world are not fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62). The disciples who go back are those who first begin to cultivate again the values of the world and like the Israelites in the wilderness grow nostalgic amid their trials for the fleshpots of Egypt. They forget, of course, the galling bondage that accompanies the fleshpots of Egypt. These are the ones who gradually cease to meditate upon God’s word (Psalms 1:1-2), then become prayerless (James 4:1-2) as God and Christ seem far away. First men cease to study, then to pray, and, finally, to care.
Sometimes this all begins as a casual flirtation, a few little compromises dismissed as harmless. Too much time with worldly companions (I Corinthians 15:33), too much interest in a job (I Timothy 6:9-10), too much concern with being accepted and making our mark in the world (I Peter 5:5). Finally, it becomes a passionate love affair that makes us heedless of the injury we do to our Savior, ourselves and others.
Satan is the master of the “short step” method. Slow change is more effective in producing spiritual collapse than sudden departure. The danger of alerting the victim to what is happening is eliminated. We can be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:12-13). Warning flags need to start flying the moment we feel the slightest ebb in commitment. Beware of the spiritual slow leak.
The unfailing answer to this kind of spiritual failure is the daily discipline of an uncompromising dedication which admits of no exceptions and makes quick and humble redress for every transgression. Burn all your bridges and press on to the heavenly mark (Philippians 3:7-14). And if, in spite of everything, you happen to stumble badly, don’t let despair destroy you. Remember that everyone who has faltered has not ultimately fallen. We can all thank God for that. John Mark’s disgraceful desertion in Pamphylia (Acts 13:13) was not the end of him because he didn’t allow it to be. Paul sent for him during his last hours (II Timothy 4:11) and the Holy Spirit chose him to record the gospel story. We don’t have to be like Demas. In the mercy of God we have the privilege of being like John Mark or Peter, and, yes, even Paul. By Paul Earnhart
Jesus’ Family Tree November 19, 2023
Someone said, “Don’t shake the family tree too hard because some fruits and nuts may fall out.” I’ve found that to be true in my own family history research, and it holds true in the genealogy of Jesus too.
I wonder how many people, as they begin reading the New Testament, just skip over the first seventeen verses of Matthew. Whew! All those begats! All those difficult names! Why do we care about them anyway?
Among many other reasons, we ought to learn about those people because they show that our God uses less-than perfect people to accomplish His perfect will.
Human wisdom would have Messiah’s family tree filled with pure, spotless ancestors. Some people think we shouldn’t even mention the character flaws exhibited by some in Jesus’ pedigree. However, doing so isn’t disrespectful; it’s honest! Scriptures portrays even its heroes “warts and all.”
“Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar” (Matthew 1:3). Tamar had been the wife of Judah’s two sons, both of whom died. Judah didn’t keep his promise to give her to his younger son when he came of age, so Tamar dressed like a harlot and duped Judah into getting her pregnant. Despite their obvious moral failures God used these people to bring the Messiah into the world.
“Salmon begat Boaz by Rahab” (Matthew 1:5). Rahab’s background as a Gentile and a harlot in no way prevented God from accomplishing His will despite her flaws.
“David the king begat Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah” (Matthew 1:6). We all know the sad and sordid account of David and Bathsheba. But despite their glaring defects they are listed in Jesus’ genealogy.
This doesn’t excuse anyone’s sin or make it okay! Quite to the contrary, it demonstrates the universal need for a Savior. Jesus came to save sinners. That includes His own blood kin. And it included you.
By Joe Slater
The Problem With Envy November 12, 2023
Have you ever looked at another person’s possessions, happiness, or success and said, “I wish that was me.”? If we’re honest, we’ll admit we have all said it at one time or another. The problem with envy is that when we compare ourselves to others, it can cause us to be dissatisfied or even miserable with our present status.
Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher, is quoted as saying, “Envy is pain at the sight of another’s good fortune, stirred by those who have what we ought to have.” God’s word does not fall short when it comes to warnings against the sin of envy. Here’s a sample:
- Envy caused the first murder (Genesis 4:5)
- Joseph’s brothers envied him because of his dreams (Genesis 37:1-11)
- King Saul envied David because of his victories (I Samuel 18:6-9)
- Don’t envy evildoers and sinners (Psalms 37:1)
- Envy is rottenness to the bones (Proverbs 14:30)
- Envy of another’s skill and hard work is vanity (Ecclesiastes 4:4)
- The chief priest envied Jesus, delivering him to Pilate (Mark 15:9-10)
- The Jews envied Paul’s successful preaching (Acts 13:45)
- Christian love never envies (I Corinthians 13:4)
- Christians should never envy each other (Galatians 5:26)
The opposite of envy is rejoicing at the blessings and success experienced by others (I Corinthians 12:26), literally “Rejoicing with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:15). We must congratulate and express our happiness at the good fortune of others, while remaining content and godly which within itself is great gain (I Timothy 6:6).
By Jay Launius
The Great Commission bids us make disciples, not merely believers.
Jesus was out for disciples, not just “joiners.”
Must You Tell Everything You Know? October 29, 2023
Perhaps you’ve read “Anne of Green Gables” (or seen the videos, or both). “Tales of Avonlea” is a follow-up series of made-for-television programs featuring some of the same characters in the same quaint little town of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island about a century ago.
One of the many recurring themes in both the books and the television shows is the propensity of people to gossip. What someone said or did decades ago is hashed and rehashed. Who was seen with whom, and what it might mean, becomes grist for the rumor mill, replete with speculation, arguments, exaggeration, and an abundance of jumping to conclusions. Ironically, not even church diminishes the desire to dredge up dirt. No sooner have services concluded than the backbiting begins anew in their Sunday best! Of course, the author presents it in such a way that we say, “Shame on them! I would never do that!” But is that always true?
“A talebearer reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter” (Proverbs 11:13). Someone protests, “But everything I said is true!” Let’s suppose that’s true. The question is, “Must you tell everything you know?” Even if something is true, you might do better to keep it quiet. What if some salacious scrap of scandal surfaced about you? Would you want anyone who learns of it to broadcast it to the world?
Someone smarter than I recommended three tests before speaking: 1) Is it true? 2) Is it kind? 3) Is it necessary? I have a hunch that heeding those three tests would result in far less gossip.
“Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; and where there is no talebearer, strife ceases” (Proverbs 26:20).
You really don’t have to tell everything you know!
By Joe Slater
God is On the Throne, Not On Stage October 22, 2023
The God we serve is an august, spiritual being both deserving and desirous of our deepest respect. Though describes in Scripture as a friend to man (Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23), He is not some sort of “good buddy” to joke with or about.
Our God is still on the throne (Psalms 45:6); His ways remain higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9), and His authoritative Word still promises to judge us in the Last Day (Revelation 20:12).
No measure of self-appointed, flippant familiarity with the God of heaven detracts one bit or whit from His inherent majesty. Our God is eminently worthy of our reverence; thus we must serve Him “acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Hebrews 12:28). Truly, reverence is the ‘very first element of religion.’
Moreover, our periods of public worship should express this spirit of reverence. “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all about Him” (Psalms 89:7). Worship performed “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24) suggests a demeanor of awe and reverence.
We agree that our worship services should be permeated with expressions of joy and thanksgiving – they should not come to resemble a congregational visit to the dentist, but neither should the reverent worship of our heavenly Father be confused for a carnival or rock concert. Regardless of where, when, or by whom the worship is performed – it must be characterized by reverence and decorum. “Let all things be done decently and in order ” (I Corinthians 14:40).
The worship assembly is not the proper setting for screaming, whistling, clapping, and stomping the feet in response to a speaker’s message. We do not gather to pay homage to men but to worship God. We do not come together as we would at a football game or a band concert; we come to worship God. We do not assemble with the intent of being entertained; we come to worship God. Any assembly of saints with the intent of worshipping and praising the God of heaven should reject that which emphasizes the carnal emotions and minimizes the spiritual man. An outsider should be able to attend one of our assemblies and see a marked difference between the worship of God and a stage show performance.
In the realm of worship, zeal without knowledge (Romans 10:2) paves a dangerous road toward pagan, fleshly-oriented, and riotous assemblies. Most of our denominational neighbors have long gone this route, with services geared more toward entertaining man than worshipping God. May we learn to temper our joy in Christ with a Christ-like reverence for things holy. And may we teach our children so.
Remember, our God is on the throne – not on stage.
By Dalton Key
Apathy October 15, 2023
Problems facing the body of Christ are many and varied. The devil opposes us with persecutions, false doctrines, and all kinds of fleshly temptations. But one of his most successful devices is apathy – an attitude of indifference which afflicts Christians and eats away their zeal like a cancer. It is highly contagious and, if unchecked, is fatal to the souls of men and women. In many areas, it has now reached epidemic proportions.
The word “apathy” is an interesting word, coming from the Greek “apatheia” which means without feeling. In English we have the word Pathos which means strong passion. The prefix “a” negates the original meaning and identifies absence. So apathy means without feeling; no passion; without fervent spirit. The simple meaning is well expressed by “Who Cares?” The Lord is not pleased with apathy. Christ had rather we were hot or cold rather than existing in that nauseating middle of being lukewarm (Revelation 3:14-17). Indifference was the problem with the church in Laodicea. To that dead congregation, Jesus said, “I know your works, that you are neither cold or hot; I would that you were cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot or cold, I will spew you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:15-16). How many church of Christ are in that same condition today?
Unbelief is the basis of apathy. “Beware, brethren, lest there should be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God,” (Hebrews 3:12). “…be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, inasmuch as you know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord,” (I Corinthians 15:58).
Ingratitude is the fuel of apathy. Paul describes the behavior of sin in terms of people who knew God in some superficial way, but “did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful,” (Romans 1:21). One cannot spell apathetic without the word pathetic. Inaction is the behavior of apathy. If you do not care, you do not act! All through the book of Acts, the saints who carried on the work of the Lord were those who believed, cared, and loved. Inaction and lack of initiative id evidence of apathy.
Indifference is the attitude of apathy. Attitudes are hard to hide. If you don’t care about the things of God, it is hard to conceal that. If you are unconcerned about the lost, that will be seen in your inaction towards them. Silence is the language of apathy. If you don’t care, you probably will not say anything.
Spiritual apathy is a choice. In part, it denies (consciously or not) that God is actively involved in our lives. It admits that nothing much will change – despite the presence of the powerful Spirit within us – and that, in the current state of things, there’s nothing much to get excited about. Spiritual apathy takes things for granted – even the gift of life – and says, “Why bother?” Why bother worshipping? Why bother praying or reading God’s word? Why bother having fellowship or giving?
Let us rid ourselves of this terrible disease. It insults heaven, disgraces grace, abandons the lost, gives great occasion for the enemies of God to blaspheme, and crucifies once again the Son of God. The cause of Christ deserves the very best we have to offer.
When we spend more time watching TV and playing ball than we do studying and teaching the word of God, are we not indifferent? When we find time to go to the movies and other places of entertainment, but not to visit the sick and erring, are we not indifferent? The time has come for us to wake up and get to work. Our indifference will send us to eternal hell! By an elder of the Hew Hope church of Christ
Gratitude October 8, 2023
It has been said, “Thankfulness is a thread that can bind together all the patchwork squares of our lives.” Life is filled with a variety of seasons and emotions. There are times of happiness and sadness. There are times of frustration and relaxation. There are times of sickness and health. Yet, through it all, we can find reasons to be thankful.
The life of Jesus is a wonderful example of this. Did Jesus have a life free of trouble? Absolutely not. Think of all the things about which Jesus could have complained. He lived in a sinful world and suffered in the ways that we suffer. He wept. He was hungry. He was thirsty. Unfortunately, He dies the horrendous death on a cross.
The Lord’s Supper provides a glimpse of Jesus’ gratitude. “And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me'” (Luke 22:19). Notice Jesus gave thanks for the bread which is intended to signify His body which will be hung on the cross. Jesus could have been resentful. But, instead, we see gratitude throughout His life.
Although life is certainly filled with difficulties, the Christian perspective provides a major lens through which to understand life. This why Paul writes, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus” (I Thessalonians 4:13-14). The cross and resurrection provide a different view of the world. We do not grieve as those who have no hope. Rather, we realize that God is “making all things new” (Revelation 21:5). We live as those who are a “new creature” (II Corinthians 5:17).
Gratitude is about our focus. When we focus on the ways in which we are blessed, we are appreciative. On the other hand, when we focus on the ways in which we perceive that we are lacking, we will live with ingratitude. Every day provides an opportunity to be either grateful or ungrateful.
Here are a few things that might help us lean toward a life of gratitude:
- Consider taking time every day to note the many things that are worthy of your appreciation. You might even want to write them down.
- Tell someone why you appreciate him or her.
- Think about a current hardship in life. Even within the hardship, reflect on something for which you can be thankful.
We have so many reasons to be filled with gratitude. We just need to slow down to notice them. When we do, we can’t help but be overwhelmed with thankfulness.
By Bryan Nash (Adapted)
What’s Your Goliath? October 1, 2023
I came across a video the other day of an incredible scene: two honey badgers battling a pride of six lions. Although outnumbered, the honey badgers refused to back down from ferocious predators ten times their size. The lions thought the kill would be simple, but the footage shows the badgers walking away with a bit of a swagger. The Big guy versus the Little guy. Recently our Preschool class talked about the story of David and Goliath. We had a very special guest that night show up. These kids showed no fear at all. They lined up their marshmallow stone and aimed their sling shot and took down the giant. They were fearless.
There are so many lessons from this famous Biblical story in I Samuel 17.
Young, inexperienced David with only a slingshot and a few stones confronted the fierce Philistine Giant who possessed brute strength and advanced weaponry.
Goliath was mocking Israel to engage in battle, but no one was willing to fight. King Saul and “all the Israelites were terrified.” Imagine the shock when David stepped up to the challenge. What gave him the courage that none of Israel’s hardened warriors possessed?
For all of Israel, Goliath dominated their vision. That’s all they saw.
But David was different – he was fearless. All he saw was God.
“The Lord will deliver YOU into my hands,” he insisted (I Samuel 17:46).
While everyone else believed Goliath controlled the story, David believed that God loomed larger. With a single stone to the giant’s forehead, David’s faith was justified.
This world and Satan himself tempts us to believe that “Goliath” directs the story. We all have a goliath (it’s different for everyone, health, money, doubt, worry, anxiety) and you could even be facing multiple goliaths – just like the Honey Badgers.
What We Cannot Forget:
No matter what we face – God is larger…when He dominates our vision, there’s nothing else left to focus on.
What Goliath overwhelms you these days? How can the power and presence of God transform your perspective?
You’ve got a problem? God is bigger. You’ve got worries or stress? God is better.
No matter what, God looms larger. No problem or obstacle is too big for Him.
By Jared Boser
Live Simply September 24, 2023
In a world that seems to be more and more cluttered with frustrations, concerns, uncertainties, pain, and hurt from emotional & physical challenges coupled with spiritual obstacles, aren’t we thankful that God only wants us to Live Simply for Him? His desire is for us to be saved and not live a complicated life. There is just so much pressure to be successful in our society!!!
According to an article in the New York Post in March of 2018, a study was conducted regarding the “busyness” of American families. The article begins with the following statement: “American families get just 37 minutes of quality time together per day, according to new research. A study of 2,000 parents with school- aged children across the country found the extent to which hectic routines take a toll during the work week with the families polled managing less than 45 minutes all together on a typical weekday. Many families are still struggling for time to properly bond and enjoy each other without distraction. That might be because 60 percent of parents describe their daily lives as :hectic” and one in four say that the lack of family quality time away from chores, work, school, or TV is a real problem.” Life is challenging and busy! We all seem to be so busy that our focus on God has become clouded and we sometimes forget to do what we are commanded. We sometimes get distracted with the complexity of life that we are not “living simply for Christ.”
Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 says the duty of man is to fear God and keep His commandments. The text says, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.”
The good news is God’s message for us is not complicated. His message is not confusing. His message is comforting. His expectations are not beyond anything we can grasp! God is saying, “Be my disciple and stop being concerned with your desires.” What does God want us to be? He wants us to be a disciple! In the New Testament, the word “disciple” is used 269 more times than the word Christian. The word Christian is an important word….it is a word that Jesus has stamped on us. But the word used to teach us what a Christian is, is the word Disciple!
We are supposed to be disciplining ourselves to be like our Master; our Savior. Matthew 6:19-21 says this begins with our focus, our vision, and where we place our energy day in and day out. The text says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” We need to focus on the spiritual idea of simplicity. Each day, we are given a choice to choose activities that lead to greater earthly prosperity OR to choose things that lead to greater future eternal rewards. It is not only about making our life simple. It is more about simply making our life about the kingdom of God. We need to focus on our relationship with Christ. We do this by looking at the example that has been left for us: Jesus!
John 4:34 says, Jesus said to them, My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.” Jesus was unencumbered by the restrictions associated with life because of His focus on His mission which was to: live simply, be a humble servant, and to please God. By Allen Jones