A Reason for Hope
A Reason for Hope March 26, 2023
The great Kentucky writer, Wendell Berry, once wrote: “A man cannot despair if he can imagine a better life, and if he can enact something of its possibility.” (from The Unforeseen Wilderness about preserving Red River Gorge)
As I understand it, Berry is saying that hope lives when people are promised something in the future and are confident that the promise can kept/fulfilled. Of course, he was speaking about matters that relate to conservation and taking care of the physical world around us, but it applies to the Christian life as well!
We should not despair because Jesus has promised us a better future:
“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also” (John 14:3).
In that place prepared for those who belong to the Lord:
“They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore: the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and He will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:16-17).
We should not despair because God has the power to fulfill all promises.
Consider these words about the power of God and the significance of the resurrection:
“Knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into His presence” (II Corinthians 4:14).
“If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11).
“Therefore, we do not lose heart…” (II Corinthians 4:16a).
Thanks to Jesus, we can imagine a better life!
Thanks to Jesus, we can enact the possibility of being with Him in Heaven forever!:
“Do you not know that all of us who have baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His” (Romans 6:3-5).
Praise God, we have a reason for hope. By Bart Warren (Adapted)
God, I Have a Question …
God, I Have a Question … March 19, 2023
There’s about a million questions I want to ask God. I’m sure you all do too or have thought about it at one point in your life. My family and I always talk about what we would like to ask our Heavenly Father when we finally get to meet Him. Once we finally catch our “spiritual breath” that is. Some of my questions would include:
- What was it like to create the stars?
- How big is the universe?
- What did the garden of Eden look like?
- Where is Jesus? Can I meet Him?
Maybe your questions are a lot simpler than that or maybe you just want to sit back and bask in His glory which is completely understandable. We can get caught up in this and go on and on but do you ever stop to think about what questions God may ask you? Specifically, when you’re standing before Him on that day of Judgement? I know for a fact a few questions that He’s NOT going to ask …
- God won’t ask how big your house was; He may ask how many people you welcomed into it.
- God won’t ask what your job was; He may ask if you performed it to the best of your ability.
- God won’t ask how many followers you had; He may ask how many people you befriended.
- God won’t ask what neighborhood you lived in; He may ask you how you treated your neighbours.
- God won’t ask about the color of your skin; He may ask about the content of your character.
Some of these questions really put our lives into perspective. We can get so caught up in all this “stuff” in life that we ultimately put the big picture on the back burner. It’s at this point that we tend to forget that it isn’t the amount you traveled that counts, it’s the direction in which you are travelling that does.
For some, however, God’s questioning may be a bit more uncomfortable. Maybe He’ll ask why you ever doubted Him? Maybe He’ll ask you why did you stop praying or stopped attending? Maybe he’ll ask you “Was My Son not enough for you?” These are all just theories and what ifs, because no one really knows what will be said when you meet face to face with God.
Job thought he would ask questions of the Lord and we know how that turned out (Job 38:3). “Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said: ‘Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.'”
One day we will have a conversation with God. We may get to ask Him some questions, but then again, He could have questions waiting for us. Based on your life up to this point, what do you think that conversation with the Lord will sound like?
By Jared Boser (Adapted)
Am I in the Faith?
Am I in the Faith? March 12, 2023
The Apostle Paul challenged the Corinthians to “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith” (II Corinthians 13:5). It is a profound question that each Christian should ask themselves periodically, taking a personal self-assessment of their spiritual condition. What does it mean to be “in the faith”? Review the following passages for a brief overview on the subject:
- Christians should be exhorted to continue in the faith (Acts 14:21-23)
- When growth is present, churches are strengthened in the faith (Acts 16:4-5)
- Not every member is strong but some are weak in the faith (Romans 14:1)
- Christians will be watchful, steadfast, brave and strong in the faith (I Corinthians 16:13)
- One must not be moved away, but remain grounded in the faith (Colossians 1:23)
- One who receives Christ as Lord, will be established in the faith (Colossians 2:6-7)
- Deacons who serve well, develop a great boldness in the faith (I Timothy 3:13)
- False teachers should be warned, so to remain sound in the faith (Titus 1:13)
- Brotherly love should always be shared by those in the faith (Titus 3:15)
- Satan can be resisted by those who are steadfast in the faith (I Peter 5:8-9)
Successful Christianity is not defined by man’s view of greatness, but by humble service to the Lord which is constantly practiced. To remain “in the faith” , I must practice the faith. God has provided His saving grace, through Christ, accessed by faith (Ephesians 2:1-10). As a reaction to this wonderful gift, the Christian will gladly participate in all things which are found “in the faith.” Living for the Lord is not easy, yes, sometimes it’s downright hard. But with God’s help, the encouragement of Christ, and the strength of the Spirit, we can endure. “Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith – the salvation of your souls” (I Peter 1:8-9).
By Jay Launius, 2021, Maud church of Christ, Maud, Texas
I Can’t, God Can
I Can’t, God Can March 5, 2023
God is not like man. He remains positive and confident at all times. And for all the negative things we have to say ourselves, God has a positive answer for it.
You say: “It’s impossible.”
God says: “All things are possible” (Luke 18:27).
You say: “I’m too tired.”
God says: “I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28-30).
You say: “Nobody really loves me.”
God says: “I love you” (John 3:16; 13:34).
You say: “I can’t go on.”
God says: “My grace is sufficient” (II Corinthians 12:9; Psalms 91:15).
You say: “I can’t figure things out.”
God says: “I will direct your steps” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
You say: “I can’t do it.”
God says: “You can do all things” (Philippians 4:13).
You say: “I’m not able.”
God says: “I am able” (II Corinthians 9:8).
You say: “It’s not worth it.”
God says: “It will be worth it” (Romans 8:28).
You say: “I can’t forgive myself.”
God says: “I forgive you” (I John 1:9; Romans 8:1).
You say: “I can’t manage.”
God says: “I will supply all your needs” (Philippians 4:19).
You say: “I’m afraid.”
God says: “I have not given you a spirit of fear” (II Timothy 1:7).
You say: “I’m always worried and frustrated.”
God says: “Cast all your care on Me” (I Peter 5:7).
You say: “I don’t have enough faith.”
God says: “I have given everyone a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3).
You say: “I’m not smart enough.”
God says: “I give you wisdom” (I Corinthians 1:30; James 1:5).
You say: “I feel all alone.”
God says: “I will never leave you or forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). (Author Unknown)
Ticks and Sin
Ticks and Sin February 26, 2023
Ever had a tick on you? Ticks are small blood sucking mites. They spend a good bit of time just waiting in bushes, grass and woods for a victim – you! Once you happen by, they jump on and attempt to quickly crawl to a protected spot on your body. Then they sink their mouth parts into your flesh and begin to feed on life blood. If undetected, a tick will fill itself full and then drop off, often leaving its host inoculated with some debilitating disease such as spotted fever, relapsing fever, Lyme disease, tularemia, encephalitis or rickets. The tick is a lot like many kinds of sin:
- It may get on you when it is small and almost undetectable.
- It doesn’t demand much sacrifice, but it may cause a little irritation.
- Once embedded, it’s hard to get off.
- It gets bigger the longer it stays on you.
- It leaves you very seriously ill.
Some advice for dealing with ticks and sins:
DON’T WALK IN PLACES THAT ARE INFESTED. “See then that you walk circumspectly not as fools, but as wise (Ephesians 5:15).
EXAMINE YOURSELF DAILY. “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith (II Corinthians 13:5).
HAVE OTHERS EXAMINE YOU, AND HELP EXAMINE THEM TOO. “But exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today’, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13).
IF ONE GETS ON YOU, GET IT OFF IMMEDIATELY. “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16).
IF YOU REALIZE YOU ARE GETTING SICK, SEE THE DOCTOR. Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Mark 2:17).
By Amon White, Broadway church of Christ, Metropolis, Illinois
The Bible Lives!
The Bible Lives! February 19, 2023
Generation follows generation – yet it lives.
Nations rise and fall – yet it lives.
Kings, dictators, presidents come and go – yet it lives.
Hatred, despised, cursed – yet it lives.
Condemned by atheists – yet it lives.
Scoffed by scorners – yet it lives.
Exaggerated by fanatics – yet it lives.
Misconstrued and misstated – yet it lives.
Its inspiration denied – yet it lives.
Yet it lives – as a lamp unto our feet (Psalms 119:105).
Yet it lives – as a light to our path (Psalms 119:105).
Yet it lives – as the gate to heaven (Revelation 22:14).
Yet it lives – as a standard for childhood (Deuteronomy 6:1-2, 6, 7; Ephesians 6:4; II Timothy 3:15).
Yet it lives – as a guide for youth (Ecclesiastes 12:1; II Timothy 3:15).
Yet it lives – as an inspiration for the matured (Proverbs 16:31).
Yet it lives – as a comfort for the aged (Leviticus 19:32; Ecclesiastes 12:1-7).
Yet it lives – as food for the hungry (Psalms 146:7; Matthew 5:6).
Yet it lives – as water for the thirsty (Isaiah 44:3; John 4:14; John 6:35).
Yet it lives – as rest for the weary (Isaiah 28:12; Matthew 11:28).
Yet it lives – as light for the heathen (Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6; Acts 13:47).
Yet it lives – as salvation for the sinner (Psalms 19:7; I Corinthians 15:1-2).
Yet it lives – as grace for the Christian (I Corinthians 1:4-6).
To know it is to love it (Psalms 119:167).
To love it is to accept it (I Thessalonians 2:13).
To accept it means life eternal (John 6:63; John 17:3; I John 2:3)
“The word of our God shall stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8; cf. I Peter 1:25).
By Mike Riley
Correcting One Another
Correcting One Another February 12, 2023
How do we correct others when they openly sin? Our tone, what we say, and how we say it can impact the recipient either positively or negatively.
I do not suggest avoiding admonishment for fear of hurting someone’s feelings. Because all Christians are at different stages of learning and maturity, our approach should give consideration to the spiritual maturity of each individual.
A new Christian must put off the “old man,” which may be a process for some and not instantaneous. Willful sin must stop when we put on Christ in baptism for the remission of sins, otherwise there would not be a change of heart and repentance that leads to salvation (II Corinthians 7:10). We all sin and a new Christian is no different. Genuine repentance is striving to do what is right, it is not perfection.
If a new Christian fails in something and is harshly corrected, then our love for them is lacking. As an example, a new Christian may not consider the clothes they wear as being immodest. Modesty is paramount for Christians; however, new converts may not have benefited from the training that comes from being part of a Christian family. If the person is sharply rebuked, our approach is wrong and will likely have the opposite effect. Let love and patience guide your admonishment and correction lest our efforts turn to one of discouragement.
Priscilla and Aquila pulled aside Apollos, who was teaching the baptism of John though Christ had already come. They did not publicly rebuke Apollos. Scripture indicates they privately “explained” to him the way of God more accurately (Acts 18:26).
“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).
“Take heed to yourselves, If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4).
Terry Clark (One of the elders of the Karns church of Christ)
When Does One Become Saved?
When Does One Become Saved? February 5, 2023
One of the best ways to answer a question is to let the Bible answer it for us. That is one of the main reasons Paul wrote in Romans 15:4, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” We need to see when God saved others.
The first study is that of Noah. When did God save him? We see in Hebrews 11:7 that his faith in God saved him. “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.”
Note that the verse said, “By faith Noah….saved his household.” Now was he saved when he first believed in God, or when he obeyed what God told him to do? This verse actually answers that question for us. God told Noah that He was going to destroy all flesh. He then gave him the instructions to build a great boat. It was because of his “reverent fear” that he built the ark. His salvation came after he did what God instructed.
Our second study is that of Israel and the tenth plague. They received instruction from Moses as to how God would save them from the destroyer. In Exodus 12:1-13 we see how specific these instructions were. The actions of Israel indicated that they believed this message for they followed God’s instructions. My question is this, would an Israelite family have been saved if they simply said, “Because I believe what God said, He will save me?”
Now finally, God has told us that we are to believe in Him if we want to be saved. Will we be saved if we say we believe God, but refuse to obey Him? Must obedience not come first? I believe God, so I will repent of my sinfulness (Acts 17:30). I believe in God, so I will confess Jesus before others (Matthew 10:32-33). I believe God, so I will be baptized for the remission of my sins (Acts 2:38). I believe God, so I will live faithfully until I die (Revelation 2:10). Does that not harmonize with Noah and Israel? Let the Bible explain itself.
By Bob Oliver
Telling Others They Are Wrong
Telling Others They Are Wrong January 29, 2023
Do you think it is right to tell another person they are wrong in their religious beliefs? Before we answer that let us consider another question – do you think it is right to tell another person they are wrong about anything? Suppose they are driving on the wrong side of the road (you are riding with them in the car). Should you mention to them that they are wrong? Suppose you are in the kitchen and notice the cook about to put poison into the food instead of salt, should you just ignore it?
Now, in both of these cases most (if not all) of us would say we ought to go ahead and tell them a mistake has been made. Why? Because not to tell them would be to allow them to do something that would put both your life and theirs in some danger.
But when we come to religion we want to view things differently. We don’t want to tell anyone they are wrong and we don’t want anyone to suggest that we might be. Why the change in attitude? Is not our soul as important as our life? Are we not as interested in believing and practicing the right thing in religion as we are in driving and cooking? Does not our religion have a greater effect upon us and our destiny than driving and cooking? I believe it does.
Paul told Timothy to “reprove, rebuke, exhort” (II Timothy 4:2). To reprove and to rebuke means to tell folks they are wrong. It means to point out wherein people err. And Paul was talking about matters of a religious nature. This was to be done with patience and with teaching of the Bible, but it was to be done! If Timothy was to be a good servant of the Lord there would be times when he would have to say to someone, “YOU ARE WRONG”.
Would they like it? Probably many of them would not. But it had to be done anyhow. Why? For the same reason you would tell the driver they were on the wrong side of the road. It is dangerous to continue going the wrong way – in religion as well as on the highway. This is why people should be of the disposition to consider what another has to say in spiritual matters. We ought not to refuse to listen when someone disagrees with us. We ought to listen.
There is only one way to heaven (John 14:6). There is only one power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16). There is only one faith (Ephesians 4:5). Do you want to please God?
By J. F. Dancer
Does It Matter How We Worship?
Does It Matter How We Worship? January 22, 2023
Does it matter how we worship God? This is probably a question that many people seldom, if ever, contemplate. Jesus instructed a woman of Samaria, who had been practicing worship that was not in keeping with God’s teachings, “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24). One would think that such a straightforward statement from the Lord Himself ought to settle the matter forever.
Looking at what Jesus told the woman, from a mathematical perspective, there are two parts to the equation. Our worship is to be “in spirit” and it is to be “in truth.” Also, what Jesus said on the matter has the effect of law, in that our worship “must” meet these two requirements.
The statement “God is Spirit” speaks to God’s nature, His being, His reality. God is not flesh and blood. Thus “Spirit” is in caps in this statement. The requirement that our worship “must” be “in spirit” speaks of the nature of our worship. It is to be spiritual worship, from the heart, sincere, not just going through the motions. In this statement, “spirit” is in lower case; it refers to the character of our worship.
The further statement that our worship “must” be “in truth” indicates that our worship must conform to standards that would qualify it as being true worship. Those standards, of course, are taught in God’s word. Later in this same Gospel account, in a prayer to the Father, Jesus identified God’s word as being “truth”: “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). When our worship is in agreement with the teachings of God’s word as to how God wants to be worshipped, then our worship is “in truth.”
Our personal feelings have to be subservient to God’s will. A great many people focus on their feelings – what they want, what pleases them, what makes them feel good – to the extent that their feelings take precedence over the teachings of God’s word. If what they want to do in worship contradicts what God’s word teaches them to do in worship, their feelings get priority. They excuse their actions by appealing to their sincerity. While what they do in worship may contradict God’s teachings, they believe it is justified because they’re doing it from the heart. They discount the second part of the equation; their worship must not only be sincere and from the heart, but it must also be “in truth!”
Jesus’ further words on this matter are recorded twice in New Testament scripture: “And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9; Mark 7:7). The idea of such worship being “in vain” identifies it as being empty, to no purpose, worthless. The reason for it being so labeled is because it conforms to men’s devising rather than to God’s instructions. This is a quotation from Isaiah 29:13, indicating that this principle was true in Old Testament times as well as being true today.
Our worship is to glorify God, to express our adoration to Him. He is the recipient, we are the participants. In order for our worship to properly fulfill its true purpose, it must conform to God’s will as to how He wants to be worshipped.
By Gary Hutchens