When You Feel You’re Never Enough

Posted: December 12th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“For if the readiness is present, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have” (2 Cor 8:12).

As we strive to grow in our service to the Lord and diligently seek out opportunities to engage in His work, it is easy to grow discouraged and overwhelmed. The more we reach for growth, the more we realize we need to grow. The more we pursue opportunities to serve, the more we are confronted with the staggering amount of work to be done and our own woeful limitations. It is easy to throw our hands in the air and surrender to our inevitable failure and inadequacy. Yet, to do so would only make circumstances worse, not better.

Freedom from such discouragement can only be found by focusing on God’s expectations as we reach for growth each day. Human expectations, whether our own or those imposed by others, can often be either oppressively high or indulgently low. In either case, they tend only to take into account the outward and visible indicators of our spiritual life and do little to measure the inward effort and attitude of our hearts. God, on the other hand, knows exactly how zealously we are pursuing His work. He knows the abilities and resources at our disposal, and He alone can accurately measure our stewardship.

Our service is acceptable to Him “according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.” This fact should be both sobering and comforting. On the one hand, we cannot hide behind a façade of good works. God not only sees the results of my works, He knows the true potential I possess. He knows whether or not I am giving Him my best. He sees the thoughts and intents of my heart and will know whether or not my actions are motivated by a genuine love and devotion for Him.

On the other hand, we don’t have to worry that our outward accomplishments are inadequate. We can know that God does not expect any more from us that what we are capable of giving. He is patient and understanding as we grow. If we are diligent to equip ourselves and fervent in His work, we can know that God is pleased and glorified by our efforts, regardless of how much we feel we have to show for them.

Though focusing on God’s expectations can help comfort and encourage us in our work, this should not cause us to relax our efforts or become complacent in our spiritual growth. We must be like the brethren of Macedonia, of whom Paul said, “I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave of their own accord” (2 Cor 8:2). Our reach must exceed our grasp if we are ever to move forward spiritually. We must constantly be pushing beyond our current limitations to further equip ourselves for the Lord’s work.  What is acceptable in my service today will eventually expire. I cannot remain stagnant. What is enough today will not be enough a year from now. God’s expectations should inspire comfort, but not complacency. They should rather strengthen and encourage us to continue reaching forward each day.



Is There Nothing in a Name?

Posted: December 12th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

The denominational world has argued since the days of the Reformation that there is nothing in a name. A “rose” by any other name, they have told us, is still a rose. Their point is that you can call a “rose” a “zebra” and it is still a rose and just as beautiful. The contention, in part, is an effort to justify the rise and proliferation of many different denominational bodies, all of which claim to be expressions of New Testament Christianity.

In specific they are affirming that spiritually a “Christian” is a “Christian” whether you call him a “Baptist,” a “Presbyterian,” a “Lutheran,” or a “Catholic.” A person does not change who or what he is regardless of what name or title he attaches to himself. So they affirm. But why, if a person is a Christian, would he want to be called by a name other than “Christian”? Why, in other words, would a “rose” be called a “zebra” when the word or name “zebra” describes and denotes something that in no way resembles a rose.  Language itself, in such a practice, would become a “babel” of meaninglessness.

Furthermore, the reasoning that there is nothing in a name sounds good until you call a “Baptist” a “Presbyterian” or vice versa. Baptists believe in immersion of responsible and penitent adults and do not want to be confused with Presbyterians who believe in the christening and sprinkling of infants. And what “Lutheran” who has broken away from the authority of the pope and Catholicism wants to be called a “Catholic.”

That this reasoning is nonsensical is further confirmed by the resentment toward offensive names that have been attached to people, places, and things. Who names their son “Judas” or their daughter “Jezebel?” And who wants to be called a Nazi, Hitler, or a Nigger? These names have meanings and connotations that inaccurately describe persons and attribute to them qualities and character that are offensive. And people who are objects of these designations know that there is something in these names.

The issue is not whether someone is essentially changed by being called another name, but whether the name accurately describes them and whether they are pleased to be called by it. But more importantly, what does the God who called His disciples “Christians” think of His children wearing names of their own choosing and preference. Because sinners by faith and baptism into Christ have put on Christ, God calls them “Christians” (see Gal 3:26-27; Rom 6:3-4; Acts 11:26). Is the God who created them in His own image and saved them by the blood of His Son pleased when they develop their own system of serving Him and wear names of their own choosing? That is the real issue and the answer is “No!”

When divisive factions arose among the brethren at Corinth, it resulted because these brethren followed men rather than God. As a result, they began saying: I am of Apollos, I am of Paul, I am of Cephas, and I am of Christ. God rebuked them for both their divisive spirit and their failure to honor God and the name of his Son who was crucified for them and in whose name they had been baptized for the remission of sins (see 1 Cor 1:10-13; Acts 2:38).

Paul’s questions to the Corinthians are all that needs to be said in answer to the claim that “there is nothing in a name.” To them, the apostle said: “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?” The answer the apostle seeks is “no” which raises the question: “Why then would God’s people then or today not serve God by honoring and wearing only the name of Christ?” All that saints do must be done in “the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col  3:17).

-L. A.


Mind The Little Holes

Posted: December 5th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

A small hole can be costly. I think that about everywhere we have lived, we have had problems with our water pipes. We have dug up ground, broken through cement, gone through attics, and done just about everything else when it comes to pipes, sprinklers, or anything else water related. Anyone who has done any of this knows that, most of the time, it is not cheap. My son and I just recently replaced a water heater and pressure tank (on a well system), and that was enough cost!

But then, just a few weeks later, I noticed another leak. Water was getting into the garage (better than elsewhere), and it took a while to figure out where this one was coming from — and that’s always a point of concern. Finally, we figured out that the leak was coming from the main pipe going into the house. Normally, that can be fixed, but not this time. The hole was in the part of the pipe that was buried in the concrete footer. There was no way to get to it without breaking the footer up, and … well… you just don’t do that.

The only fix, aside from tearing up large sections of a bedroom, was to re-pipe the whole house. One little hole in an old pipe became quite costly. And no, this is not about asking for monetary help. It’s about a greater lesson.

A tiny little hole can be very costly. Think of how this works with sin and consequences. We tend to minimize our sins: it’s not that big of a deal; it’s just a little thing. But those little holes in our character can become very costly in our lives. What we thought was a tiny issue then becomes the source of great expense. That little drink, that small issue of flirtation, that barely crossing the line — they can all cost us a great deal if we are not careful.

This is why it is important to understand the true nature of sin. Adam’s and Eve’s sin was not just about a piece of fruit; it was about violating the glory and character of God through their rebellion. David’s extra gaze at Bathsheba led to great sorrow in his life. All it takes is one little hole, and the leak may not go away without big expense and renovation.

Mind the little holes. They can create more aggravation that we may first think.

-Doy Moyer



Posted: December 5th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

A student of Greek could easily conclude from casual observation that the word “faction” (eritheia) comes from the Greek word for “strife” (eris).  But this would be a serious mistake. While the words for “strife” and “faction” are related as English words, they do not originate from the same Greek word.

Eritheia is a rather unusual term that had a noble beginning but in time degenerated into something quite different. The verb from which it originated meant “to serve or work for hire” and described hired laborers who worked faithfully for their pay. In time, however, as many words, its meaning changed significantly and came to denote ambitious men who were for sale and who for a price devoted themselves to a “party” or to a “cause.”

Eritheia is used seven times in the New Testament and is consistently translated “faction” in the American Standard Version, but has a variety of translations in newer versions. “Self-ambition” is one of the translations of this word in the New American Standard Bible and also in the New International Version. “Self-ambition” captures the root idea of the word and “faction” denotes the resulting party that this attitude creates.

Every use of the term is in a context of condemnation or reproof. James, for example, employs the word twice to denote a kind of wisdom that is “earthly,” “sensual,” and “devilish”—a wisdom that spawns confusion and every vile deed (James 3:14-15). This explains why Paul lists it as a work of the flesh alongside sins such as jealousy, division, and sectarian parties (Gal 5:20). He also uses it in his second letter to the Corinthians to depict the carnal spirit and factious and party attitudes that had characterized those brethren in their immature stage as babes in Christ (2 Cor 12:20; see 1 Cor 3:1-3).

The term obviously carries with it the practice of promoting oneself and a person’s party affiliation with likeminded brethren. Something of this kind was happening in Rome when Paul had been imprisoned there and was awaiting his trial and defense before the emperor. Men, the apostle writes to the church at Philippi, were preaching the gospel at Rome, but some of them were doing it out of “faction” or “selfish ambition” to create problems for Paul. Apparently the apostle was creating a hindrance to their goals of self-promotion among the brethren at Rome and they decided to make life miserable for him (Php 1:16-17).

And as generous and spiritual as the brethren were at Philippi, Paul had also to warn them about faction and self-ambition. He cites the example of the unselfish “mind” of Christ to urge them to do nothing through “faction” or “vainglory,” but to count others better themselves and to look to the things of others above their own. A failure to look to the things of others is the carnal spirit that created confusion not only among brethren personally but also in the assembly at Corinth where men  battled one another openly to speak in the assembly to get over their point of view rather than to edify the church (1 Cor 11:19; 14:26-33).

Factious men are so absorbed in themselves that they have forgotten that the essential goal of Christianity is to glorify God—not themselves and the party they promote. Our souls must not follow the path that the word eritheia took when by its use it degenerated from the lofty goal of a “hired laborer” to an ambitious laborer who for earthly and fleshly glory “sells his soul” to leaders of a factious party that is divisive and vain.

We can avoid “faction” and “selfish ambition” if, in the words of a proverb, we keep our hearts with all diligence. Out of the heart, this proverb says further, “are the issues of life” (Prov 14:23).

-L. A.


Losing A Friend

Posted: November 28th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“I didn’t want to insult her. Anyway, I didn’t want to lose a good friend.” These words end a sad commercial message concerning drinking and driving. The thought expressed by this commercial is: it’s better to chance insulting a friend than perhaps losing that friend in a car accident. The thought is a good one, and very applicable in spiritual matters.

For example, take the Stones and Millers. The Stones and Millers have been neighbors, and good friends for a long time. They spend a lot of time socializing with each other. The Stones are Christians, and the Millers are members of one of the denominations in town. They have never really discussed religion in any of their get togethers. Each family goes its own way, when it comes to religion, and rather than chance insulting the other neighbor, they just tolerate the other’s religious convictions as a matter of opinion. Of course when it comes to politics, sports, cars, etc., they do argue over their differences. But, in religion they are guided by a different code: don’t argue religion!

Anyway, the Stones have decided that the Millers wouldn’t be interested in studying about it anyway. So, why stir up trouble and take the chance of insulting them and maybe losing these good friends? The Millers on the other hand feel like it doesn’t really matter which church you attend as long as you believe in God. So they, for different reasons, never talk about religion seriously.

Time moves on, and the Stones and Millers become even closer friends. They are together more than ever before. Cook outs, going to movies, picnics, keeping each others children overnight, etc. Yes, it’s really great to have such good friends.

Then one summer, the Millers are leaving for their annual vacation. The Stones say good-bye, and a cook-out is planned for the Millers’ return. Everyone is in good spirits, because it’s great to have such good friends. But the Millers never return home. The Stones shall never see their friends in this life again. During their vacation the Millers are involved in a traffic accident that kills the whole family. The Stones just can’t believe it really happened. The pain in their hearts is great. And yet, as the truth finally settles on the Stones their pain becomes intolerable. Suddenly it dawns upon them, “the Millers were not Christians!”

At the funeral Mrs. Stone turns to her husband and softly speaks: “I wish now I had said something to them about the church. But, I didn’t want to hurt their feelings and perhaps insult them. After all, I didn’t want to lose such good friends.” And so, for the desire of earthly friendship and company souls are lost!

Now the Stones must live their life with this warning and admonition. “When I say to the wicked, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet if you have warned the wicked and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered yourself(Ezek 3:18-19). How about you, are you losing a friend?

-Dennis L. Shaver


Two Men Can’t Agree On Religion

Posted: November 28th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Two men are religious, and both seem to be sincere, but they never seem to agree on religious questions. A brief look at their applications of the Bible helps to explain their problem.

The first man views the Bible as the complete and final answer to all religious questions pertaining to salvation. For him a clear statement from the Bible ends all controversy. His simple approach is well stated by a  bumper sticker we have seen: “God said it; I believe it; that settles it.” In fact, he would agree that God’s word “settles it” whether he believe it or not.

The second man relies on several sources for his religious beliefs. He believes the Bible and many of his convictions are based on what the Bible says. But he also is convinced that he has been “led” into certain beliefs by the Lord. Some of those beliefs he could not defend by the Bible, and in fact some of them seem to contradict the Bible, but he is sure that they are true, for the Lord would not have so “led” him had they not been true. One man frankly said to this writer, “I read the Bible, but I mostly just depend on the Spirit to lead me in what I believe.” He has also had his beliefs verified by knowledgeable preachers, who might not be right in everything, but would hardly be wrong on any serious question of truth.

The first man reads the Bible seeking for answers from God. The second man reads the Bible for the same reason, but his perception is affected by what he has been “led to believe.” He has difficulty being objective, and, in fact, he might hold to what he has been “led to believe” ahead of plain teaching of scripture. He frankly finds his likeness in the man of Colossians 2:18-19 who takes “his stand on visions he has seen” and is “not holding fast to the Head.” His religious practices may be different from the man described in Colossians, but his approach to authority in religion is the same.

We do not hesitate to side with the first man in his approach. God indeed “leads” us into truth, but He does so through His inspired word. Consider the following passages: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps 119:105). “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17).

The two men of our article will come to remarkable agreement when they both approach the scriptures as the final word from God, but not until then. Religious differences are not the product of scripture, but of varying attitudes toward what constitutes final authority in religion. True unity is desirable, and it can be enjoyed by those who humbly submit to God’s word and will.

-Bill Hall


Neither Gave Thanks

Posted: November 28th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Most of us have just completed a week of feasting, visiting, and sharing in a tradition that is known nationally as “Thanksgiving.” It is a time when even Christians give a little more emphasis and time to offering thanks to God—knowing, of course, that giving thanks must be a daily offering to God and fellow men for the untold blessings we receive in Christ, in life generally, and in this country.

Good Bible students are aware of Paul’s description of first-century Gentiles as atheists, idolaters, and grossly immoral people. There was hardly any vile passion and fleshly lust these ungodly men and women had not fulfilled, including adultery, homosexuality, and murder. But what has always stood out in this long list of lewd and heinous behavior was Paul’s comment on their unbelief—they “neither gave thanks” (Rom 1:21).

“Thanksgiving” is succinctly and obviously defined: “to give thanks.” It is a thought and practice that looks outside oneself to express appreciation to others, whether God or man, for some benefit received. It is a humble, generous spirit that sees value in the actions, thoughts, or deeds of a person other than oneself. The very meaning of the word sheds much light on why some people are ungrateful.

Worthy. Some folks are deceived by the “pride” or “vainglory” of life and see themselves as “worthy” and “deserving” people. Their pride lifts them up and they think that what in a particular instance anyone does for them they are worth it. They may even see events of life as unfair to them and, thus, any blessing they receive from God or man is their right. It is possible the nine ungrateful lepers thought that they deserved good health as much as the rest of society. Why then should they say “thanks”? It was only right and equitable, they might have thought, that they were healed.

Important. Others, with slight variation, may have feelings of self-importance. I am the “boss” or the “CEO” and I owe no thanks to my secretary or some other underling. Would the masters in ancient societies have given thanks to their slaves for plowing the fields or harvesting the crops and taking them to the market? Likely not. You’d think the CEO would be thankful he did not have to type all those letters and send out all the emails, or the master would be grateful to a slave who freed him from the labor of walking behind the plow in the heat of the day.

Independent. And there are plenty of people who take pride in their independence. Some people want to make their own breaks, refuse to be dependent on anyone or anything, and may even let others know they can get along all right without them and whatever they try to do for them. It is difficult for God’s people to fathom, but there are folks who give no thought to the words “thank you.”

Whatever is the basis for ingratitude, there is no place in the hearts and lives of Christians for the kinds of attitudes and thinking that preclude uttering the words “thank you” and expressing this sentiment in their prayers to God. We daily depend on God whether or not we know it or think about it. And also, we must never sink into the kind of thinking that sees no need for fellow men.

Jesus said that he who humbles himself shall be exalted (Luke 14:11). Humility is the foundation of gratitude and appreciation. When men humble themselves before God and men, they will honor deeds of kindness with words of thanks.

-L. A.


Slowly But Surely

Posted: November 21st, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise…” (Heb 10:35-36).

What the Hebrew writer said is certainly true of all of us: we have need of endurance. Some days in this world we may enjoy, but others we must simply endure. And even the enjoyable days must be “endured” while we wait for the best day of all: the day of our Lord’s final appearing (Heb 9:28).

Patience is a wonderful quality in general, but I think we sometimes need to be more patient with ourselves. In regard to our spiritual growth, we expect too much too soon, and we find ourselves developing a crabby, ill-tempered disposition. “After all the effort I’ve put into it, why aren’t things getting any better?” But we should understand that as long as our earthly pilgrimage lasts, we will never  be anything more than “on the way” to our destination. Or to change the illustration, we will never be anything more than “works in progress.” We see the need for patience with other people—why can’t we be more patient with ourselves?

It helps to be reminded that growth, whether physical or spiritual, is an “incremental” process. An increment is a small change in something, so small as to be barely perceptible. And that’s how growth usually occurs: by small changes. So what we must do is patiently make regular investments in our growth, trusting that the result will be seen later, even if we can’t see it right now.

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4). Isn’t it interesting that James says we must let patience have its perfect work? We can go through all the growth-producing events in the world and not be profited by them if we give up before the process is complete.

But finally, we must not let patience with the process of growth turn into complacency. We must accept the fact that growth doesn’t take place very quickly right now, but we must never tolerate the fact of no growth—for not to be growing is to be dying.

“Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still” (Chinese Proverb).

-Gary Henry


Stop Blaming the Alien

Posted: November 21st, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

I have heard brethren in every place discuss the reasons why alien sinners are not being converted and congregations are not growing. It is the same story in every place. “The aliens are not interested, they are unconcerned and there are too many worldly attractions getting their attention.” I agree that a lack of interest, unconcern, and worldly attractions are hindrances, but I believe they are hindering my brethren more than they hinder the aliens. I am concerned that some brethren have lost confidence in the gospel of Christ and now put the blame for it on the alien sinner.

The apostle Paul said the gospel is “the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth” (Rom 1:16). I wonder if all my brethren really believe this to be true? The gospel is the only weapon God gave us to use in our fight with the devil  and in the battle for lost souls. It will work just as effectively today as in times past. If this is not correct, then God has given us a weapon that is weak. Do you really think that God would give us a weapon that would be incapable of doing the job intended?

Where is your faith in the power of the gospel? To say the gospel will not reach the alien today as it has in the past, is saying that the gospel has not the power which God says it does have. Aliens are not being converted and congregations are not growing because most brethren are not using the gospel as they should. We meet at the building, discuss the gospel among ourselves, note that the congregation is not growing, and blame it on the alien’s lack of interest and concern. This is far from what God intends for us to do. We should meet for worship and study, then depart to teach the sinner and fight the devil.

Lack of interest, unconcern, and worldly attractions are affecting brethren, and this is really why the aliens are not being converted and congregations are not growing. Many brethren do not even make it to the worship services. Others come, but do not take part in the classes or even the singing. Some remain through the services, but their minds are on where they are going and what they will do afterwards. And nearly all will leave the services to do most anything until “the next appointed time” but teach the gospel. Yet, many have the nerve to say it is the alien’s lack of interest and concern that is causing the congregation not to grow.

Brethren, we must overcome things that are hindering us from being aggressive with the gospel. The gospel still has its power. When correctly taught, it will interest and concern all good honest hearts. Remember, God said it would, and surely you believe God. We need to be more confident in the power of God, the gospel of Christ, our only weapon. We need to increase our faith and start teaching every man. Do not be hindered and distracted from your work. Let us stop blaming the alien for lack of interest and unconcern and put our confidence in the gospel to do what God said it would do. Obey God, go teach all (Matt 28:19). When this is done, congregations grow!

-M. Fred Stacey



Posted: November 21st, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

The American Revolution began in April of 1775 when a shot was fired near the old north bridge in Concord, Mass. At first it was a conflict over rights—the right, for example, to be represented before the King or Parliament could levy taxes. The Sugar Act, Stamp Act, and other duties imposed by the British on the Colonies were not acceptable to Americans without their consent. After more than a year of fighting, the issue moved beyond “rights” to “independence.” July 4, 1776 the Colonies declared their independence from England and the right to govern themselves.

These men fought for “freedom.” Because they fought for freedom, because they passed laws defining freedom, and because they constituted a government to assure freedom, we today are free—free from despotic rule, governmental acquisition of our property, religious persecution, invasion of privacy, and a host of other threats to our well-being. We are also free to choose our own government, express our political and religious views, assemble unharmed to worship in spirit and truth, own property, select our own means of employment, and pursue life according to our own ideas of happiness. Our freedom, of course, is not perfectly administered and much of it can and is abused, but it is still the best system the world has ever known.

Pray for Kings. These historical thoughts remind us that we are to pray “for kings and all that are in high places; that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and gravity” (1 Tim 2:2). The “land of the free and the home of the brave” provides peace in which we can pursue unharmed a life of reverence and service to God. This is a privilege that must never be taken for granted. Proud Americans may think these benefits can never be lost, but humble Christians know better and will seek to assure these blessings by daily petitions to God.

Freedom in Christ. We do, however, remember that political/national freedom is only temporary and is unworthy to be compared to the freedom from sin and the eternal freedom that is provided in Christ Jesus. “For freedom,” Paul wrote, “did Christ set us free: stand fast therefore, and be not entangled again in a yoke of bondage” (Gal 5:1). Christ has freed His people from sin and from the wages of sin—the eternal wrath of God (see Rom 5:1,9; Rom 6:23; Rev 21:8). All those in Christ who walk in truth and avoid the entanglements of sin and human traditions become heirs of God—heirs of “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fades not away, reserved in heaven” (1 Pet 1:3-4; see Gal 3:26-29; John 8:32-35; Rom 6:15-18).

Price of Freedom. Just as our political and national freedom rests on the death of our forefathers, so our spiritual freedom is founded on death—the death of God’s Son. Jesus “gave Himself for our sins that He might deliver us out of this present evil world” (Gal 1:4)—“that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a people for His own possession” (Titus 2:14). Because He loved us “He laid down His life for us” (1 John 3:16). While we were sinners—liars, cheats, fornicators, child-molesters, rapists, wife-beaters, drunkards, thieves, homosexuals—Jesus died for us (Rom 5:8). In Him we are redeemed, ransomed—set free!!! (Eph 1:7; 1 Tim 2:5; Matt 20:28; Rev 5:9-10; Rom 3:21-26).

Americans hate the very thought of slavery and many among us, as our forefathers, would die in battle to acquire or maintain political freedom. Yet the tyranny of Satan and the bondage of sin are so pleasurable to the flesh that few of us are serious about being spiritually free. Did Jesus die in vain to set us free from sin and its eternal consequences?  He did if we do not serve Him.

-L. A.