“According To His Ability”

Posted: March 27th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

The phrase “according to his ability” is an expression Jesus used when he delivered to His disciples the parable of the talents. The “talent,” a measure or weight of money, represents in this story the capacity of each servant of the Lord to accomplish some aspect of God’s will or purpose on earth. The parable says that Jesus gave to one man “five” talents, to another man “two” talents, and to a third man “one” talent (Matt 25:14-30).

The master of these servants expected that each of them would work according to the measure of his ability—no more and no less. The parable, according to the purpose of parables, was to teach citizens of God’s kingdom an essential truth about their role in the kingdom. They, as Paul teaches, had been translated out of the “power” or authority of darkness into the “kingdom” or rule of God’s beloved Son (Col 1:13). This committed them to the reign of Jesus as servants under His authority. And Jesus as Lord demands that each of them serve “according to his several ability” (Matt 25:15).

The day came, a reference to a final judgment before Jesus, when Jesus called each of these servants before His throne. To the one with five talents who had gained five additional talents, Jesus said, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt 25:21). And to the one with two talents who had gained two additional talents, the Lord also said, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt 25:23). But to the man who had one talent and had failed to use it, Jesus said: “Thou wicked and slothful servant.”  He then added: “Cast ye out the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt 25:26, 30).

This means in 2016 and the rest of our lives we must do what we can—what we are capable of doing. Yes, some among us may not be able to teach a class, conduct a home Bible study, preach a sermon, oversee the church as a shepherd, make a talk or take the lead at the Lord’s table, lead an opening prayer, give large sums of money into the treasure, scripturally rebuke an unfaithful brother, or any of many other worthy works. Believe me, brethren, we understand and accept this. But there are a multitude of other things that are important and effective activities in the kingdom.

First, anyone of us, smoothly or awkwardly, can pray privately for our nation, the church, your own families, brethren with special needs, the sick among us, and a multitude of other important matters. Second, each of us can purchase cards with words of encouragement for the sick, attach to it a brief note of “thinking of you” or “praying for you,” sign it, and mail it. Third, many of us can cook a meal, pick up a pizza on the way home, stop by a bakery for a dessert, and then invite a family or two into our home to create or encourage bonds of friendship. Fourth, we can take a moment to speak to some of the “loners” among us, ask a simple question or two, and in a few weeks draw them into the blessings of a spiritual family. Fifth, any of us can make a brief phone call to an absentee brother or sister to let them know we are thinking of them and praying for them.

The point is, brethren, that so many “little” things need to be done and that together they add up and multiply into a sum of assets that strengthen and enhance the spiritual growth and character of the church. As Zechariah said, despise not the day of “small things” (Zech 4:10).

-L. A.

 


Evangelism Pep Talk – March 2016

Posted: March 27th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“And my soul shall rejoice in the LORD; It shall exult in His salvation” (Ps 35:9).

This past month was very fruitful and encouraging evangelistically. Late this past Monday evening a man named Jim Hawks was baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of his sins here at the building.

We first met Jim at our meetup studies this past June. He quickly became a regular attendee. Through some personal correspondence, Jim and I set up our first personal study in late November of last year. Our studies slowly progressed from once a month, to once every two weeks, and finally to once a week.

Throughout this process Jim came to realize that he had never truly been born again and had his sins washed away.  He recognized that he needed to submit to the conditions of God’s salvation by crucifying and burying his old man of sin with Christ. Upon learning this, Jim showed the tenderness of his heart by arising “that very hour of the night” and being baptized.

A few members that Jim had met from our meetup studies came to rejoice together with him. It was a wonderful encouragement to witness his excitement as he wholeheartedly committed his life to the Lord.

Jim lives over a half hour north of Kirkwood and plans on visiting a few congregations closer to home before placing membership anywhere. It is very likely that he will at least visit us here from time to time, however. If you have the chance, make sure to meet him when he visits and welcome him as your new brother in Christ.

“I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:10). Amen.

This coming week we are preparing to start our gospel meeting! Hopefully it has been in your prayers and on your calendars for some time.

Larry Rouse of Auburn, AL is going to be presenting a series of lessons on how the knowledge of God can change our lives. While these lessons are sure to be edifying and uplifting for us all, they are specifically prepared with visitors in mind.

We have gone all out to try some different forms of advertising for this series. First of all, as many may notice this morning, Quinn Sasser and Shawn Eldridge helped me place a 8’ by 4’ banner above our front door. This banner, along with all other materials, were specially designed by a young Christian named Noah Diestelkamp. It is the largest sign the city of Kirkwood will allow us to set up without getting some form of permit. As thousands of cars drive past our building every day, we hope that many more will notice this sign and consider coming to see what it’s all about.

We have also been running internet ads through google for a full week already. Already over 16,000 people in the St. Louis area have encountered our ad and over 200 were interested enough to click on it to find out more. We plan to continue these ads for another week and a half.

We are also putting our updated visitor database to work by sending flyers to all our visitors from the community who have attended with us over the past two years. We hope to have new visitor cards ready by the time of our gospel meeting as well.

This week I will also be posting flyers on every bulletin board that I can find in and around Kirkwood. Libraries, laundry mats, and restaurants have places to advertise community events. I especially plan to spend some time passing out advertisements at the community college as I have done in years past.

Yet, out of all these efforts, the most important means of reaching out is you. The most effective method of invitation is personal—each of us talking to our friends and neighbors, those to whom we’ve been shining our lights for months or even years. A flyer handed to them by a loving and familiar face can be much more powerful than any flyer hanging on a bulletin board somewhere.

So, stand up for Jesus! Be strong and courageous! Stay salty, stay bright, and keep sowing the seed!

-Grady

 


Neglected Corridors

Posted: March 27th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

In his popular book, The Making Of A Surgeon, Dr. William Nolen, in describing the hospital where he spent his internship, tells of a certain corridor that was generally avoided by him and his associates. Though it was a convenient short-cut to a much visited area, this particular corridor was dimly lit, cold, dank, and depressingly gloomy—an atmosphere not enhanced by the presence of an occasional corpse being temporarily stored there. All in all, it was an area easily avoided, even when the alternate route meant more and unsheltered walking.

It occurs to me that the Christian is often confronted with “corridors” something like that—the kind that are easily avoided because of their unpleasantness. If such disagreeable corridors could be identified with wall placards such as used on hospital wards, one would surely read, “Unfaithful Christians”. Few churches are without their weak and indifferent members. And all to often, the neglectful become the neglected—merely because many of their brethren find it personally distasteful to talk with them about their spiritual welfare. Oh, we can talk with them about other subjects; we can talk about them; we can even assume they wouldn’t listen, but these are little more than alternate routes to avoid the unpleasant corridor. Surely God’s people will not allow pride and selfishness to subordinate the needs of weak brethren to their own personal tastes! Bearing one another’s burdens (Gal 6:2) is what pleases God, and, therefore, should never be made contingent on what pleases me.

Another generally avoided corridor, if labeled, would read: “Personal Evangelism”. To my way of thinking the work of teaching the lost is one of the most urgent and most neglected responsibilities facing Christians. Relatively few relate themselves to this work in any significant way — for too many, it is an untravelled corridor. God’s simple, yet effective plan calls for faithful men to teach others (2 Tim 2:2). Apparently, many early Christians did just that (Acts 8:4); souls were saved and the church grew. When we quit emphasizing what we can’t do and what we think others won’t do; when we quit worrying about being embarrassed or rejected and when we start getting concerned about lost souls enough to teach them publicly and from house to house (Acts 20:20), THEN we will grow both individually and collectively! We MUST get the gospel to the lost!—At least we must TRY! And we must quit avoiding the open doors and opportunities about us. There is the very real possibility that the very one we avoid may be the one with the “honest and good heart”. Anyway, ALL have priceless souls that we should be concerned about. We cannot follow Christ and neglect them.

Finally, if we have found ourselves to be avoiding such corridors, there is yet another we should consider—and possibly the most important. It is the nearest. It is self. It too is a much-avoided area. Yet, God bids us to examine ourselves (2 Cor 13:5). Neglecting this encourages neglecting the others (and vice versa). However, facing up to self with a view toward improvement can bring us through many faith-testing corridors.

-Dan Shipley

 


A Successful Gospel Meeting Requires…

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

Sound Gospel Preaching. The Gospel is God’s power to save all men, Romans 1:16-17. A series of sermons preached from God’s Word will always produce the intended desire of God. The Word of God will not return to Him void, but will accomplish His will, Isaiah 55:10-11.

Eager Listeners. Repeatedly in the New Testament, Jesus and His inspired messengers admonish people to “hear” the message (Matt 11:15; 13:9, 43; Mark 4:9, 23; 7:16; 8:18; Luke 8:8; 14:35; Acts 28:27; Rom 11:8; Rev 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22; 13:9).

Jesus said of the Jews of His day: “For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear” (Matt 13:15-16). Without eager listeners, God’s Word will still do its job, but those who need the message most will miss it!

Supportive Members. Those of us who are already Christians, already members of this local church, and already recipients of “all spiritual blessings” (Eph 1:3) do not want to hoard these things and keep them for ourselves! We wish to spread the good news to others — friends, family, neighbors, etc. — who need to hear and be blessed by the Gospel. If we are not here to support the work, then why should we expect those we invite to come?

Uplifting Worship. We worship God in church when we sing songs of praise and adoration to God with glad hearts, and thankful spirits. We worship God in church when we pray meaningful words of petition, gratitude and love. We worship God in church when we remember Jesus’ death in His memorial feasts every Sunday. We worship God in church when we give as we should as members from the heart. We worship God in church when we study the Bible in our classes, and in our sermons.

Time & Dedication. We spend a week worshiping God in song, prayer and worship. It may cost us time, energy, and some work, but God’s Cause never was spread without voluntary sacrifice. Consider what you will give!

-Wayne Goff

 


Afraid to Ask

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

“‘Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.’ But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask Him about it” (Luke 9:44-45).

This was the first time Jesus gave His apostles details about the fate that awaited Him. The announcement was so shocking, so out of touch with their preconceived notions of the Messiah’s work, they couldn’t comprehend what He was saying. So how did the apostles respond to this puzzle? “They were afraid to ask Him about it.” Jesus’ words were bewildering, but rather than ask Him for clarification, they said nothing.

Why were the apostles afraid to question Jesus’ statement? Very simply, they were afraid of looking dumb and uninformed. We know the apostles at this stage were still struggling with a pride problem (see v. 46-56). Here, too, pride led them to keep their ignorance hidden; so instead of asking questions, they chose to remain silent, even though they had no clue what Jesus was talking about. Several months later, when Jesus’ words were fulfilled, their ignorance left them unprepared, and they failed miserably. Their lack of curiosity about Jesus’ words eventually hurt them badly.

The apostles’ reticence to ask questions is a common human failing. Many of us, when faced with circumstances that don’t make sense, tend to “play cool” and pretend we know the facts. We may have no idea what’s going on, but like the apostles, we are too proud to reveal our ignorance.

But the truth is, we are ignorant. None of us is born with innate knowledge about anything. Everything we know, we have learned—either from parents and teachers who beat it into our heads, or from books and other media, or from mentors, counselors, friends, coworkers, or supervisors who took the time to share their knowledge. And no matter how much we have learned, our current level of knowledge is still quite limited. There will always be much that we don’t know. That’s not a failure, but a simple fact of life.

It’s the person who can freely admit, “I don’t understand, please explain,” who is in the best position to learn. His questions do not brand him as ignorant, but as curious and desirous of knowledge. People respect that. It was this respect for the curious mind that led Voltaire to say that we should “judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” A lifetime spent asking questions will sharpen our skill at asking more—and learning more.

After all, asking questions is the quickest way to replace ignorance with knowledge. We should remember this when dealing with others who pepper us with honest questions. Instead of belittling them for their ignorance, we should reward their honesty with all the patient guidance we can provide them.

So the next time you encounter a situation or concept that appears inexplicable, don’t try to preserve your dignity by pretending you know the answers. Just come out and state the truth: “I don’t understand”—then start asking questions. Eventually, others will start asking you the questions.

-David King

 


John Mark: The Growth of a Christian

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

Luke in his account of the church in the book of Acts introduces Bible readers rather early on to a young man identified as “John whose surname was Mark” (Acts 12:12). Evidently at birth he had been given the Jewish name “John” and, apparently, when he began to circulate among Gentiles he was given the Graeco-Latin name of “Mark” or “Marcus.” His life should be an inspiration to any of us who have zealously sought to serve God and then stumbled along the way.

Our first information and impressions of Mark are of a young man who lived at home with his mother, Mary, and had dedicated himself to the Lord. His mother, a woman of means, some would say, according to Luke’s description (Acts 12:12-14), opened her house to brethren who assembled to pray for Peter and James, who had been arrested, imprisoned, and sentenced to death. As citizens of Jerusalem this mother and the young lad came to Christ and grew in Him under the preaching of Peter and other apostles.

Either Mark’s cousin Barnabas (see Col 4:10) or the apostle Paul was impressed enough with this youngster that they sought to take him on their first preaching journey as an “attendant” (Acts 13:5, “helper,” NASV, NIV). But a short while into the tour John Mark left the work and returned to his home in Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). Barnabas, a patient man, a relative, and a brother known to encourage fellow saints, understood John Mark’s reason for leaving, but Paul was upset.

When a second journey was planned by Paul and Barnabas, these two stalwart men of faith had a sharp disagreement over the wisdom of taking John Mark along. Barnabas favored taking John Mark, but Paul balked because, in Luke’s words, he “went not with them to the work” in the first tour. The two men finally agreed to disagree and Barnabas took John Mark with him to revisit Cyprus and Paul selected Silas to go with him to Syria and Cilicia (Acts 15:36-41).

We hear no more about John Mark for a number of years. Toward the end of Paul and Peter’s lives John Mark’s name resurfaced in connection with each of these apostles. John Mark was received by Peter as his “son” in the gospel and evidently a partner in the work at Babylon (1 Pet 5:13). John Mark, at the request of Paul, visited Rome at the time of Paul’s imprisonment there (2 Tim 4:11; Phlm 24).

What is remarkable about Paul’s request and John Mark’s visit to Rome is the epitaph Paul places on his life at this late date. Early on Paul saw him as a slacker who would not finish the work of the first tour and now he sees him as “useful to me for ministering” (2 Tim 4:11). In time, this now mature servant in Christ had seen his weakness and failure early on and had pressed on in his development and growth as a Christian—a growth that years later Paul recognized and commended. Not only did Paul forgive John Mark but John Mark was mature enough to forgive Paul for his hardnosed rejection of him as a young man.

This, brethren, is a real life story, but one that does not always describe brethren who stumble or are indifferent to the Lord’s work in their youth. Far too many of us never pick ourselves up, reassess God’s purpose for us in life, and develop our talents into useful servants of God. There is still time for anyone of us to come to ourselves, assess the talent the Lord has given us, and set a course to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”—to mature into useful servants in God’s kingdom (see 2 Pet 1:5-7; 3:18).

-L. A.

 


We Can Truly Change

Posted: March 14th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“…that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:22-24).

Few things are more universal than the human desire to change for the better. The sheer size of the self-help section in any bookstore is a fair indication of how desperate we are to conquer the problems that beset us and increase the quality of our lives. Virtually every person would like, in some significant way, to improve the “self” that he or she presently is.

How ironic it is that, despite our deep desire for change and the lavish attention that publishers pay to our personal improvement, many people still hold to the deterministic idea that real change is not possible for a human being. This viewpoint says we are so conditioned by heredity and environment that we can’t change in any radical way. Whatever we “are,” that is what we’ll always be. And our culture has no shortage of psychologically correct labels to define what we are. Once labeled, a person cannot unlabel himself. The most he can hope for is to keep from externally acting out what the label says he’ll always be on the inside.

Christianity, however, makes a deeper change possible. After listing certain groups who practiced notorious sin, Paul said to the church in Corinth, “And such were some of you” (1 Cor 6:9-11). These were people who’d actually changed, and the change was not just behavioral. In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul wrote: “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:3-4).

What Jesus Christ offers the groaning human soul is not superficial pain relief, but radical surgery. The drastic rehabilitation He envisions is certainly not the work of one day. But just because we require more than a quick fix, that doesn’t mean we’re forever locked into our mistakes. “Beware of succumbing to failure as inevitable” (Oswald Chambers).

“Change, indeed, is painful, yet ever needful; and if memory have its force and worth, so also has hope” (Thomas Carlyle).

-Gary Henry

 


Take Pleasure In Weakness

Posted: March 7th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

One of the most difficult lessons in life to learn is the value that comes to man from adversities. No one likes to suffer and few of us pray for the Lord to send us hard times. The Bible, however, clearly teaches God’s people that they will face and have to endure trials and that these struggles can bring good results to their lives. Most of us remember hearing our parents talk about tough times and how they build character and make us better and stronger people.

The apostle Paul knew about this and taught this truth when he battled what he called a “thorn in the flesh” and explained the Lord’s response to his prayer for its removal. Paul prayed three times for God to remove this thorn and three times God said, “No” (2 Cor 12:7). God’s explanation to the apostle was that the “thorn” was “a messenger of Satan to buffet” Paul so “that he should not be exalted overmuch” (2 Cor 12:7).

Paul evidently had been transported in a vision to God’s dwelling place where he saw things in the heavens he was not permitted to reveal to mankind. He was also selected by God as a special apostle and was uniquely blessed by God to take the gospel to the world of Gentiles. Apparently, these unusual privileges opened the apostle to the temptation of pride and the risk of losing his soul by self-exaltation (Luke 14:11). To protect Paul from condemnation through pride God permitted Satan the opportunity to buffet him. And, oh, how the evil one took advantage of this opportunity and this dedicated servant of God (see 2 Cor 11:21-28).

In response to God’s refusal to remove the “thorn” Paul wrote of his positive attitude toward the trials he faced in life: “Wherefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecution, in distresses, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor 12:10). Note that the apostle learned to “take pleasure” in the adversities and trials that life placed before him. He also learned that through the weaknesses of these adversities he had gained strength spiritually. And the tests that he faced and endured kept him humble, led him to depend on God, and brought him by God’s help and power to faithful endurance in the work of the Lord.

This lesson from the life of Paul is both puzzling and clear. It puzzles us to think of our loving Father in heaven permitting us here on earth to have to face and endure weaknesses, injuries, distresses, persecutions—the workings of Satan. Yet, it is clear that these trials call forth the best in us in order to endure and remain faithful to God and His call by the gospel to a life of righteousness and holiness.

James also in his epistle stresses both the value and joy God’s people should gain from trials. “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you fall into manifold trials; knowing that the proving of your faith works patience. And let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). Only spiritual men in Christ, as Paul and James, can grasp the value of tough times and view them with joy and pleasure.

Because the weaknesses that trials produce in the flesh create in God’s people spiritual resistance and strength, His people will learn to “humble themselves therefore under the mighty hand of God,” “take pleasure in weaknesses” and “count it all joy” (see 1 Pet 5:6; 2 Cor 12:10; James 1:2). With this spiritual perspective, no temptation or trial has the power to overcome and subdue God’s people.

-L. A.

 


Two Men View Their Lost Neighbor

Posted: March 7th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Two men view their lost neighbor, but they see him from different perspectives. The first man sees him as a potential asset to the church. For years, the church with which he worships has struggled for want of manpower and leadership, and here’s the very man who could fill the void. “If we could only win him over,” the first man thinks, “what a help he could be to us.”

The second man sees him primarily as one in need of salvation. He sees him as one who is lost, without Christ now, and doomed for hell eternally. True, the man could be an asset to the church if he was genuinely converted, but his need for Christ and salvation is infinitely greater than the church’s need for him. “If we can bring him to Christ,” the second man thinks, “he can be saved, go to heaven, and bring glory to the Lord.”

The first man approaches the neighbor, telling him how much the church needs him and what an asset he could be. His appeal is built upon flattery and pride.

The second man approaches him with the gospel. He tries to bring him to an awareness of his sinfulness, hopelessness, and helplessness. He points him to Christ as the only answer to his greatest need. He knows that until this man is shaken from his lofty opinion of self, he cannot come to Christ; that until he comes with poverty of spirit, mourning, meekness, hungering and thirsting for righteousness, etc., he cannot have salvation or be fit for the Master’s use. His appeal is therefore built upon persuasion and urgent conviction.

The first man would have his neighbor come down the aisle with a smile on his face to do the church a favor.

The second man would have him come with bitter tears seeking that which he so desperately needs.

The first man’s concept of the church is primarily that of an organization seeking help for its basic needs.

The second man‘s concept is that of people who have bowed in submission to Christ and have found in Him the answer to their needs.

The first man’s appeal is carnal; the second man’s appeal is spiritual.

The first man may be successful in getting his neighbor “into the church” and “winning him over,” but the second man will be successful in saving a soul from death.

Unfortunately, the first man may “win” more with his approach than the second man, for the carnal appeal seems far stronger than the spiritual in our day, but, in truth, he weakens the church with everyone he “converts.”

“The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds” (2 Cor 10:4). These mighty weapons must be used skillfully, but there is no room for substitutes. Fleshly appeals must be cast aside. Flattery and pride represent the very opposite spirit from that of the Lord’s kingdom. Indeed, our second man uses the only approach that is pleasing to God.

-Bill Hall

 


What Is Prayer?

Posted: March 7th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Prayer is not merely wishing for something. Nor is it simply thinking about something or reciting some lines. Prayer is our means of speaking to God (Luke 18:10-14). It is the act of communicating the thoughts of man to the infinite mind of God. From Romans 10:1 we learn that it is the heart’s desire expressed to God. It is making our request and thanksgiving known unto God.

Consider the following quotes that I have gathered from various sources that help us better understand and appreciate prayer. “Prayer is the avenue through which one approaches the Almighty.” It is “making personal contact with power that transcends time, space and matter”, and the “reach of man after the Absolute Reality.” “Prayer is the voice of faith” (Thomas Home). “Prayer is a correspondence fixed in heaven” (Robert Burns). And then my favorite, “Prayer is so simple; It is like quietly opening a door and slipping into the very presence of God.”

May I say what a privilege that is? What a privilege to have access to our God (cf. 1 John 3:1). Can you imagine what it would be like to be invited into the oval office for a private discussion with the president? If I could tell you that I could go in and talk with the president at any time, you would think that was a special favor unlike any other. You might even ask how I got such a privilege. Yet, we are invited to open up our hearts to the Creator and Ruler of the universe! Oh, what a privilege that is.

-Donnie Rader