The Beauty of the Lord

Posted: April 24th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple” (Psa 27:4).

In discussing the attributes of God, not much is said about the concept of “beauty.” But David expressed a desire “to behold the beauty of the LORD.” What does this mean? We can quickly dismiss any notion of physical beauty in speaking of God, but having done that, what does beauty mean in this context?

One way to think of beauty is to define it as “perceived goodness.” Goodness itself is imperceptible, but when it reveals itself in some way that we can perceive, we call it “beauty.” Visually, when goodness reveals itself to the eye, we call what we see beautiful. Aurally, when we hear a sound or a song that expresses goodness, we describe it as beautiful. And even when we observe someone doing a good deed, we say that it was a beautiful act. The English word “aesthetics,” which denotes the branch of philosophy that deals with beauty, comes from the Greek word aisthanesthai (“to perceive”). So beauty is a reference to what we perceive when goodness shows itself in any way that is perceptible to us.

Most people would admit that human beings need beauty. Our nature is constituted such that we require doses of it on a regular basis. And if you doubt this, just imagine how quickly your sanity would leave you if you were confined to an environment that had been totally deprived of any kind of beauty, day after day after day. After a while, you would find yourself becoming subhuman.

But what about God? Well, He is the perfection of beauty because He is the perfection of goodness. Right now, we can get little more than hints or inklings of Him, but these entice us and attract us. They open the doors of our imaginations to a realm where total goodness, and therefore total beauty, exists. Somewhere deep within our hearts we know that if we could ever “behold” Him as He truly is, our entire being would be ravished with beauty.

And that is why we long for heaven as we do. In this world, there is not enough goodness left to satisfy our need for beauty. We are grateful for the beauty that is here, but it is not enough. We long—we desperately long—”to behold the beauty of the LORD.”

“God is beauty” (Francis of Assissi)

 -Gary Henry

 


Evangelism Pep Talk – April 2016

Posted: April 24th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Motivation

How valuable is a single soul? How much time is it worth? …time talking with others about Jesus? …time inviting people to our assembly? …time engaging in personal Bible studies?

How much effort is it worth? …effort equipping ourselves to teach others? …effort getting outside of our comfort zone to talk to others about the gospel? …effort reaching out to our friends and neighbors?

How much money is it worth? …money supporting evangelists? …money for teaching materials? …money for business cards, advertisements, or visitor cards?

A single soul has been created in God’s image (Gen 1:27). It has the capacity to reflect His glory and bring praise to His name. It has the ability to bring abundant joy to the Lord and His angels in heaven (Luke 15:4-7).

Jesus tells us that a single soul is worth more than the whole world. He asked His disciples the rhetorical question, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:36-37). All the treasures this world has to offer are temporal and will one day fade away. Souls are eternal and their value will never diminish.

Jesus shows us that a single soul is worth the greatest treasure heaven has to offer—His own blood. Jesus left His home in heaven, emptied Himself of His equality with God, and became a lowly bondservant here on earth (Php 2:5-8). He ultimately shed His precious blood upon the cross to purchase the souls of men out of the bondage of sin (1 Pet 1:18-19).

If we want to know how valuable a single soul is to God, we simply need to look at the cross. The question is, how valuable is a single soul to us? What are we willing to sacrifice to share the gospel with it? How far are we willing to get outside our comfort zone for it? How hard are we willing to work for it? How greatly do we rejoice at its salvation? Let us learn to value each and every soul the way God does.

Information

This past month we had a very successful and uplifting gospel meeting. We tried to make evangelism a priority in this series of lessons. We asked Larry Rouse to present lessons that would be well-suited for evangelism. We  tried many different forms of advertising than we had tried before.

At the final tally our internet ad appeared on nearly 49,000 computers and 398 individuals clicked on it to get more information.

We passed out nearly 300 flyers, posting them on bulletin boards in the community, handing them out at the college across the street, mailing them to past visitors, and using them to personally invite friends and neighbors.

We put up a large banner over our door that thousands of people saw as they drove by.

We believe each of these methods of advertising brought in at least one or two visitors throughout the week. We hope these contacts may provide further evangelistic opportunities in the future.

Our gospel meeting also gave us an opportunity to evaluate the most effective means of advertising. We will be able to use this information to help improve our evangelistic efforts in the future.

Our meetup studies continue to be a fruitful effort as well. In our three meetup studies this past month we had 8 visitors in all. 2 of these were first time attendees and the other 6 were return visitors.

Each time we gather in these meetings we do our best to emphasize the importance of letting God’s word be our guide in all things. Our prayer is that these contacts will in time progress to personal studies and/or visit our assemblies where they can learn more.

Please continue to keep all of these evangelistic efforts in your prayers. And keep your eyes open for evangelistic opportunities in your own life from day to day. Stay salty, stay bright, and keep sowing the seed!

-Grady

 


“Burdens Are Lifted At Calvary”

Posted: April 24th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Few things symbolize hard labor or burdens in life as clearly as the word—“yoke.” The word yoke most commonly denotes a cross-bar or beam that attaches two items together. We usually think of it as joining two beasts of burden so they can together pull a plow to turn the soil. From a biblical perspective most Bible students think of oxen bound together for work in the fields. But the term is also used in the New Testament of the bar of a scale that joins weights on one end and a pan to hold commodities on the other (see Rev 6:5). There it is translated “balance.”

It is generally used metaphorically in the New Testament. It is, for example, employed to denote the master-slave relationship—that slaves by law in the Roman empire were bound to their owners and were burdened with labor at the demands of their masters (1 Tim 6:1).

A couple of times yoke refers to the Law of Moses to which the Jews were bound—a yoke of bondage that bound them to both sin and death (see Acts 15:10; Gal 5:1). This was an unbearable yoke from which there was no relief and no escape. The blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin of which every man was guilty and the wages of sin is death (see Heb 10:4; Rom 3:23; 6:23). What a prospect!  What a thought!  What a burden!

The other two uses of the word denote a disciple’s relationship to Jesus. Twice Jesus uses the word in an invitation that He extended to all men: “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light” (Matt 11:28-30).

Jesus here speaks of that inward burden men bear and endure in the soul. All men, as noted above, sin and their souls labor under the weight of both the guilt of sin and its eternal consequences. “And these,” Jesus says, “shall go away into eternal punishment” (Matt 25:46). But our Lord also promises that in Him the yoke of sin is easy:  that He will lift and bear the burden and provide “rest unto your souls.”

The weight of sin and its consequences are too heavy for any man to bear. The relief available that Jesus promises is the grace of God, for “by grace,” Paul says, “have ye been saved” –freed and delivered from the weighty yoke of sin (Eph 2:5). Jesus, Peter says, “bore our sins in His body upon the tree, that we, having died unto sins, might live unto righteousness” (1 Pet 2:24).

Those, the scriptures teach, who are bound together with Jesus find the yoke “easy” and “light” because the weight of sin is removed by forgiveness (see Acts 2:38). This, of course, demands that every sinner be yoked or bound together with Christ by the obedience of faith.

The apostle Paul explains how this is accomplished: “For ye are all sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ” (Gal 3:26-27). And this, Paul explains elsewhere, occurs because as many as are “baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death” (Rom 6:3).

As the hymn says of Jesus, His death, and the shedding of His blood: “Burdens are lifted at Calvary” (see Matt 26:28).

-L. A.

 


Two Men Attend Worship Services

Posted: April 17th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Two men attend worship services. The first man attends wholly out of a sense of duty. He understands the teaching of Hebrews 10:25—“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together,” and is determined to obey faithfully that teaching. He will not allow anything within his power to stand in the way of his attending the worship periods of the church.

The second man recognizes his duty in this matter, too, but his primary motivation in attendance is his love for the Lord and his joy in blending his voice and heart with other Christians in praise and adoration to the Lord. He delights in worship and the spiritual strength he derives through worship.

The first man is mentally passive throughout the worship service. If the words of the song happen to catch his attention, he observes and appreciates them; otherwise, he just sings along with little concern for what he is singing. If the sermon is interesting, he listens; otherwise, he just relaxes, and hopes the time won’t drag too badly. He does meditate briefly concerning Christ’s suffering and death as he partakes of the supper, for somehow the importance of the memorial feast has been impressed upon his mind.

The second man comes mentally prepared to worship. He pays close attention to the words of each song and makes the sentiment of the songs his own sentiment. In fact, he sometimes studies the words of frequently used songs so he will be sure he understands their meaning. Depth of meaning is of greater importance to him than a catchy tune or rhythmic beat. He listens to each phrase of the prayer that is led, and if he can approve the petitions of the prayer he unites with the one who leads with his “Amen.” He discerns the Lord’s body as he breaks bread, and he listens carefully to the sermon, volunteering his attention, hiding the word in his heart, that he might not sin against God (Psa 119:11). If his mind wanders occasionally, he brings it back to the worship. He worships with a consciousness of God as the object of his worship, the One toward whom these expressions of adoration are directed.

The first man reduces his service to a mere code of external rites, while the second man obeys “from the heart,” combining the outward with the inward. The first man is more likely to be satisfied with his service to the Lord, for he has accepted the easier standard, but it is the second man who enjoys God’s approval. “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).

We ask the reader: “In which of these two men do you see a reflection of yourself?” The need is obvious! We must cast off our laziness and indifference, revitalize our spirits, and bring ourselves to worship God acceptably. There is a considerable difference between mere attendance of a worship service and truly acceptable worship.

 -Bill Hall

 


Our Relationship to the World

Posted: April 17th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

John wrote, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15-17).

Jesus told His disciples: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated me before you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19)

In praying for His chosen disciples, Jesus spoke of their relationship to the world: “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:14-18).

We often talk about being “in the world but not of the world…” But what does that mean? “Of the world” would indicate a mindset that thinks and acts like the world without much effort to change others or to point them toward Christ. “Of the world” means a mind set on the flesh, with the focus being on what pleases us instead of what pleases God. Contrast that with Paul’s admonitions:

“For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom 8:6-8).

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom 12:2).

What are our options when it comes to living in this world? 

  1. We can fully accept it and live in it (like an atheist). In this case we have completely given up on trying to live as Christ would have us to live. We have given ourselves over completely to the world, which is a mind that is hostile to God (cf. Jas 4:4).
  2. We can fully reject it and live “out of it” (in total isolation). In this case we have given up trying to convert others and have a positive influence on those around us. Christ sent His disciples into the world to make a difference and let their lights shine (Matt 5:14-16).
  3. We can try to accommodate Christianity to the world. In this case we hold onto an unbiblical form of “Christianity” without trying to buck against the world very much. We call ourselves Christians, but we won’t really try to reach out with the gospel. After all, we don’t want to offend the people of the world with something like a crucified savior (see 1 Cor 1:18ff).
  4. We can try to accommodate the world to Christianity. In this case we are bringing in more of the world to affect more of God’s people (cf. 1 Cor 5:6-7). We make Christianity look more like a worldly endeavor rather than a spiritual relationship with God.
  5. We can try to understand our relationship to the world through God’s lenses. This is, of course, what God would have us do. Our filter for understanding the world is Scripture instead of trying to understand Scripture through the lenses of the world. We see the world as lost and in need of Jesus, whereas the world sees “religion” as lost and in need of more worldliness. Yet the only hope we have of understanding our relationship with God is by understanding our lost condition without Him. Then we can begin to have a proper perspective of the world.

“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col 3:1-2).

-Doy Moyer

 


Faith In God

Posted: April 17th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

The vast majority of men and women believe in their own way that there is a God. Even on “talk shows” when people who have serious problems are featured, the name of God will occasionally be invoked in a way that suggests the speaker has his own definition of God. And so it is with the “talk show” host or hostess. And as is often the case, if a difference arises and the discussion gets heated, one will say, “Well, my God certainly doesn’t believe that.”

The one thing that is suggested in these disagreements is that God does not have to be “clearly” defined when invoked as an arbiter to settle disputes about life. He can be the “Supreme Being,” the “Higher Power,” or some special “unknown principle” within the human spirit. He can be “Allah,” the “Great Unknown Chief” of the Indians, or some “Impersonal Idea.” Prayer, it is stressed, can help regardless of who or what one thinks God is. Such views of God must be rejected by Christians—without any reservations.

That there is a God—only the heart of a fool would reject (see Psa 14:1). And, according to the apostle Paul, this God is not very “far from each one of us” and it “is in Him we live, and move, and have our very being” (Acts 17:28; see Heb 4:15-16). He to the Athenians, as with so many today, was “AN UNKNOWN GOD” (Acts 17:23). What was also unknown to the men and women of Athens is that God has revealed Himself to mankind and can be known and believed on in the world (see Acts 17:22-31).

God, first of all, can be seen in creation—the product of His wisdom and power. And here it is clear that God must be perceived as a Person (Psa 19:1-2). The Psalmist notes that the heavens display God’s “handiwork”—the intelligent design and workmanship that is so prominent in nature. Beyond this and more specifically, man sees God’s “works” and “wisdom” in the many prophetic utterance that foresee and foretell the coming of Jesus of Nazareth and outline in advance His life and work (see 2 Pet 1:19-20).

And we see in the life of Jesus not only the “power” of God in the eyewitness accounts of the empty tomb and His resurrection from the dead, but we see in those same records His life of wisdom, purity, love, holiness, and righteousness. We see in Jesus the character and being of God shining as the sun in the midst of a darkened world of ungodly and evil men. And there we read of “grace,” “faith,” “obedience,” and “hope” that will perfect man in righteousness before the God who created him.

Seeing in creation, in the Old Testament, and in Jesus the real and only God who has revealed, manifested, and projected Himself in history—we come by faith to believe He is and that He rewards them that diligently seek Him (Heb 11:6). We see Him as a distinct being, a definite person, and a loving power who is able and willing to care for us in troubled times.

We call on Him—not as an abstract principle, not as a being somewhere in space, not as a super mundane power, but as Jehovah, the God and Father of Jesus Christ. It is He who through the Bible defines Himself as the only God besides whom there is no other (Isa 45:5-6; Eph 4:6; Rom 10:17). When we speak and say “My God says,” let’s be certain we utter His actual words and instruction on any issue of life that men debate and discuss. And that includes issues like “abortion,” “homosexuality,” “adultery,” “fornication,” “murder,” “lasciviousness,” “drunkenness/drugs”—and a host of other practices our nation accepts that God says will keep them from His eternal presence (see 1 Cor 6:9-10; Gal 5:19-21; Rom 1:24-32). Faith in God can only be based on what He actually says (see Rom 10:17).

-L. A.

 


Why Don’t We See?

Posted: April 11th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“You say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’— and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked…” (Rev 3:17)

Why don’t we see the depth of our need for God? How could something so important be so difficult to recognize? There are at least three reasons for our failure to see.

Distraction. The here and now has a powerful pull on us. That which is immediate seems more urgent than the remote, and the physical seems more important than the spiritual. “The world is a net; the more we stir in it, the more we are entangled.” It’s hard to hear the quiet, eternal beckoning of God when the clatter and clamor of the present rattles so loudly in our ears. Yet the distractions of the present can be resisted, and God expects us to do so. There is a sense in which God is always saying to us, “This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?” (Luke 12:20).

Delusion. When our faith fails to see beyond the here and now, we lose perspective on reality. Our sense of what’s important is turned upside down. Famished with hunger, for example, Esau foolishly traded away his birthright for a bowl of soup. Later when he saw what was really important, it was too late to get his birthright back. Like Esau, we are often deluded into thinking that what we want right now is all we will ever need. Our momentary temporal desires deceive us greatly as to their eternal value.

Denial. At times, there may be an even more serious problem. We may not see our need for God because we choose not to see it. Refusing to admit what we know deep down to be true, we may build our lives on pride and denial, rather than truth. The self-sufficient claim that “we’re doing alright” keeps us from seeing our true emptiness. If we lack either honesty or humility, we may suppress our need for God. “God is in none of his thoughts… He has said in his heart, ‘I shall not be moved; I shall never be in adversity’” (Ps 10:4, 6). “The fool has said in his heart, ;There is no God’” (Ps 14:1). But ignoring our need doesn’t make it go away. To deny that our hearts long for Him is to deny the God who made us.

“The man who has lost contact with God lives on the same dead-end street as the man who denies Him” (Milton A. Marcy).

 -Gary Henry

 


We Ought Always To Pray

Posted: April 4th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

One of those obvious truisms says, “We do not know what we do not know.” This was true of the apostle Peter when Jesus warned him and the other disciples that after His death they would be scattered like sheep without a shepherd (see Matt 26:31-35). Peter was the one who spoke up to assure the Lord that even if all the other apostles denied Him that he certainly would not. Jesus assured Peter that before the cock would crow that very night the outspoken apostle would deny Him three times.

Luke’s account of this conversation between Jesus and Peter has an interesting element to it. Jesus speaks to Peter first about all the apostles then switches from a second person plural pronoun to a second person singular pronoun to focus on Peter personally. “Simon, Simon,” Jesus said, “behold, Satan asked to have you, that he might sift you as wheat: but I made supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not” (Luke 22:31). When Jesus addressed Peter as “Simon,” he warned that Satan had asked for all the disciples (“you,” plural) to sift them as wheat. But when Jesus “made supplication,” he made it for Peter personally (“thee,” “thy,” singular).

Jesus being God in the flesh knew the special test Peter was about to face when Jesus was arrested and put on trial. The Lord knew that Peter would be tempted to deny Him and that he would succumb three times during the night before the cock crowed early in the morning. The prayer that Jesus offered for Peter shows that God knows even before man asks what his needs are (see Matt 6:6-8). Had Peter himself taken the Lord’s words seriously and had himself prayed, maybe he could have avoided the grievous sin he committed that broke his heart and left him sobbing at his rejection of the Lord (see Luke 22:54-62).

Is there not a lesson in this story for every Christians? Are we not taught by this example to pray about our ongoing problems, our abiding weaknesses, our daily needs? Or are we blind to what awaits us day by day and may overtake us at any moment? The fact that God knows our needs before we ask is no excuse for walking aimlessly in life without a clue or thought about Satan who as a roaring lion prowls around looking for the right moment to pounce on us. Before he described Satan as a roaring lion, it was Peter who reminds brethren of prayer when he tells them to cast all their cares and anxieties on God, “because He cares” for them (1 Pet 5:7).

Yes, our thoughts, our words, our lives “are naked and laid open before the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.” This is no reason to leave everything to God in the absence of prayer. Not only does God care for us, but it is equally important that we care about ourselves. God wants to know that we care about life in Christ, about blessings in Christ, and about righteous and holy living in Christ. That is why as our Father He has called on us to “ask” that we might receive, “seek” that we might find, and “knock” that doors might be opened unto us (Matt 7:7-11).

James writes: “The supplication of a righteous man avails much in its working” (James 5:16). Despite the love of God for His children and His knowledge of their needs, any Christian who takes discipleship seriously will not boast of his commitment, but make supplication to God for his needs. It was Jesus who not only taught His disciples how to pray, but also taught them they “ought always to pray and not to faint” (Luke 18:1).

-L. A.

 


Does God Matter?

Posted: April 4th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Does God matter? Some behave as though He does not; living their own way. They curse, drink, gossip, lie, cheat, steal, or commit fornication. To them, God does not matter. However, logic and the Bible teach that God does matter.

God matters because He is the Creator. He made all things through His Son (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16, 17). Being the Creator, He is superior to the creature, man (Genesis 1:26, 27). He gave man life, breath, and all things (Acts 17:25). He is not only the giver of life, but the sustainer as well (Hebrews 1:2; Acts 14:17). He matters.

God matters because He is the Judge. God is the giver of the law of Christ (John 16:7-15). All men will stand before God and be judged by Jesus Christ according to His law (2 Corinthians 5:10; John 5:22; 12:48). Hence, God matters.

God matters because He is God. The very nature of God demands the conclusion that He is relevant. God is the Almighty (Gen 17:1). He knows all things and with Him all things are possible (Psalm 139:7-12; Hebrews 4:13; Mark 14:36). He is self-existent and eternal (Exodus 3:14; Psalm 90:2). The President of the United States matters because he is the president. The CEO of a company matters to people in the company because he is the CEO. The God of the universe matters because He is God.

-Steve F. Deaton

 


Why Trust The Bible?

Posted: April 4th, 2016 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

We live in a generation that has scoffed at the idea of any absolute standard of authority. Those who point to the Bible as containing the answers to the most crucial issues of life are pushed aside as ignorant or naive. If these thoughts are yours, please consider the following points:

1. To determine if the Bible is from God or man is an issue that can be tested and the truth known. I appeal to you to at least read the Bible with an open mind and then test what you read.  This is the appeal of Jesus Christ Himself (John 8:32; 7:17).

2. Take the time to consider the historical and archeological accuracy of the Bible. History tells us of many recent scholars, such as Sir William Ramsey, who because of their archeological studies of the Bible lands came to respect the Bible as one of the most accurate sources of ancient history. This tells us that the Bible is no myth but rather was written by men in the times claimed and written in a careful manner.

3. Consider the identity of Jesus Christ – who is He? The appeal of the apostles in the book of Acts is that they witnessed Jesus as one who was raised from the dead (Acts 2:32: 3:14-15; 5:30-32; 10:39-42; 13:27-31). Is this testimony valid? What was the motive of men like the Apostle Paul in making such an abrupt change from persecutor to preacher? History bears testimony that all these witnesses, save one, died a martyr’s death for this truth (1 Cor 15:30-32). Did they die for a lie?

4. Finally, consider the powerful evidence of fulfilled prophecy. In the death of Christ there are several detailed accounts of His death hundreds of years before the event (Psalms 22, Isaiah 53). How can this be?

Why not begin your examination of the Bible today?

-Larry Rouse