August 29, 2010

OK …now what? – Steven Cuffle

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:00 am by kdkelly

I have never won the Stanley Cup, the Super Bowl or the World Series, but I imagine that the feelings of joy and accomplishment are second to none so far as athletics is concerned. It would be great to be called the world champion of something, but I’ve always wondered what goes through an athlete’s mind a few weeks after they’ve won the championship and they get over the initial jubilation of success. After you’ve proven that you’re the best, what is there left to do? Where do you go from there? I have a pretty good idea of what I would be thinking: “Okay…now what?” The only answer that I can think of, from an athletic perspective, is to get better. I would want to become so great that every year afterward I was the champion again. Otherwise, what’s the point of playing?

From a spiritual perspective, a Christian is someone who has won the greatest victory in the world. When someone chooses to be baptized into Jesus Christ, they have overcome sin and death by being connected with Jesus’ resurrection. If God raised Jesus from the dead, then surely he is powerful enough to change my body to be like his body, to clothe what is mortal with immortality and to swallow up my death with an everlasting life.

When I arose from the waters of baptism, I knew that my sins had been washed away, I knew that I had been made a new creature through the powerful working of God, that I had been added to the body of Christ and I knew that I would be saved on the last day by the grace of God which I accessed through my faith. I had won the victory and Satan had been defeated. Okay…now what?

After I was baptized, I had loving Christians who were ready and willing to help me realize there is more to Christianity than getting dunked in a baptistery. As great and as wonderful as that decision was, that wasn’t the last decision I needed to make—it was the first decision. Baptism is not the ending point of a journey, it is the very beginning. Just like a world champion athlete looks forward to becoming  even better, so too must a Christian set their sight on a goal greater than what they have already achieved; we cannot be satisfied with past decisions of faith, but we must press on toward the goal, toward the upward call of Christ Jesus.

We have a great reason to rejoice before God with the baptism of three people into Christ! They are our new brothers and sisters, and angels in heaven are rejoicing with us because of their decision! They have a new Lord and Savior, and have been remade in the image of Christ in order to glorify God through good works. They have made the first step in transforming their lives, renewing their minds and making their lives living sacrifices to our God and Father. Our obligation to them as their new family is to help them grown in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, which, by the way, is the same thing that we owe, and have owed, to each other all along.

What exactly does it mean to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus? What is it that we must learn about and do once we’ve been baptized? Those questions are answered the same way questions about baptism are answered, by looking through the New Testament and finding out what the apostles taught all Christians to do. Acts 2, a very helpful reference when studying baptism, is a great place to go for information about these questions.

In Acts 2:38, the apostle Peter teaches a group of Jews that they had to repent of their sins and be baptized in the name of (by the power or authority of) Jesus Christ. When they did these things, they would receive the remissions of their sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. On that day, those people who heard and believed Peter were baptized. What did they do after they were baptized? That’s what the rest of the  chapter tells us, and, in doing so, it shows us exactly what we should be doing after we are baptized.

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers … all that believed were together, and had all things common; And they were selling their possessions and belongings, and distributed the proceeds to all, as any had need. And, day by day, attending the temple together, and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47)

The first item we come across is devotion to “the Apostles’ teaching.” While there are no apostles around today, the things that they taught are recorded for us in the letters they wrote, which in turn make up the New Testament. Paul instructed early Christians to “stand firm and hold fast to the traditions” that were taught “either by [his] spoken word or by [his] letter.” (2 Thessalonians 2:15) As noted, we no longer have Paul’s spoken words, but we certainly have his letters. If we are to be devoted to the apostles’ teaching like all the new Christians in Acts 2 were, then, clearly, studying the New Testament is important to do.

When we are told to be “devoted” to these teachings, it does not mean to worship them or those who wrote them. Worship and adoration are reserved for God alone. Instead, this word means “to focus on” or “to be in continually.” Early Christians were people who looked for directions from God in every decision they made. We, likewise, should look for God’s guidance and direction in our every actions.

Adapted from the Stonegate Standard, November 2008

August 22, 2010

A Natural Response of the Heart – Matt Allen

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:00 am by kdkelly

Psalm 146:1-2 says, Praise the LORD!  Praise the LORD, O my soul! I will praise the LORD  while I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. I hope you share David’s excitement to sing praises to God during worship. Singing is such an important part of what we do collectively in worship that it can set the tone for the entire service. It can be easy for us to take this part of worship for granted. If we are not careful, we can mumble along to the words, never considering the contents of the song. If that is the case, we must take a serious look at our attitude, because the type of singing that God accepts is that which comes from the heart. I have always found it disturbing that some who argue so passionately against instruments of music in worship hardly sing louder than a whisper in the assembly. A look at Psa. 146:2 shows that we should relish the opportunity to praise God. When we consider how the love of God has been shown to each one of us by rescuing us from sin, singing should be a natural response of the heart. Our hearts should perk up with praise! Consider the following verses that talk about our singing:

James 5:13b—Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praises. The good news of the gospel should bring cheer to our hearts. Singing is a way to communicate what is on our heart.

Hebrews 13:15—Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. What better way to demonstrate our thanks to God than by singing? Is our gratitude to the Creator reflected by the way we sing?

Ephesians 5:18-19—be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father. These verses tell us our music is to come from our heart. With all of our heart, we should offer praise, glory, and honor to God.

Singing is also important, because with it we teach and admonish each other, Colossians 3:16. This passage teaches us that we can learn from the songs we sing. We teach one another when we sing. For example, while singing He is Able to Deliver Thee, A Shelter in the Time of Storm, and Abide With Me, we are reminded of the great hope and trust we have in God. Our God: He is Alive, teaches us about God. We are reminded of our responsibilities to family when we sing God Give Us Christian Homes, and songs like Hallelujah, What a Savior challenge us to think of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

In Colossians 3:16, Paul says singing hymns can admonish us. When we admonish one another, we warn each other and help keep each other from wrong doing. For example, when we sing Is Thy Heart Right With God, Sowing the Seed of the Kingdom, and Did You Think to Pray, we are reminding and admonishing each other to do well in our service to God. Singing together should uplift us and give us assurance. When we leave a worship service, we should be uplifted because of what we have offered to God.

But, our singing is not that pretty, someone says. God is concerned with what is on our hearts, not the beauty of the harmony in the songs written by men. I have had the privilege of worshipping with groups large and small, and while it is exciting to assemble with thousands in a lecture hall to spend forty-five minutes of singing to God, some of the most touching and emotional moments have been singing with fellow Christians in Ukraine who are just learning to sing to God. A song service where people are singing simultaneously in English and Russian may not sound that appealing, but the pure joy and love for God in the hearts of our young brothers and sisters literally sends chills down my back. Even though the carnally minded person might laugh and snicker at the sounds emanating out of that room, there is no doubt God was pleased because the singing was from the heart.

You may remember that the excuse for introducing the instrument in churches of Christ was that the singing was so poor that it would even scare the rats from worship (L.L. Pinkerton, Midway, KY 1859). You know, adding the instrument most likely did nothing for the singing at Midway. The instrument would have only drowned out those who had a hard time blending in with the harmony and those who were not singing before the instrument was added probably didn’t start singing after its introduction either. My experience in places where the instrument is used in worship has been to observe the majority of people not singing, but listening or staring at the wall. Most come, not to praise God, but watch others do the praising for them. This is not what God intended. In churches of Christ where the singing is not that good, it is usually because some are not singing, and others only sing half heartedly—not putting effort in it. Singing is not for us, it is for God! God wants our praise to be from the heart!

We need to treat this part of our worship seriously. We all would do well to remember that we are praising our Creator when singing, and it is not a time for joke telling, passing notes, or talking. We do a great disservice to God and to ourselves when we take the song service for granted and never give consideration its essentialness in worship. Remember, God wants you to praise Him from the heart!

August 15, 2010

Desire or Avoidance – does it matter? – Ray Anderson

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:00 am by kdkelly

Sometimes I wonder why we do things. Is it because we want to do it or because we want to avoid something else. Do we not steal because we know it is not right or because the thought of being punished and going to prison keeps us from it? Do we get married because we truly love the other person and want to spend our lives with them or is it because we don’t want to spend our lives alone –who we marry doesn’t matter?

Do we want to go to heaven because we want to spend eternity with God or is it because we don’t want to spend eternity in hell? We are living through some really hot days right now. It makes me think of the rich man who cried out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” (Luke 16:24) If hell is hotter than where we are now, then I’m sure I don’t want to be there.

However, one motivation is positive and the other is negative. Does it matter? I think so. God created the heavens, the earth and seas and everything that is in them. And it was very good. (Genesis 1:31) God has provided for man’s physical needs throughout the centuries. (Matthew 6:25-32) He also has provided for man’s spiritual needs by sending His son to die on the cross so that man could be reconciled to Him through the death of His son. (Romans 5:10) One would think on that basis we should all hope to be where God is and spend eternity with him. We should give him the glory and honor due him. We know that heaven is a beautiful place where there will be no more sorrow, no crying, and no pain. (Revelations 21:4) We should all be like Paul who wrote, “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven.” (2 Corinthians 5:1-2) Beloved, I want to be in heaven with you because you earnestly desire to be there. Let us focus on getting to heaven and not just avoiding hell.

Is that true preaching? – Steve Dewhurst

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:00 am by kdkelly

When my oldest son David was a young boy we were riding along in the car one day listening to a denominational preacher on the radio. It never occurred  to me that David was actually paying attention to him, but after a few minutes he looked up and asked, “Daddy, is that true preaching?”

The question struck me as both sweet and a little funny. Grammatically the question was awkward. He didn’t want to know if what he was hearing was truly preaching, but whether or not the preaching itself was correct in its content. All of which serves to illustrate an important point: there is a profound difference in what is true and that which is truth.

When we speak of truth we’re speaking of God’s word itself, the standard by which all else is judged. And truth is absolute, that is, it is entirely correct and unchangeable. People sometimes speak of truth changing, but by its very nature, truth can never change. If what is correct can change from day to day, then it never was correct in the first place. Men may have thought it correct due to human ignorance, but truth has always been truth whether frail minds have ever grasped it or not. For example, scientific laws of thermodynamics have been true from creation, although it took many centuries before men could define them. And so it is with spiritual truth. Jesus said in prayer to His Father, “Thy word is truth.” (John 17:17) Our understanding of God’s word may change with study and maturity, but the word, itself, has always been the same.

But then there is the adjective true. That which is true is true because it happens to agree with the truth. Preaching that is true is that which accurately represents the truth of God’s word. When I claim to be telling the truth, what I’m actually doing is stating what I think is the truth; I believe myself to be making true statements that coincide with an objective truth somewhere outside me. My opinions and conclusions will never become truth in and of themselves; my objective should be, however, to always say and embrace what is true according to the truth of God’s word.

We have all heard of instances in which a witness in court has sworn to tell the truth and genuinely believes himself to be doing so, only to learn through contradictory evidence that his truth wasn’t the truth at all. What happened? Well of course, the truth didn’t change; the facts had remained constant throughout. What changed was the man’s understanding of the facts. In spite of his genuine intention to tell the truth, he discovered he was making untrue statements which would not square with the real truth. The critical lesson here is that what we believe to be true is not the truth; put another way, my understanding is not the standard of right and wrong; God’s word is the standard whether I ever understand it correctly or not.

In view of the fact that truth exists objectively outside of us, we ought to be willing to continually examine our personal beliefs in contrast to scripture. God’s word isn’t going to change; it is right. But I can always “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18) As a child of God, I want to know the truth. I want to follow the truth. I want to teach the truth. But as I have grown over the years, I have sometimes discovered that what I thought was true wasn’t true at all—or was only partially true. Yet in all this time, truth itself hasn’t changed a bit. Only my understanding has changed.

So what’s the upshot of it all? Simply that we ought never to become so content with ourselves, or so cocky that we knowtanfuse

August 8, 2010

The Lord’s Church – Ron Boatwright

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:00 am by kdkelly

“The Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). Only those who are saved according to God’s instructions are in the Lord’s church. But how many churches does the Lord have? Jesus says in Matthew 16:18, “Upon this rock I will build My church.” The word “My” shows possession and that the church belongs to Jesus. The word church is singular not plural. The Lord only promised to build His one church.

In Ephesians 4:4-6 we read, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all, and in you all.” Just as there is only one God, there is only one body. What is this one body? In Ephesians 1:21-22 we find out what this one body is, “And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be the head over all things to the church, which is His body.” Here we see that the Bible says the church is the body. So the one body is the one church which belongs to the Lord. One might as well believe in more than one God as to believe that the Lord has more than one church.

Today we hear the sincere but mistaken plea to “attend the church of your choice.” Why not attend the church of God’s choice, the only one that Jesus “purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). Christ did not shed His blood to purchase any denomination. The one church that Christ purchased with His own blood belongs to Him and the name it wears must honor Him. We read in Romans 16:16, “The churches of Christ greet you.”

We read in Ephesians 5:23, “Christ is the head of the church, and he is the savior of the body.” Christ is only the savior of His one body, His one church. The Lord only adds the saved to His church (Acts 2:47). In the Lord’s scheme of redemption, He has only planned to have one church. He is only going to save His one true church.

The Change Generation Asks: “Is it fun and exciting?” – Gary Collings

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:00 am by kdkelly

For a growing number, and even some  who wear the name Christian, the only qualification for acceptance or rejection of any behavior before God is expressed in the words “is it fun and exciting?” This is heard and somewhat expected in conversation of the young, but it is disappointing and less excusable in the lives of the many who are older and should know better, but who have not yet matured in Christ! With Paul we must say these are “yet carnal” or worldly. (1 Cor. 3:3)

An Attitude Difficulty

This attitude is certainly affecting the church of which Christ died (Acts 20:28). In many localities there are those who refuse to  attend Bible classes because they say it is “dullsville.” This is a bad reflection on this one instead of on the Bible, the class, or the teacher! Others do not attend each worship period (unless some special entertainment is announced) because they “do not get anything out of it,” and especially when there is something “more exciting” to do. These seem to ignore many passages of scripture about putting God and His kingdom first, not forsaking the assembling of the saints, and that worship must be directed to God in spirit and in truth (Matt. 6:33; Heb. 10:25; Jn. 4:23-24)

Forgotten Vows

Marriages are strongly affected by this attitude. Some after only a few months divorce their mates, rending many hearts, because one of the participants feels things just are not “fun and exciting” any more! Then these look for a preacher who will deny the Lord’s simple teaching on marriage, divorce, and remarriage (Matt. 19:8-9), so they may feel good about finding another mate who is more “fun and exciting.” The tragedy is, some of these hireling preachers can be found!

Vows do not seem to mean much to these people! Not only are marriage vows soon “forgotten,” but many seem to also take lightly their vow to serve the Lord. The good confession that “I believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God” is suppressed and flies quickly from the mind of some, when they are “choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.” (Lk. 8:14) When these are urged to live pure lives, teach a Bible class, serve at the Lord’s table, visit the sick and needy, prepare the building for worship services (or close it afterwards), teach a neighbor or invite them to services, speak to  visitors, or a host of other small but important duties of Christians, they respond in word or attitude, “That is not ‘ fun and exciting’ to me anymore.” These have left their first love and need to repent (Rev. 2:4-5). Their promise (vow) to serve the Lord has to be “some great thing,” never difficult, and always “fun and exciting” or they will defect from the Lord’s army!

Personal Responsibility

Of course, for those who study and believe the bible, it is known that there are responsibilities legislated by the Lord for which we are accountable (Matt. 28:20). These come as a result of our abilities and opportunities given us by God. He has the sovereign right to call us into account for the use of that which He has given to us. Paul’s words must continually ring in our ears, “So then everyone of us shall give account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:12).

Let us take a close look at our own attitude about the work of the Lord. Let us “walk in the light” that we may have pure fellowship with other faithful Christians (1 Jn. 1:7-9). “Am I a sold soldier of the cross, a follower of the Lamb,” or do I live in subjectivism of searching only for that which is “fun and exciting?”

August 1, 2010

Doing what is right – Ray Anderson

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:00 am by kdkelly

I like Gary’s statement, “Can do and have done don’t even live in the same neighborhood.” The Spirit speaking through James had it exactly right, “To him who knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17) It is also sin in the sight of God. That is why Paul admonished the Galatians to not grow weary in doing well, because we will reap the benefits of so doing in due time. He went on to say that we should do good to all men when the opportunity presents itself, especially to fellow Christians. (Galatians 6:9-10)

The real question, then, is when do we have the opportunity. That is the key. We have more opportunities than we realize. We need to keep our eyes open and be more sensitive to the world around us. When we are so preoccupied with “me,” it is far more difficult to see the opportunities to do good to “them.” Let us not forget what it commonly called the “golden rule.” If we see the opportunity to do good for someone else, it is often because we realize we would like someone to do that same good deed for us when needed. Let’s keep our eyes open. Amen

Loving what is right – Gary Henry

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:00 am by kdkelly

Even if you are not a student of the Bible, you will have heard of the “Good Samaritan” parable in Luke 10:25-37. On the road from Jerusalem down to Jericho, a certain man lay half dead, having been beaten and robbed by thieves. When a priest happened by, he noticed the man in need, but gave no help. Later a Levite came along. Not wanting to get involved either, he “passed by on the other side” just like the priest. But when a despised Samaritan came to the scene, he did what was needed, at considerable inconvenience and expense. Jesus said he “showed mercy,” and the Good Samaritan now stands as a symbol for anyone who actively serves the needs of his fellow man.

But I wonder about the priest and the Levite. Weren’t they “good” men? It seems not unlikely that their next-door neighbors would have described them a s “decent, clean, upstanding folks.” They both had steady jobs. They were probably friendly when you saw them, but also minded their own business. Likely they kept their lawn up so as not go be an embarrassment to the neighborhood. They didn’t let their teenagers get drunk and hot rod up and down the street at two in the morning, etc., etc. Surely there were “good, moral people” weren’t they?

Well, the priest and the Levite were good in exactly the sense that many of us think of ourselves as being good: they did not murder, did not commit adultery, did not lie, etc.

They perhaps secretly congratulated themselves for being above average morally because they would not stoop to engage in the despicable things they frowned on in others. The strength of their own morality was measured by the intensity of their negative feelings about the immorality of other people. They were “good” because they had a long list of practices they felt strongly against. In other words, righteousness for them meant scrupulously avoiding un-righteousness.

We shouldn’t minimize the importance of fleeing evil, obviously. But there is more to being truly moral than looking down on immorality in others. One of my favorite quotations is a line from Roy Masters which says, “Loving what is right is different from hating what is wrong and feeling right about it.” This means that we don’t truly qualify as being on the side of truth and goodness if all we do is criticize the sin we see around us. There is of course, no lack of things in the world that are wrong, and we ought to feel genuine revulsion for these sins. But neither ought we to confuse this revolting feeling with a true love for what is good.

It is also a mistake to confuse a merely intellectual appreciation of goodness with genuine love for what is right. Really loving what is right goes beyond abstract appreciation. Many years ago, Charles Finney made this observation: “Moral agents are so constituted, that they necessarily approve of moral worth or excellence; and when even sinners behold right character, or moral goodness, they are compelled to respect and approve it, by a law of their intelligence. This they not infrequently regard as evidence of goodness in themselves. But this is doubtless just as common in hell as it is on earth. The vilest sinners on earth or in hell, have, by the unalterable constitution of their nature, the necessity imposed upon them, of paying intellectual homage to moral excellence.” And neither is an eagerness to debate issues of right and wrong proof that we love the good. As Adlai Stevenson remarked, “It is often easier to fight for our principles than to live up to them.” No, truly loving what is good requires actively doing what is good!

A part of our problem here is that we tend to judge others by their actual performance, while we judge ourselves by our idea

ideals. We think of ourselves as being fairly “good” because we know that our goals and intentions are good. We may not be doing much about our goals, but we render a favorable verdict on ourselves anyway, because we know what we are capable of doing, what we are going to do in the future, etc. But the person who truly loves what is right is not merely the person with high ideals and positive potential—he is the actual doer of good. When there is mercy to be shown, Jesus’ commendation falls upon the person who loves mercy enough to show it, making a personal sacrifice if necessary in order to do so.

Talk is cheap, as the saying goes. So, in a certain sense, are our intentions. Can do and have done don’t even live in the same neighborhood. “To him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17) Loving what is right demands that we do more than complain about the world going to the dogs while we watch the evening news from the comfort of a recliner.– Focus Magazine