Volume 1, Number 20 – March 2022

Renovate My Family

Kent Heaton

Reality shows are the norm for television today. People have become fascinated with the “real life drama” of other peoples lives and how they react to adverse situations. One of the genre’s of reality shows are the makeover programs where families receive new homes, new looks and new everything. The criterion for families to be considered is based upon their needs, their sacrifice for others or some type of tragedy befalling them. No one can doubt the wonderful blessings many people have received from others as they have their homes remodeled, their appearance enhanced and new hope given to their lives. The attention given programs such as this is how needy people are given such wonderful gifts from others. It speaks well of many communities who are willing to go to such extremes to help their fellow man.

However (and there is always a “however”), a point that is missing in these exercises of human benevolence is the true reality of life. While the remodeling, remaking and renewing of lives are wonderful for television, when the lights go off, the cameras stop humming and the crowds go home life remains in much the same manner it was before. The families are able to enjoy life more than before the makeover but the change has taken place largely only on the outside. Renovating a family takes more than a nice home, nice looks and nice clothes.

Society portrays happiness as the attainment of material things. While tragedy and sorrow fall upon all of us, the true worth of reality is found in the renewal of the inward person. These are the changes that are worth living for. If you take a bum off the street and dress him in a $1,000 suit you have a bum in a $1000 suit. The application is that window dressing does not solve the more pressing needs of man. The character of a man or the inward self must be changed to find true fulfillment. King Solomon found all the things that men seek for today. He found wisdom (Ecclesiastes 1:12-18); pleasure and wealth (2:1-11) and pondered fame (1:1-11) but all was vanity. The word vanity is something that is of “no profit under the sun” (2:11).

There is joy and excitement at a new bike but after time, it is neglected and forgotten. Why? Material things rust and break down in time and then soon laid aside. An interesting study for reality shows would be the follow up ten years (or more) later when the families have lived in their new homes and the question is examined as to how these things truly changed their lives.

Life changes measured by material gain are fleeting. Changes made to the life of a person will last forever. The apostle Paul described the value of changing the inner person rather than focus on the outer person. “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Seeking those things that are above (Colossians 3:1,2) have true worth; seeking the things of this earth have no lasting value (2 Peter 3:10).

Jesus did not come to change the economic, political or social status of man. He came to impress His life upon their hearts. From hearts filled with the will of Jesus Christ, changes will take place that are eternal. “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul” (Mark 8:36-37)? Renovation of the family can only take place when Christ is the center of the family, the central theme of our lives, valued above all earthly possessions and whose footsteps we carefully walk after each day. Jesus told the woman at the well in John 4:13-14: “Whosoever drinks of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.’

Everyone’s Talking

Kent Heaton

Never before in the history of man has the ability to communicate been as integral a part of society than now. Cell phones have opened up the air ways with endless hours of conversation all over the world. Rarely can you find someone that does not have a cell phone to their ear. Young and old, in the automobile, shopping, at the beach, in restaurants, jogging, at dinner tables the nonstop verbiage flow unabated. Texting is a societal norm almost required for relationships. Facebook, Twitter, Skype, YouTube and a host of methods are employed to keep in contact with updates, news, notes and “hello how are you doing” with unceasing control over our time and relationships.

Everyone is talking so why are we not a closer people? The lack of communication has always been at the root of relationship problems, lack of knowledge and confusion. Yet with all the talking going on the conversations do not draw us closer but farther apart. Signs are placed in windows and counters telling people to not talk on cell phones while doing business. ‘Reception rage’ happens when we lose our signal or cannot call with our cell phone. All this talking seems to be driving us mad.

It has been said the reason God gave us two ears and one mouth is so that we can listen more than we talk. James writes, “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20). A rabbinical adage says, “Talk little and work much.” Albert Barnes noted on James 1:19, “The ancients have some sayings on this subject which are well worthy of our attention. ‘Men have two ears, and but one tongue, that they should hear more than they speak.’ ‘The ears are always open, ever ready to receive instruction; but the tongue is surrounded with a double row of teeth, to hedge it in, and to keep it within proper bounds.”

Paul described the process of faith as “hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). This involves time to listen, meditate and contemplate the mind of God. If we talked with God through prayer and supplication as much as we spent time on the cell phone and Facebook postings our lives would be filled with the Lord on every hand. We have become people as described by Paul quoting the prophet Isaiah: “Go to this people and say: ‘Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand; and seeing you will see, and not perceive; 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’” (Acts 28:26-27).

Everyone is talking but few are listening. Everyone is glued to their cell phones with every app imaginable to fill their days with technological futility and waste. “This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (James 3:15-17). Wisdom from above comes from “all scripture” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). “Give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine . . . Meditate on these things” (See 1 Timothy 4:13-16).

What is Success?

Dylan Stewart

Ecclesiastes 12:13 states, “Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man’s all.” If we want to measure success, we must measure our lives with this command. That is to say, our lives are successful or unsuccessful based on God’s approval of our lives in connection with whether or not we have kept His commandments. If one succeeds in satisfying and gratifying the lusts of the flesh, then we have not found true success. Love God with all your heart and obey His commands. Only this will yield true success.

So, what is true success? If we keep God’s commandments, we will will have success and hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” and “enter into the joys of the Lord” (Matthew 25:21-23). This, my friends, is true success.

“For I Have Given You an Example”

Dylan Stewart

In John 13, we see Christ providing His apostles with an example of how they needed to conduct their lives. Specifically, in John 13:15, after washing Peter’s feet, Christ states, “For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” This concept of Christ being our example is found in other areas of the Bible as well. For instance, we see in 1 Peter 2:21 that “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.” We also learn in passages such as 1 John 2:5-6 that we must pattern our lives by Christ’s example, “whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” Since we are to walk as Christ walked, we too are obligated to provide an example to others, just as Christ provided us with an example. 

How can we become a significant influence and example like Christ? We must be sure to sincerely love those we want to help in righteousness so they can begin to develop confidence and faith in God’s love. For so many in the world, the first challenge in accepting the gospel is to develop faith in a Father in Heaven who loves them perfectly. It is easier to develop that faith when they have friends or family members who love them in a similar way. In his first letter to Timothy, Paul encourages Timothy to “be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 2:21). Today, Christians should pattern their lives in a way that reflects Paul’s words. If we do so, we will be in harmony with God’s will because we must not only be hearers of the word, but doers of the word as well (1 John 1:5, Colossians 3:12-17, James 1:22 & 25, James 2:8). In other words, we can’t just say that we love others, we must show others our love for them.

We best serve God and show our love for others by righteously influencing and serving them. The greatest and most perfect example who ever walked the earth is our Savior, Jesus Christ. His mortal ministry was filled with teaching, serving, and loving others. He sat down with individuals who were judged to be unworthy of His companionship, yet loved each of them. He discerned their needs and taught them His gospel. He invites us to follow His perfect example. Consider Christ’s admonition in Matthew 5:48, where Christ provides us with what I consider to be our most difficult challenge. He tells us, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Jesus provided a perfect example. No matter how difficult it may seem, He expects us to rise to the challenge of pursuing His example of perfection. 

If we follow Christ’s perfect example by sharing our love, trust, and knowledge of truth with others, then we will be living in accordance with the command Christ gave when he washed Peter’s feet. 

So when He [Christ] had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, ‘Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:12-15).

Winding Paths

Dylan Stewart

We often equate our lives to journeys. Christians, specifically, may call their lives on earth a “pilgrimage.” In the Bible, the word pilgrim implies a journey. Pilgrims are those who journey away from their own people, seeking a new land. I would argue that it would be difficult for one to call himself a Christian and not also consider himself a pilgrim, as all faithful Christians look forward and are actively walking in their journeys to a home eternal in the Heavens with God. But, as we all know, our journeys here on not as always easy, nor are the paths we walk without sharp twists and turns. 

Christians might compare their pilgrimages to a long car ride, one on a long winding road with many pit stops, flat tires, missed exits, wrong turns, and potential accidents. However, if we focus our eyes on the prize that is before us, our paths may start to grow a bit straighter. Consider a few examples from God’s word: 

  • Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”
  • Colossians 2:6-7 – “And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow Him. Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” 
  • Philippians 3:14 – “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” 
  • Hebrews 12:1-2 – “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” 

Satan often takes advantage of us while we walk our winding paths to our eternal homes, firing at us temptation, despondency, and even doubts of our standing with the Lord. But we are provided with many helps and blessings on our pilgrim way to balance these things if we simply live by faith and obedience to God. It is said that the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 “all died in faith, not having received the promises [in their earthly lifetimes], but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them” (v.13). They made the promises of an eternal home dictate the paths they would walk, thus declaring by the manner in which they lived that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. Can the same be said for us?

Volume 1, Number 21 – March 2022

You Say You are Satisfied?

Jere E. Frost

You say you are satisfied? So what?

  • The rich man was satisfied, but God called him a fool and took his life and condemned his soul (Luke 12:20).
  • The whole church at Laodicea was satisfied, but Jesus said they did not know that they were actually wretched, and miserable and poor and blind and naked (Rev. 3:14-22).
  • In Luke 18, we see a Pharisee that went into the temple to pray was satisfied with himself, and even glad he was not as the Publican. But Jesus said that the satisfied Pharisee was not as justified as the sin-conscious Publican. As a matter of fact, the Pharisee wasn’t justified at all; the sin-conscious Publican was.

That’s about how wrong a “satisfied” person can be. Satisfied? Are you, now? The wise man warned: “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov. 14:12).

Witnesses for God and Christ

Dylan Stewart

The record shows that John “bore witness” for Christ (John 1:32). John bore witness for Christ so by preparing the way for Him and proclaiming, “I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God” (v. 34). Although we have not physically seen Christ, we bear witness for Him much like John did.

Just as John “bore witness to the truth” (John 5:34), we bear witness for Christ through our works. Jesus says in John 5:36 that man’s “works” are greater witnesses than man himself: “I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the father has given me to finish – the very works that I do – bear witness of me.” Since Christ isn’t walking the earth today, it is our responsibility to bear witness for Him. However, if we have not been good witnesses, then we are “liars.” John says, “He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son” (1 John 5:10).

What kind of witness for God have you been? I pray you have not been a “liar!”

Doing the Best We Can at Singing

Pat Donahue

It seems many Christians think “doing the best we can” at religious singing means making the singing as “pleasing to human ears” as possible. Does anybody know a New Testament passage that teaches such is important in the least to our singing? Instead of making our singing the most beautiful to men, shouldn’t we concentrate on making it the most pleasing to God? After all, our singing “is not for man, but for . . . God” (1 Chronicles 29:1).

Without doubt, what is pleasing to God in our singing is if we are doing it “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). “In truth” in this case would mean singing words that teach scriptural truth (John 17:17), not false doctrine. Since we are teaching those around us in our singing (Colossians 3:16), we had better be teaching them the truth (John 8:31-32). “In spirit” in this case would denote meaning what you are singing.

Three illustrations:

  1. A very conscientious Christian friend of mine recently texted me that he felt guilty for leading a song that talks about praying to God “night to night” when his “prayer life was not good.” I think he really gets what I am saying here. His confession inspired me to write this article. The goal is not to sound pretty to man, but to mean what you say/sing (Ephesians 4:25).
  2. Another example: there are a lot of songs we sing that talk about kneeling in prayer, but how many Christians actually get on their knees to pray with any regularity (Mark 1:40, 10:17, Acts 7:60, 9:40, 20:36, 21:5)? If the song says “I kneel in prayer,” then I had better be doing that sometimes. Practice what you preach/sing (Matthew 23:3 – “for they say, and do not”).
  3. And have you noticed how many of our songs talk about trying to reach the lost? As enthusiastically as we sing about it, you would think the whole “church” was going “every where preaching the word” (Acts 8:1,4, Matthew 28:19-20), but is that really anywhere close to being the case? Do what you advocate/sing (Matthew 23:4).

One final thought: Malachi 2:13ff would demonstrate doing the best you can in singing on Sunday would mean living the godly life Monday through Saturday. God does not accept our worship even if we are technically doing the correct things in worship – if our daily morality is lacking.

A Matter of Life and Death

Bill Crews

We’ve all heard it: “It’s a matter of life and death.” This phrase expresses a sense of urgency and is designed to solicit immediate response. It may be used in a phone call to the police, paramedics, firemen, etc. When this occurs, it is physical life and death we’re talking about, and when it’s a life or death situation involving us or our loved ones, we all agree that it is an urgent matter indeed. But for some strange reason, when it becomes a matter of spiritual life and death, when it involves the salvation and eternal destiny of a soul – our own, or that of another person – the urgency is gone.

With all too many this matter of life and death is not a priority in need of immediate attention, and is often put off until it is too late! How do we really feel about the life or death, the eternal destiny of a soul?

I truly hope if I were lost and knew it, I could not rest, could not sleep – could not have any peace – until I took care of that matter once and for all. What about you?

Our Purpose in Life and Death

Dylan Stewart

God’s purpose for our existence is to reflect the glory of Him and His son Jesus Christ. God gave us life so we might draw attention to Christ with our bodies, minds, and hearts. Consider a statement from Paul in Philippians 1:21. He asserts, “To live is Christ.” Our purpose then is to reflect Christ in all aspects of our lives. The purpose for our existence does not change at death though. Consider the latter half of verse 21. Not only does Paul say to live is Christ, but he concludes “to die is gain.” Thus, our reflection of Christ meant not only to be present in our lives, but also our deaths.

For the Christian, eternal life has already begun and will not be interrupted by death or judgment. Jesus taught this concept when he said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24). Already, by faith in Christ, our judgment is past and our death is past. Death is no longer death to those who are in Christ. The essence of what makes it death has changed. Therefore, the way we show Jesus to be great in our dying is to treasure these things as we die. That is, treasure representing Christ more than what we leave behind. This is how we fulfill the God-given purpose of our death as those who cannot die. The purpose of this deathless dying is to glorify Christ. Death is God’s appointed way in this fallen world for Christ to receive his final praise from us on earth before we eventually enter into endless praise.

Paul’s attitude towards death is a great example of how we should see death as our final opportunity to represent Christ. He says we do this by counting death as gain. He explains it was his “earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death” (Philippians 1:20). Christ is magnified in our dying when we treasure Christ so much that dying is felt to be gain. Death is a time for glorifying God. He appoints it for this purpose.

Another example is the death of Peter. Jesus spoke to him about death by proclaiming, “Most assuredly, I say to you, when you were younger, you girded yourself and walked where you wished; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish” (John 21:18). John interpreted these words for us in his gospel, “This [Jesus] spoke, signifying by what death [Peter] would glorify God” (John 21:19). Thus, our purpose in death is to glorify God. We all have our appointed time and way of dying. This is our last way on earth of making much of the supreme value of Jesus in our lives. This is the last time we, in our earthly bodies, can glorify God. We glorify Him by counting everything on earth as loss (Philippians 3:8) and counting the sight of Christ in Heaven as gain. If we die serving God, we can have the same confidence Paul had in 2 Timothy 4:6-8: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness.”

If faced with death, can we be as confident as Paul? If not, we need to reconsider our purpose in life, as well as in death.

Sentence Sermons

  • If you’re struggling with something, talk to God about it. His phone lines are active 24/7.
  • When it comes to giving, some people stop at nothing.
  • Jesus asks, “You may ‘Do this in memory of me’ during the Lord’s Supper, but are you ‘Doing all in the name of Lord’ during the rest of your life?”
  • God calls us daily to do great things, but we often let His calls go straight to voice mail.

The Lord’s Supper – A Time for Meditation and Remembrance

Dylan Stewart

Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper as a means for “remembrance” (1 Cor. 11:23-26). That is to say, the Lord’s Supper serves as memorial by which we remember the great sacrifice our Lord Jesus Christ. As we prepare to partake of the Lord’s Supper each Sunday, we need to take a good, long look at what is in our hearts and minds. Paul says, “A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup” (1 Cor. 11:28 [NIV]). Thus, the Lord’s Supper is both a time of remembrance, as well as examination, or mediation.

Webster defines meditation as this: “To engage in contemplation or reflection. To engage in mental exercise for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness.” Does this sound like something Christians do, or should be doing, during the Lord’s Supper. Certainly! Paul warns, “Whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor. 11:27). If we partake of the Lord’s Supper with insincere hearts, or if our minds wander and are not focused on the love, mercy, and anguish our Lord exhibited in giving his earthly life to free us from eternal death, then we are sinning against God. We must beware of the temptation to not examine ourselves and wholly meditate on the redemptive power of Christ during this time of remembrance.

During the Lord’s Supper, we should mirror the attitude of the Psalmist in Psalm 77. The Psalmist here, commonly believed to be Asaph, was in a difficult situation. But in his difficult time, he chose to remember all the works of God. He remembered the power and love God displayed by freeing the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. And this remembrance led him to say, “This is my anguish; But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. I will remember the works of the Lord; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will also meditate on all Your work And talk of Your deeds. Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary; Who is so great a God as our God? You are the God who does wonders; You have declared Your strength among the peoples. You have with Your arm redeemed Your people” (Psalm 77:11-15).

When we partake of the bread and the fruit of the vine during the Lord’s Supper, we too must remember and meditate on God’s wonders, His work, and His strength, with special emphasis on the atoning, redemptive work of Jesus’s sacrifice that frees us from our bonds of sin. Just as Asaph remembered how God freed the Israelites from their Egyptian bonds, so too should we remember how God frees us from our bonds of sin through the giving of His son. Let us wholly meditate on these things as we partake of the Lord’s Supper each Sunday.