A Time to Think

Bible Lessons (2)Right now is a great time to think about your soul. Just a little while ago, we celebrated Thanksgiving, thanking the Lord for his blessings and care. And now Christmas has just passed, when people think on the birth of Jesus even if the Bible doesn’t say what day he was born or give us any instructions to celebrate that day, whenever it was. In just a few more days, we will celebrate New Year’s Day, and think about a time of new beginnings. All of these could lead us to God and His Son , if we would only think about them in a spiritual way.

If any of this encourages people to think about their souls, then the chances to reach them with the gospel increases. When a person is thinking about God, spiritual things, and their souls, then they are much more likely to apply what they hear or read to their lives. And when we obey Jesus and find forgiveness of sins, salvation, and the promise of heaven, then their life can literally change.

Now is a great time to think about your soul – right now! Paul wrote in 2 Cor 6:2 ….. I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. Right now, is the time to think about your soul. It doesn’t matter what time of year it is, what day or month it is, or what time of the day – Right now is the time to think about the salvation of your soul!

You see, right now is the only time that we have for sure. Yesterday, or even a minute ago is already gone and cannot be retrieved. Tomorrow, or even an hour from now is not guaranteed – and is uncertain. It may come and it may not, but Now is here and available. You can do something now, but before you know it the opportunity will be gone. Some live their lives expecting to have another chance, and then another one in an endless string. But it is a fact that somewhere along the way your string of ‘now’ moments will come to an end. Then there will be no more opportunities to change things and save your eternal soul. We do not know when that last chance may be – perhaps even today, maybe even as you finish reading this. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by – think about your soul, and obey the Lord. Right now is the time to make things right with God.

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A Sheep, Not a Lamb

Church of Christ DevotionalWe know the parable of the lost sheep that Jesus told in :

Luke 15:3-7. Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

Did you realize that it was a sheep, not a lamb that had gone astray? It was a full grown sheep that had left the company of the ninety-nine and was lost. It was a sheep that the good shepherd sought and brought back to the safety of the fold. Why did Jesus choose to have a full grown sheep instead of a lamb to be the one who was lost?

Why was he so concerned about that sheep? The danger is that if the sheep go astray, they will lead the lambs astray too. The lambs will follow the sheep wherever they go. If the sheep goes wrong, it won’t be long before the lambs are as wrong as the sheep. The lesson of the parable is not just that God is concerned with the individual, but also the power of influence of the individual. There are many full grown sheep who have strayed away from the leading of the Shepherd and His word. Their lambs are following them into the same error and eventual destruction. We need to pray for and try to restore the sheep not only for their sake, but also for the sake of their lambs. If the lambs are last, some sheep will have to pay a terrible price at judgment.

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Sheep’s Clothing

Church of Christ Bible LessonMatt 7:15-16,20 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? ….Thus by their fruit you will recognize them.”

Every Jew who knew his religious history would recognize the language that Jesus used. The Old Testament called false teachers and bad rulers “wolves”. Jeremiah had to deal with such as these. (Jer 6:14) Jesus warns His followers to be aware of the danger of false teachers. Even today we use the expression ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing’ to refer to someone who pretends to be something he is not. Shepherds in Jesus’ day wore sheepskins (fleece side in) and prophets like Elijah were known for their unique dress. Some would dress the part to deceive people into thinking that they were a devoted shepherd or a prophet. Even Satan uses this ploy 2 Cor 11:14-15. How were they or how are we, to recognize false teachers? Jesus said that we would know them by their fruits. We must examine what they do along side of what they say.

The examples used by Jesus would have been easily recognized by His hearers. There is a common buck thorn that bears black berries which from a distance could easily be mistaken for grapes. And a thistle found in that region has a flower that closely resembles a fig. The point was that though a false teacher may resemble a true one, may dress like one, may use the right language, his actions will give him away.

The way to life is through the narrow difficult gate. We need to follow those who will help us find it. Check out what is being taught against the words of the Bible – (1 John 4:1, Acts 17:11). A false teacher is seeking their own interests, teaching for gain or the praise of men, and promoting their own agenda. 2 Tim 4:3-4 says, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” Paul warned against accepting what someone says without question – Gal 1:8. We know that it is God’s word that will judge us, not what men have said- in John 12:48, Jesus said “There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.” Be sure what you hear is true and what you accept is right and in agreement with the unchanging word of God. Study to show yourself approved by God, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, correctly handling the word of God – 2 Tim 2:15

http://www.arlingtoncoc.com

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A Sabbath Day’s Journey

Bible Scripture TruthThe Mosaic Law stated that Israelites were forbidden to travel on the Sabbath in Exodus 16:29 “ Bear in mind that the LORD has given you the Sabbath; that is why on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where they are on the seventh day; no one is to go out.” This law was given as they were traveling in the wilderness and indicated that there was to be no movement or ‘traveling’ on the Sabbath day. (i.e. they were not to ‘go out’ and search for manna, as there would be none given on the Sabbath) . It was not intended to forbid any movement as people still had to go to the tabernacle to worship, or go outside the camp to use the bathroom. The idea was to stay right in the city or encampment and do only what traveling was necessary for worshipping God and for life.

Over time, the Jewish leaders tried to find something that would let them ‘expand’ the distance they could travel and still be ‘right with God’. In early times, they fixed the distance at 2000 cubits. This arbitrary distance was justified by using Joshua 3:4, where the scripture says: “Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about two thousand cubits between you and the ark; do not go near it.” This was the distance that the people were told to stay away from the Ark of the Covenant as it was carried by the priests. This is about 3000 feet (the length of 10 football fields) or about .58 miles.

At first this distance was applied within the city boundaries, but as time went on, the rabbis interpreted the verse in Exodus to mean that one could travel that far from the boundaries of the city, and set up ‘Sabbath stones’, some of which have recently been unearthed to define the limits of their ‘rule’. This was approximately the distance from the walls of Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives outside the city (See Acts 1:12). The Pharisees doubled this distance by inserting a rule that if one had ‘food preparations’ at another location, then that place became his ‘place’ and he could travel 2000 cubits from the city and then another 2000 cubits to his ‘place’ of abode.

In later New Testament times, the Pharisees again expanded the limit by saying that if a person could travel 4000 cubits on the Sabbath, that he would also need to return and thus could legitimately travel 8000 cubits on the Sabbath. We see allusions to the limits of travel imposed by the Jewish leaders in the New Testament. Places like Matthew 24:20 – “ Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath.”

Jesus taught that these man-made rules were not what God intended at all. That the “Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” and he rebuked the Pharisees for putting ‘heavy burdens’ on the people that they themselves were not willing to keep.

Scripture given by Arlington Church of Christ, Cincinnati, OH http://www.arlingtoncoc.com

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Soul and Spirit

Arlington Church of Christ in Cincinnati, OHIn Hebrews 4:12, the writer says: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” The distinction between the soul and spirit is very difficult, yet we are told that the word of God is powerful enough to do it. Most seem to think that the two are the same thing, yet this verse indicates that while they are similar that there is a difference.

According to Nelson’s Bible Dictionary – “Soul” has two meanings in scripture: 1) That which makes the body alive (life in the physical body) and example is found in Gen 35:18 …”As her soul was departing – she named her son Ben-oni.” 2) The inner life of a person, the personality. An example of this use is Gen 2:7 “The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living soul.” The word ‘soul’ can refer to either physical life or the spiritual life depending on the context. In the verse – Matt 16:25-26 “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” The same Greek word translated ‘life’ in verse 25, is translated ‘soul’ in verse 26. In verse 25, it is referring to the physical life, and in verse 26, to the spiritual life.

“Spirit” comes from the Greek pneuma which means breath or wind. It refers to the vital principle given by God, the ‘spirit’. It is the part of man that is made in the image of God. It is used in verses like Gen 2:7 “ the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath (spirit) of life, and the man became a living soul.” Also see Heb 12:23
The scripture says in James 2:26 “the body without the spirit is dead..” which indicates that although the body may die, the spirit lives on. The spirit is the part of man that is made in God’s image and lives eternally. See Ecc 12:7 So the ‘spirit’ is the part of man that lives on, while the ‘soul’ (physical life) can die. See Josh 10:28, Josh 11:11 KJV

These two words are so closely associated though that distinguishing between the two is very difficult. In some passages, the word ‘soul’ is used to mean the spiritual life that continues on after death, and not just the physical life. So it may be said that the ‘spirit’ is the eternal part of man, made in the image of God, that will live forever in either heaven or hell. The ‘soul’ is the resulting life in the body, and may refer to either the physical life or the spiritual life in the new spiritual body (depending on the context). The body is made ‘alive’ by the combination of the soul and spirit. 1Thess 5:23 “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body, be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

church of Christ near me in Cincinnati, OH

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A Name or a Number

Bible Scripture TruthThe story is told about a census taker who was making his rounds when he came upon a woman hanging clothes on an outside clothesline. ‘Madam’, he said, ‘I am taking the census and I need to know how many people live here.’ She replied, “Well, my name is Mary, and then there is Marcia, Patrick, Duggie, Amy, and …” The worker broke in – ‘Just give me a number, I don’t want the names’. To which the woman replied, ‘I’ll have you know, Sir, that we ain’t into numbering yet, we still haven’t run out of names.’

Our world is filled with so many people that we can easily feel insignificant. No one wants to know our name. They just want our number – social security, Medicare, I.D., or another string of numbers. It is a very impersonal world and we are just one of the masses. We end up feeling very lonely even when we are surrounded by large crowds. We can be tempted to listen to Satan’s whisper that we really don’t matter to God – that He is too busy taking care of the ‘world’ to deal with one person and their problems.

But in the eyes of our God, each of us is known personally, even before we were born – Psalm 139:13 “ For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” And in Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart, I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

We are also told that even our lifespan is known by the Lord – Psalm 139:16 “ Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” And not only does our Lord know each of us individually, but He is concerned about the daily needs of our life – Matthew 6:25-26 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” And we are told that the Lord knows even the smallest details of our lives – Matthew 10:30 “ And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” And Hebrews 4:13 – “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account”.

But perhaps the greatest blessing from our God is that of His concern and care for our eternal souls. He knew us, He loved us, and supplied the way of forgiveness while we were still rejecting Him – Romans 5:6-8. You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Won’t you recognize that love and respond to it today – God loves you, Christ died for you to show that love, and He knows what is happening in your life minute by minute. He cares for you, individually!

http://www.arlingtioncoc.com

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Perseverance

Bible Scripture TruthIn James 1:1-12, we read that if we persevere under trials that we will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him. And Hebrews 1:1 tell us that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” It takes a special person to remain faithful under all the circumstances of this life. It requires an absolute faith and trust in God. James 1:2 tells us to “consider it all joy, my brothers, when you face various trials.” Why would a trial be considered a source of joy?

Because when our faith is tested, it produces endurance. When we remain strong and faithful in the trial, we find that the Lord is indeed true to His word and that we can overcome. Our faith is strengthened for the next trial – and the next one will come. 2 Timothy 3:12 states “ In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”. Satan will not give up, but by the grace of God strengthening our resolve to remain faithful, we can and must overcome if we are to gain the crown of life in heaven.

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A Little Compromise

Church of Christ ScripturesOne key difference between the Church of Christ and the Christian church is the use of instrumental music in the worship. The following are two true stories from J.W. McGarvey about his experiences in this matter.

In the 1870’s, J.W. McGarvey was one of the elders of the Lexington Church, and he with the other elders approved a small instrument to be placed in the church building basement for the young people to use to help improve their singing. No one, especially McGarvey, would ever have thought of moving it upstairs to be used in the worship service. They had used only acapella singing as the Bible instructed and had no intention of violating the scriptures.

Years went by and the youngsters grew up and took their places in the worship upstairs. Then in November 1902, a move was made to introduce instrumental music into the worship service. A vote was taken and the result was 370 for, 202 against. What was unthinkable a few years before was now voted in by men, and McGarvey’s conscience would not allow him to remain with that church and he went elsewhere.

While one may admire McGarvey’s stand on principle in 1902, the elders small compromise in allowing that small instrument to be put in the basement in the first place led to the introduction of the organ into the worship service by those who were likely trained by its use in that basement.

In January 1903, at the Pearl and Bryan Street Church of Christ in Dallas, Texas, brother McGarvey was asked to speak and was sitting on the front row next to brother Jesse P. Sewell. He leaned over and said to brother Sewell, “You are on the right road, and whatever you do, do not let anyone persuade you that you can successfully combat error by fellowshipping it and going along with it.

I have tried, I believed at the start that was the only way to do it. I have never held membership in a congregation that used instrumental music. I have, however, accepted the invitation to preach without distinction between churches that use it and those that do not. I have gone along with their papers and magazines and things of the sort. During those years, I taught the truth as the New Testament teaches it to every young preacher who has passed through the College of the Bible. Yet I do not know of more than six of those men who are preaching the truth today. Compromise, even a little, will not work.”

You see, what may seem to be a harmless compromise can lead to things that we never envisioned would occur. We must remain true to the word of God and never compromise in large or small ways. Our actions as Christians will influence others toward the truth or put things in their way that will make likely to stray from the word of God. May we make up our minds never to compromise.

Arlington church of Christ in Cincinnati, Ohio

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Sowing and Reaping

Arlington church of Christ, Cincinnati, OhioOne of the unchanging laws of God is that we will reap what we sow
Gal 6:7-8 “Do not be deceived. God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”

Our own sowing actions will determine the harvest that we reap. If our minds are on material things and fleshly desires, then we have determined the harvest ourselves and we can blame no one else. Those who choose to ignore God and live according to their own dictates can anticipate a harvest of eternal separation from the God they chose to ignore. The Lord said in Prov 1:24-31 “But since you rejected me when I called and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand, since you ignored all my advice and would not accept my rebuke, I will in turn laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you – when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when disaster and trouble overwhelm you. Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me. Since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord, since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.”

Those today who live lives following the immoral practices of the day will be the disappointed and disillusioned men and women of tomorrow. Many expect young people to ‘sow their wild oats’, and those same people expect to somehow avoid the consequences of those actions. But no one can sow wild oats and expect to harvest salvation. Unless a person turns to God in repentance and change their behavior, we will have to reap the harvest of every sin that we commit. God will not be mocked – 2Cor 5:10 We cannot expect to live in sin and somehow hide it from God – Num 32:23.

If we want the spiritual fruit of peace, happiness, security, and salvation, then we must sow good spiritual seed. Many waste years when they should have been sowing God’s seed, and then act surprised when they do not receive the desired rewards at harvest time. The prophet Hosea said in Hosea 8:7 “They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.” This is what many will find at judgment day- we will reap at the harvest what we sow now. Paul told those in Thessalonica – 2Thess 1:7-9 .. “This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with His powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.”

What seed are you sowing? Will you get the harvest that you desire?
http://www.arlingtoncoc.com/churches-of-christ/a-call-for-new-testament-christianity/ located in Cincinnati, OH

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