Building on the Sand

Church of Christ Scripture Readins, Bible Lessons and Sermons
“Parade magazine’ carried a story about a little village church in Kalinovka, Russia, where attendance picked up when the minister started offering candy to the peasant children who came. One of the most faithful was a pug-nosed, pugnacious boy who recited the assigned scriptures, pocketed his reward, and then fled to the surrounding fields to munch on it.

The minister took a liking to the boy and persuaded him to attend church school. The boy preferred this over doing household chores, so he went. By offering rewards, the teacher got the boy to memorize the entire books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The boy got a special prize for reciting them nonstop. Yet sixty years later, although he still liked to recite scripture, he did so in contexts that would horrify his old teacher. That prize pupil, who memorized the scriptures, was the communist ruler Nikita Khrushchev.

Had he come to understand and appreciate the truths of the scriptures instead of just memorizing them, how different the outcome might have been. All of the effort to memorize was built on sand. It is interesting that some of the very verses that he memorized said:

Matt 7:24-27 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; and it fell with a great crash.”

We all recognize the tragedy of a person who knows what the scripture says is necessary to wash their sins away and become a Christian. Acts 22:16 “And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on His name.” But the person who claims to have obeyed the Lord and then must be begged to be faithful is even worse off than one who knew little or nothing about the truth. (2 Pet 2:20-22, Heb 10: 25-29)

Let us put into practice what we learn from the word of God. Knowing what God says is useless if we do not put it into practice, and will in fact condemn us – James 4:17 “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.” Is your house built on the rock of obedience or on the sand of disobedience to the word of God?

Church of Christ in Cincinnati, OH

Church of Christ A Capella Singing

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What is Happening?

What is Happening?

What is happening in our country? It seems that people bent on harming innocent people, sexual predators, and immoral behavior is running rampant in our society. So we scratch our heads and ask why? What has happened that caused this?

But what do we expect when our societal view is that there is no definite truth, that God and the Biblical teachings are simply fairy tales designed to control the masses. When the government is expected to take the place of the parents, and that all the desires of everyone should be fulfilled immediately – how can there be anything but discontent when those leaders we look to fail to grant the wishes like genies? Humans are viewed as simply highly evolved animals who can solve all societal difficulties by our own wisdom or by simply writing another law. The results of these teachings are obvious – the use of opioids to try to find relief from a world that lacks a purpose, young people bullying and killing each other to get a moment of notice from others, and leaders who are held to a different standard than those they claim to represent. No wonder people are struggling to find a purpose or meaning in life and reacting in ways to get all they can for themselves rather than seeking a common good.

In times of trouble, people look for something or someone to blame. They demand an end to gun violence and killing of schoolchildren, and yet champion the killing of thousands of children through abortion. People demand others treat them the way they feel they deserve, and yet they refuse to change their own behavior. They do not stick to their marriage vows, and raise their children with permissiveness instead of discipline borne of love. Children are left to determine their own ‘genders’. Boys are not taught to be strong, faithful, respectful, and loving toward the women in their lives but rather are ‘feminized’ and marginalized. People demand that the government care for their children, supply everyone’s needs, and keep us safe (by enforcing only those laws that we think ought to be enforced). But we cannot be protected by or find meaning in a society lead by godless people whose desire is to keep their power.

The only answer to our dilemma is found in the words of Jesus in John 8:31-32 where Jesus said “If you hold to my teachings, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” The only stable standard, the only One who can give us a purpose in life is Jesus Christ. Only by returning to His Word and His standards will we ever find the ‘freedom’ that so many are desperately seeking. So long as we continue to ignore and reject God and His Word, we can expect things to go from bad to worse. 2 Tim 3:12-14

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Name It, Claim It

Bible Scripture TruthThere are those who teach that if one has enough faith , they can ‘claim’ God’s promise to give us whatever we ask for in prayer. They use verses like mark 11:24 “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Does the Bible teach that we can have anything we want as long as we believe it strongly enough? Is God presented as a genie who will magically grant our wishes if we just have enough faith?

Verses such as Mark 11:24 and Matt 21:22 follow the accounts of the disciples having witnessed a miraculous act done by Christ. They marvel and Jesus tells them that they too can do great things if they have enough faith. This is what James is describing in James 1:5-8. The lesson is that God will not answer a prayer offered in doubt or insincerity, not that God will give us anything. Note what the following scriptures say about the ‘requirements’ of acceptable prayer:

James 4:2-3 “You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your own pleasures.” Our requests must be made with the proper motives.

John 14:13-14 “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” Our requests must be something that will bring glory to God, not just comfort or pleasure for us.

1John 5:14 “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” In order to receive what we ask for, the request must be made in accordance to God’s will. (Remember Jesus’ prayer in the garden –‘Not my will, but yours be done’)

John 15:16 “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit – fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you what you ask in my name.” In order to receive our requests, we must be bearing the fruit that He commanded us to bear. This is why God granted the requests of Jesus – Heb 5:7. God heard the prayers of Jesus because He was always doing the Father’s will.

Even Jesus did not always receive what He asked for. In the garden, Jesus prayed three times for another way – He ‘named it’, but God did not give His Son what He asked for. Instead, God gave Jesus what He needed – Luke 22:43. Jesus turned the request over to God – Your will, not mine be done. The same is required of us as we come to God in prayer. We turn our requests over to His will and He will give us the peace we need to deal with the answer we receive – Phil 4:6-7. Understanding that God is in charge and loves us and gives us what we need when we obey Him and follow His word will allow us to be content whatever answer he gives to our prayers. Phil 4:11-13 Do you have that contentment?

Arlington Church of Christ in Cincinnati Ohio shared this devotional lesson. Thank you.

Church of Christ Acapella Singing

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New Authority

New Authority
New Authority
Read Matt 5:21-48. When Jesus would teach, He would often use the phrase “but I say to you …” indicating that He had the authority to explain the true intent of God’s law. The people were amazed when He spoke – Mark 1:22. The law was read every Sabbath in the synagogue. The scrolls were carried around so everyone could see and touch them – they knew what they said. Jesus came to correct the misconceptions of the ‘teachers of the law’ who tried to explain the scriptures to the people. No wonder people questioned His authority – either He was the Son of God or He was a madman. When Jesus spoke, it was always with authority, and He never sought to justify Himself or prove that He had the right to teach. What were Jesus’ credentials?

-Perfect knowledge –Col 2:2 – He knew both man and God perfectly
-Authority from God – John 1:1-2
-His works – John 14:11
-Fulfilled scripture – John 5:39
-His God-given position as head of the church – Eph 1:22-23

Jesus amazed people with His ‘new teachings’. He not only taught that it was wrong to commit murder, but that it was wrong to stay angry with your brother. Or that it was as wrong to have the desire for adultery in your heart as it was to commit the physical act. Jesus stressed that it wasn’t enough just to refrain from evil, but that one should remove even the evil thoughts from their mind. The world said that a man is ‘good’ if he never ‘does’ the wrong thing, but Jesus taught that ‘goodness’ involves purity of heart and spirit as well as body. The people were amazed.

And Jesus knew that we can never cleanse ourselves. Reason may tell us that something is wrong, will power may temporarily hold us back – but desire is a beast that will one day break free of our control. Only Jesus has the means to bring it under His permanent control. This requires something on our part :

-submit to Christ and dethrone self – Luke 9:23
-respond in love to His love for us – 1 John 4:19
-sow pure thoughts and actions – Gal 6:7-8

Too often, people seek instant spirituality. They want some stunning, irresistible experience – but Christian maturity is the result of patiently sowing the right seed and letting it grow into a harvest of righteousness. Are you willing to follow the Lord in both thought and actions? Will you make the effort to learn of Him by studying His word? John 12:48 “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.”

This devotional brought to you by Arlington Church of Christ located in Cincinnati, OH.

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Breaking Bad Habits

Breaking Bad Habits

Church of Christ Words of GodIt has been said that bad habits are like easy chairs – easy to get into and hard to get out of. It seems so difficult to form good habits and so easy to fall into bad ones. They demand little effort and just sort of happen. And 2 Pet 2:19 reminds us … “a man is a salve to whatever has mastered him.” And Rom 6:16 points out “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one who you obey ..” In other words, watch out what controls your life. We are controlled by our habits – either good or bad.

Habits are formed by repetition. If one does something over and over enough times, it becomes a routine, a habit that is done without even thinking about what is being done. It makes sense that we are more likely to repeat things that we like doing, so it is important to be careful to ‘like’ the right things. If we want to develop a good habit, we have to make the effort to repeat the action often enough for it to become second nature to us. Likewise if we are to break a bad habit we must start by reducing the regularity of doing it. Breaking habits is hard. That is why the good ones are good and the bad ones are so bad – they are very hard to break.

The mind is the place where thoughts begin. We decide when and what information we will allow into our minds. Those decisions are our own – no one can decide for us. If we allow our minds to dwell on evil, on unsuitable material, those things will become the main focus of our thoughts. Mental addictions have been determined to be the most difficult to stop by those who study such things. We cannot keep bad thoughts from entering our minds from time to time, but we don’t have to invite them in and give them a place to stay. Ephesians 4:27 tells us “do not give the devil a foothold”. Too many not only allow the devil to enter their minds, they give him a place to sit, something to eat, and comfortable company to keep. The best habit that can be cultivated is to expel evil thoughts as soon as they enter the mind. These thoughts have no place in a Christian’s heart.

One of the best ways to keep the devil out of our thinking is to acquire the habit of regular Bible reading. Concentrating on the scripture puts God into our minds and leaves no room for the devil to invade our thinking. Psalms 119:10-11 “I seek you with all my heart, do not let me stray from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

We must also understand that it is easy to fall into the habit of repeating what you hear around you. If one is around those who use foul language and those who have no respect for the name of the Lord, those things will become part of your speech. We see language and actions tolerated by our society now that a few years ago would have been considered totally crude and unacceptable. Now it has become ‘fashionable’ to act or speak in such a way as to fit into our Godless society. But we do not need filthy words or swearing to express ourselves. As Christians we need to gain the habit of speaking and acting in such a way that we are unique and stand as salt and light in a tasteless, dark world. Bad habits are hard to break, but just as a horse had to be ‘broken’ to show it who was boss, so we must also make the effort to break our bad habits by the power of the Spirit who lives in us.

Provided by: Arlington Church of Christ, Mt. Healthy, OH – Cincinnati, OH




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Fasting

Church of Christ DevotionalsMatt 6:16-18 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men that they are fasting. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it is not obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father , who sees what is done in secret will reward you openly.”

Fasting was an essential part of religious life in Eastern countries. For the Jew, there was only one compulsory fast – the Day of Atonement – Lev 16:31. But the religious Jews made great use of private fasting. It was the custom to fast from the death of a relative until the burial, or to show sorrow for sin, or as an appeal to God in times of physical or spiritual need. Occasionally a time of fasting would be declared for the whole nation as a sign of national repentance – Judges 20:26.

While fasting was supposed to represent devotion to God and repentance for sins, it had the potential to be done for improper motives. One might fast as a sign of ‘superior piety’ – Luke 8:11-12. One might fast to show others how ‘devoted’ he was in order to gain their praise and admiration. So Jesus warns His disciples about fasting for the wrong reasons.

While we as Christians are not commanded to fast, there are some practical reasons to do so:

• healthy eating habits – makes us think about what we eat
• self-discipline – we learn to deny ourselves and break habits
• it teaches us to distinguish between needs and wants
• it teaches us appreciation of what we have
• it makes us more sensitive to spiritual things by sharpening senses

Jesus condemned the wrong kind of fasting- when it was done for outward show. But nowhere does the Bible encourage Christians to avoid the practice of fasting. We would do well to consider our own situation, and if fasting would help us get our lives into the proper perspective. However, we must follow the instructions of Christ and do it privately, so that it will not be obvious to others. Fasting is to be between the individual and God. In fact, Jesus condemned any religious practice when it was done for show. If we do things to impress men, we will get no reward from our Father. (He knows our hearts and our motives) What would the Lord say about the way that you ‘practice’ your religion? Is your heart right with God?

church of Christ Cincinnati, OH

Bible Study Lessons




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Baptized….Again?

Church of Christ ScriptureBaptized … Again ?

Is it right to accept as members, those from a denomination who want to place their membership with the church? This question comes up when a person who has been baptized in a denominational church. Then chooses to attend the Church of Christ and wants to ‘place membership’ or be identified as a member of the local congregation.

The scriptures are clear that one must be baptized in order to have their sins forgiven. ( Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, 1Pet 3:21, Mark 16:16) And it is also clear in the scriptures that it does not make a difference whom does the baptizing as long as it is done in the proper way (immersion) and for the proper reason (in order to have one’s sins forgiven). If a person was baptized in the right way for the right reason in a denomination, and sees the error of that denomination’s teachings and seeks fellowship with the Lord’s church, there is no reason not to accept them just as the Lord does – Acts 2:41, 47.

The real question is, did the denomination teach the truth about baptism – most of them do not. And if a person is taught incorrectly, can their baptism be right? For example, if the denomination teaches that a person is saved before they are baptized (by saying a ‘sinner’s prayer, or by simply accepting Jesus into their heart- both of which are never found as the way to ‘be saved’ in scripture) – and that baptism is optional or that it simply puts one into the church then can their baptism be valid?

If a person was baptized as a baby or as a young child, (they may not even remember their baptism) – the baptism is NOT valid because the scriptures teach that only one who can believe in Jesus and repent of their sins can be baptized per the scriptures.  A baby obviously cannot do that, and a young child is unlikely to be able to do those things that are necessary for themselves as the Bible points out in Acts 2:38 and Acts 3:19, and many other examples throughout the book of Acts. If a person had water sprinkled or poured on them for baptism, their baptism is NOT valid since the Biblical method of baptism is immersion (burial) – Rom 6:3-5, Col 2:12, Acts 8:35-39. And if a person was baptized not knowing why they were baptized, that baptism is NOT valid for there can be not belief and repentance without understanding. (Acts 19:1-5)

But if a person was baptized by immersion understanding that is was done in order to have their sins forgiven, having believed in Jesus as God’s Son and repented of their sins – then they HAVE been properly baptized and are accepted by the Lord. No one except God can look into the heart of a person to know what understanding they had when they were baptized. But if a person comes from a background where the truth on baptism is not normally taught, they need to examine their own baptism in the light of the scriptures. If after doing this, the person insists that their baptism was proper, then we must accept their word for it – after all, they will answer to God for their decision, not to us. But if there is the slightest doubt, they should be baptized properly to gain the confidence that they have indeed obeyed the Lord’s command!

Church of Christ Scripture on Baptism




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Deliberate Sin

Church of Christ Scripture Readins, Bible Lessons and SermonsRead Hebrews 10:26-29 Is this scripture telling us that if a Christians sins, that there is no hope for us? Note what these verses describe as the ‘deliberate sin’ for which there is ‘no more sacrifice”:

– It is described as a continuing action (keeps on sinning)
– It is compared to a rejection of Moses’ law
– It is said to be trampling the Son of God underfoot
– It is treating the blood of the covenant as an unholy thing
– It is insulting the spirit of grace

In life, nearly all sins are deliberate – we know what we should do or not do, but for some reason end up violating what we should have done. Even the apostle Paul struggled with this – Rom 7:15 “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” And what about the failures of Peter? Jesus had told him to be on guard, that he would deny Him three times, but when confronted at the home of the High Priest, Peter did exactly what Jesus knew he would do, even denying Jesus with an oath (Matt 26:70-72). Surely this was done deliberately – is this the kind of thing the Hebrew writer was referring to?

We often find ourselves, like Peter, scared and weak and in a hard place – under pressure we give in even though we know better – it was deliberate. But this is not what the Hebrew writer is speaking about. The passage in Heb 10:26 is referring to one who has chosen to turn his back on Jesus and continues to do so as his regular style of life. It is not referring to one act, but to a continuing pattern of disobedience. When one rejects Christ and His sacrifice, there is no other way for the person to be saved. Acts 4:12, John 14:6

When a person who was once a Christian turns back into the world and rejects God’s way – there is no more sacrifice to cover his sins. The blood of Jesus provides cleaning for those whose walk is ‘in the light’ – 1John 1:6-7 “If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” Now what does “walk in the light” mean? Does it mean that we never sin or fail? The very next verse says – 1John 1:8-9, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

What the Lord demands is that we confess our failures, ask for His forgiveness, and get back in the light of His word. It is when we refuse to repent, refuse to return, and go our own way that we are guilty of the deliberate sin of Heb 10:26. This is the same warning that is given by Peter in 2 Pet 2:20-22.

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Church of Christ Scripture




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Equal Rewards

Church of Christ SermonsOur society seems preoccupied with the idea that everyone who participates in some event, class, or activity should receive the same reward. If they do not, the complaint is that they ‘feel bad’ or ‘left out’ and that it is wrong to reward only those who win the contest or finish their work correctly. Yet the Bible teaches clearly the idea of rewarding the good and punishing the bad. That is what heaven and hell are all about.

In the beginning, God made a covenant with Adam that if obeyed, he would be cared for, and if he disobeyed that he would ‘surely die’. (Gen 2:17) God gave Israel laws and told them that he would reward them for obeying and punish them when they disobeyed. (Deut 28:9-15) Abel had his sacrifice accepted, while Cain’s was rejected. Cain had his feelings hurt, but God was more concerned with his spiritual state than his feelings. God told Cain in Gen 4:6-7 “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

Paul writes in 1Cor 9:24-25. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” Paul points out that we must do whatever is necessary to receive the prize of salvation. It is not given to everyone who shows up for the race, but to the one who makes the effort to win it.

The idea of rewarding everyone equally, regardless of how they do is anti-God. It stifles any incentive to try to improve, to increase our abilities, or perform better. The scriptures tell us to “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” (Luke 13:24) and again “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to the things that we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if ignore such a great salvation?” (Heb 2:1-2)

Teaching a child that they will be rewarded equally no matter what they do is rooted is the devil’s lie to program out heaven’s rewards and hell’s punishment. One who has grown up with the “fairness doctrine” of rewards will reject God’s authority to Judge or have the opinion that ‘we are all going to be in heaven anyway, because that would only be fair- God wouldn’t condemn some people to an eternity of punishment. He is too good and loving.’ We see this attitude throughout our society today. Not only is God’s authority to judge questioned, but all authority is being rejected. There will be many at judgment who will be very surprised at their eternal home. Jesus said in Matt 7:21. “Not everyone who says to me Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

Church of Christ Mt Healthy Ohio

Church of Christ Doctrine




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