Sample Sidebar Module

This is a sample module published to the sidebar_top position, using the -sidebar module class suffix. There is also a sidebar_bottom position below the menu.

Sample Sidebar Module

This is a sample module published to the sidebar_bottom position, using the -sidebar module class suffix. There is also a sidebar_top position below the search.
Elders Corner

Elder’s Corner (#325) – Perception

Have you watched the news on the television recently? The “hottest” news today are the stories of important men in our country (politicians, newscasters, sports stars, etc.) that have been accused of sexual misconduct. These claims, whether true or not, change how we perceive our leaders, heroes, and even men in general. Are these claims true? You know it really doesn’t matter, does it?  The damage is done. The reputations are ruined. These men are hated. We, the public will believe anything without evidence. We can have our moment in front of the cameras simply by accusing a famous person of some juicy sin.

We have entire television channels and radio stations dedicated to the propagation of one particular way of thinking. Some people like one channel because they are “more liberal” while others like this channel because they are “more conservative” and the rest of the world falls into the trap that we can be objective.

We seek out opinions from everything from a new toaster to the new medical center in the area. We want to know people’s experiences about something before we waste our time, money and energy on a futile venture. If a product on Amazon has too many “one-star” reviews I am not going to purchase it. If my friends or family members have a bad experience at a restaurant or store then I will think twice about going there myself. Trying to “change” someone’s opinion is hard if not impossible; for some people the “damage” is done and there is no turning back.

The church is not immune to this to this. The church today finds itself in a bit of an opinion/perception crisis that Christians are ignoring. Many Christians see the decline of churches around them and it doesn’t bother them. Others tie the decline of the American society with a failure of the church in today’s culture and don’t know what to do about it.

The problem that is really facing the church is others’ opinions of it. Many people do not have an issue with the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Their opinion is formed and shaped by the experiences they have at a church and/or the actions of fellow Christians.

If my perception of the church is one that is shaped by people who come across as “holier than thou” and want to point out my flaws all in the name of sin eradication, then I’m not going to have a high opinion of the church. If my perception of the church is one in which love is conditional based on beliefs of some creed of man, then I’m not going to have a high opinion of that church. If I perceive that the church only wants my money – I won’t go. If I perceive that the building is more important than helping others, I have no need of them.

The church must come to grips with its perception problem. The Bible is more than a law book; it is more than a book of “do’s” and “don’t’s”. It is a book of faith of how God moved, interacted, and changed the world. We should not criticize the way folks are living and set out to change them - that is God’s job. We are to teach them what God has told us.

People need to experience the same Christ that I know, the same grace that I have been afforded, to be welcomed into a community that loves them for where they are now and who they were created to be. I want them to be in a community of faith that shows them the beauty of God, the majesty of Christ and the indwelling of the Spirit — all with grace, unconditional love, humility, and respect.

It is up to followers of Christ like you and me to open the doors and show them an understanding of faith that will reshape their perceptions of the church. It’s worth a shot.




Elder’s Corner (#324) – Not Home Yet

I found this story on the internet the other day. (It must be true!)

There is a story about an old missionary couple who had spent their lives working in Africa. They were returning to New York City to retire. They had no pension, their health was broken, and they were discouraged and afraid. When they went down to the wharf to board the ship, they discovered that they were booked on the same ship as President Teddy Roosevelt, who was returning from a big game hunt.

When they boarded the ship, no one paid any attention to them. Then they watched the fanfare as the President arrived, with the band playing and people waiving and straining for a glimpse of the great man.

As the ship moved across the ocean, the old missionary said to his wife, “Dear, something is wrong. Why should we have given our lives in faithful service for God in Africa all these years, and yet no one cares about us? Here this man comes back from a big game hunt, and everybody makes much over him.” His wife replied, “Dear, you shouldn’t feel that way. Try not to be bitter about it.” But he said, “I just can’t help it. It doesn’t seem right.

As the boat neared America, he became more depressed. When the ship docked, a band was waiting to greet the President. The mayor of New York plus a bunch of national leaders were there. The papers carried the story on the front page. But no one noticed the missionaries, as they slipped off the boat and went to find a cheap flat and to look for work.

That night the man’s spirit broke. He felt that God had abandoned them. It just wasn’t fair. “We don’t have anyone to help us and nowhere to go,” he told his wife. “Why doesn’t God meet our need?” His wife replied, “Why don’t you go into the bedroom and talk to the Lord about the whole thing?”

A short time later he came out of the bedroom, but now his face was happy. His wife asked what happened. He said, “I told the Lord the whole thing. I told Him that it’s not fair. I told Him how I was bitter because the President received this tremendous homecoming, when no one met us when we returned home. And you know, as I finished, it seemed as though the Lord put His hand on my shoulder and said simply, “But, you’re not home yet.

An old song goes, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passin’ through; my treasures are laid up, somewhere beyond the blue. The angels beckoned me from heaven’s open door, and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.” I wonder how many believers today could sing that song truthfully?

I wonder how many of you did something this past week because you were consciously motivated by the thought that the Lord would be pleased with you. If you’re not living to lay up treasures in heaven, your focus is wrong. In Hebrews 11, the great faith chapter, the emphasis is on the fact that these great men and women of faith died without receiving an earthly reward. They were seeking “a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Heb. 11:16). Moses left the riches and power of Pharaoh’s court and endured ill treatment with the people of God, “for he was looking to the reward” (Heb. 11:26).

 




Elder’s Corner (#323) – Saying “Goodbye”

We are a church that is saying goodbye with much more frequency. Few have died and gone to live with their Lord God; some left to go someplace to live out their last days in retirement; some have left to evangelize elsewhere. To some good brothers and sisters, it’s never easy - especially when you are seeing godly people in your life go. Today is the last Sunday that we will worship together with Linda and Charles (Buck). Gosh we hate to see them go.

Some of us are better at goodbyes than others. Some are quick to say goodbye. Rip off the Band-Aid. Fare thee well. That’s life.

Others say goodbye several times, intended or not. Like saying “good night” before you both realize you’re actually headed toward the same parking lot, this may or may not be a feeling of anything but awkwardness.

Then there’s the familiar: “see ya later” or “come back for a visit” final greeting, both of you pausing for a moment after you say it, realizing that, well, you probably won’t.

We are all somewhat clumsy with our farewells. Probably because they reintroduce us all over again to the fact that we are not in ultimate control of our lives or of anyone else’s.

In my own heart, I'm very prone to want to keep my Christian family to myself and not share them. Yet, saying goodbye is the way of the first century church. And the book of Acts presses me on this preference.

As one reads the book of Acts, what is revealed is a repeating pattern: As Christ is building His church, He brings His people together in groups for a time, for seasons, to accomplish kingdom work. Some stay together to nurture the work. Others are called out to start still other works. Two thousand years later, this is still the ebb and flow of healthy Christian community.

Where ever Linda and Buck go – they will strengthen the church. They are just that type of people.

Godly people must hold one another with an open hand. What God shows me in Acts causes me to consider anew the Great Commission of Christ in Matthew 28. By His Word, He gently pries my tightly closed fist open, me screaming all the way: "These are my friends, God. This is who I need with me to follow you. We've been through a lot together. I'm not letting them go."

This continues today for me, and I’d guess for you, too. He still leads friends away to other kingdom works. He’s growing me to be quicker to say, "O God, these brothers and sisters don't belong to me. I'm not the master of their days; Jesus is."

Even in the community of my own family—my wife and my children and grandchildren — I must recognize Jesus commands their destinies. "God, they are not mine to do with and to direct as I please. Under your leadership I will lead them, but Lord, you have your way with them."

Godly people who are about the gospel say goodbye often, confident in our union together as the family of God and confident that we will celebrate again. We WILL see one another again at the marriage supper of the Lamb. We will be with God together. For all time.

But now, just for a little while, we have little time to waste. The Great Commission overrides any attempts to build our own little realm of believers with whom we want to associate. God is so much greater. This is the legacy of disciple-making into which the first disciples were called—a call that still resounds for us today.

We are part of an ages-old, ongoing, epic work of the Creator God, whose image we bear, who is transforming us still by His work in Christ through our Christian community. It says something about who we are as the body of Christ that we have said many gospel goodbyes. Christians living rightly consistently say goodbye.

No one in our lives is with us constantly, save for the Lord Jesus by His Holy Spirit. It is in this that we trust, as we say our goodbyes with great hope.

David and Jonathan were as close as friends as we read about in the Bible and so just before David left Jonathan, “Jonathan said to David, “Go in peace, because we have sworn both of us in the name of the LORD, saying, ‘The LORD shall be between me and you, and between my offspring and your offspring, forever.’” And he rose and departed, and Jonathan went into the city” (1st Sam 20:42). Isn’t that a similar relationship every brother and sister in Christ has with one another? Even when we say goodbye to the saints on earth by death we are not really saying “goodbye” but “see ya later.”


Elder’s Corner (#322) - The Age of Accountability

The Bible teaches us that each person is held accountable for his own sins. "The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself" (Ezekiel 18:20). Yet, a small child doesn't understand the difference between right and wrong. The child is dependent upon his parents to guide him in doing the correct actions. Such is illustrated by Israel's rebellion against God in the wilderness. Those who were twenty and above (Numbers 14:31) were to die in the wilderness, but some were spared. "Surely not one of these men of this evil generation shall see that good land of which I swore to give to your fathers, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh; he shall see it, and to him and his children I am giving the land on which he walked, because he wholly followed the LORD.' The LORD was also angry with me for your sakes, saying, 'Even you shall not go in there; Joshua the son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall go in there. Encourage him, for he shall cause Israel to inherit it. Moreover your little ones and your children, who you say will be victims, who today have no knowledge of good and evil, they shall go in there; to them I will give it, and they shall possess it" (Deuteronomy 1:35-39). God did not hold the children accountable for the sins committed by their parents. The reason being that they had no knowledge of good and evil.

That phrase is exactly the same one used to describe the tree of the knowledge of good and evil which Adam and Eve partook. Children have no knowledge of good and evil. They, like Adam and Eve when they were first created, are innocent before God. But at some point in time, children grow up. They learn the difference between right and wrong, and with that knowledge comes accountability.

The Bible doesn't speak of a particular age when a child becomes knowledgeable of good and evil. I suspect that it is because it varies from child to child. Speak to a child of seven about what makes something sinful and you will get broad answers that generally encompasses the idea that Mom and Dad don't approve of it. Speak to an eighteen-year-old and you find not only the concept of right and wrong but that he as an individual must choose between the two. When does the shift occur? I'm not really certain, but I've noticed that it often comes around the time of puberty in many people.

To speak of the age at which a person is considered an adult is not the same as the age at which a person is considered accountable. When we talk about an age of accountability, we are discussing when a person matures enough to be able to distinguish between right and wrong. Or another way to put it, the age when a person understand enough about good and evil to be held accountable for the choices that he makes. When God condemned the Israelites to wander in the wilderness for 40 years, He did not hold the children responsible for the choices made by the adults. (Deuteronomy 1:39) Notice that the distinguishing characteristic was their knowledge of good and evil. At this particular time, God set the limit at those 20 years old or greater to be held accountable for the rebellion against going into the land of Canaan. Is twenty an absolute fixed number? Most people reach the point of being accountable by the time they are twenty..

But when we speak of a person being an adult, we are talking about the time when all development is complete - both physical and mental. This age also varies greatly from individual to individual, just as the age when puberty starts varies. Studies in recent years show that even after physical body changes have come to an end, the brain continues to develop. For example, one of the last areas that develop in a man's brain is the part that helps a person assess risk. For many men, this doesn't kick in until after age 24, and it is a major reason why auto insurance for men is higher before age 25. Young men tend to take excessive risks. But just because the brain hasn't fully developed, it doesn't imply that it hasn't developed enough for the individual to decide between good and evil.

Have you reached the age where you are accountable for your actions; and are you ready to accept the consequences of your actions? God will hold all men accountable for their actions. "So then each of us shall give account of himself to God" (Romans 14:12).




Elder’s Corner (#321) - Singing and Worship

Christians readily identify with assembling on the first day of the week to worship their God and remember their Savior.  Additionally, familiarity exists for Christians partaking of the Lord’s Supper, giving, praying, hearing preaching, and singing each Sunday.  Few Christians would reject the notion that these practices represent the worship of faithful followers of Christ from today all the way back to the first century with the establishment of the Church.  Throughout the centuries, Christians strove to obey the commands of God regarding worship.

Paul commanded singing to congregations at Ephesus and Colossae:

Eph 5:19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,

Col 3:16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

The most vital part of singing is the heart, not the vocal cords; the quality of the meditation, not the beauty of the sound.   Paul told the church at Ephesus that they should make melody with their heart.  He said that a heart prepared to sing was a heart “filled with the Spirit”, that is, a heart that is richly filled with the word of Christ (Col 3:16).

Singing is to be directed to God.  One type of song is a “hymn” (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16).  A hymn is a song of praise that is sung in order to honor God and to magnify Him for His great power, His infinite wisdom, and His wonderful character.   Through Jesus we are to continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God (Heb 13:15).    With one accord and with one voice we are to glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 15:6).  We are to sing not only to praise God for who He is, but to thank Him for all that He has done and is doing for us- to express our appreciation for the spiritual and physical blessings that we receive from His hand.  Our spiritual sacrifices should include the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name (Heb 13:15).  We are to sing with thankfulness in our hearts to God (Col 3:16).

15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.

16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

We sing not only to God, but we speak to one another as brethren (Eph 5:19).  We sing spiritual songs that contain truths (and even quotations) from Scripture that instruct us and admonish (or warn) us concerning the consequences of living immorally and failing in our responsibilities (Col 3:16).  Also, when we sing in the assembly we do so to edify or to build one another up in our faith (1 Cor 14:26).

A moment should be taken to clearly identify what “worship” means.  Worship displays itself in the honor, reverence, or respect given to a specific target.  Historically, man chose to direct worship toward all sort of animate and inanimate objects, real and imagined, in addition to or excluding Jehovah, the one and only God of all that exists (Isaiah 44).  The Bible provides guidelines for proper worship in John 4:24 stating: God is Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”  Summarily, this verse establishes: a defined target for properly worshiping God (God Himself), an intent to worship Him (spirit), and a pattern of worshiping Him (truth – found in His Word – John 17:17).  Thus, the concept of no worship unless there is intent seems to hold firm.  However, this does not provide a clear framework or answer for determining how singing songs associated with God should be treated whether in or out of worship.  It also does not determine whether or not such songs have authorization to be separated from worship (reverence to God). 





Elder’s Corner (#320) - Giving

In Mark 12:41-44, the text reads: Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

As we are “giving” into the Lord’s treasury each Sunday, do we as Christians really know and understand the true meaning of this term in our land of plenty? From the above account of Jesus, let us make some observations concerning the sacrificial giving of this precious lady in Mark 12:41-44 and see if we can make application of the self-less attitude of her heart to our own life.

The Greek word for poor in our text is “ptochos” and literally means one who is “crouching, cringing in the manner of beggars; hence, begging, beggarly, poor; then, as subst., a beggar, mendicant, living on the alms of others, having nothing at all”. While some of us regard ourselves as “poor,” relative to others who have “more” than we do, the import of our text suggests that this poor widow was extremely destitute.

The widow gave “all that she had, even all her living” (vs. 44). Her action indicates that she was a believer in the Lord’s providence. Even though she gave her entire income, she trusted that the Lord somehow would care for her (Philippians 4:19; cf. Psalm 23:1). She did not believe the Lord would allow her to die of starvation (cf. Psalm 37:25). Such sacrificial trust is rare indeed. Let’s examine how the widow gave:

1) The widow followed the Lord’s Will and “first gave her own self to the Lord” (Matthew 7:21; 2 Corinthians 8:5).

2) She gave with “a willing mind” (2 Corinthians 8:12).

3) She gave as she had “purposed in her heart” and gave “cheerfully; not grudgingly or of necessity” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

4) She gave out of her poverty – out of her deficiency; while the others who gave did so out of their excess or overflow (they gave what they did not need and thus did not show any self-denial).

The widow gave with an attitude of self-denial because she loved the Lord (2 Corinthians 8:5).

5) She was a self-less person. She did not calculate her resources to determine whether or not she was able to afford this gift.

6) She was grateful for the Father’s gracious blessings (James 1:17). This is true sacrificial giving.

The gift of the poor widow was greater than all that had “cast money into the treasury” (Mark 12:41) because she gave more in direct proportion to her ability and thus secured a greater blessing from the Lord (vs. 43-44). She did voluntarily what Jesus had vainly commanded the rich young ruler to do (Matthew 19:21; cf. Luke 12:33; Acts 2:45; Acts 4:34-35). Many improperly apply the term “widow’s mite” to their trifling contributions. To give a widow’s mite, one must give all his living.

The time to learn “how” to benevolently give is in childhood. It should be every Christian man and woman’s duty to observe, not how much to give, but how much compared with what he or she has and the “motive” behind our giving. Few are willing to practice self-denial, however this attitude is what is required of our Lord in order to advance the gospel and thus His kingdom.






Elder’s Corner (#319) – The Goodness of God

 Every new day gives us reason for expressing our gratitude to our God, Who is truly alive and has made possible all things worth having in this life and in the life to come. Many may respond to the goodness of God in various ways, yet the Scriptures tell us the goodness of God should lead us to repentance (Rom. 2:4). In Psalm 107:1, the Psalmist expresses some very beautiful and meaningful thoughts that ought to remind us of the goodness of God and what our response to that goodness should be: Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

This psalm begins with an admonition to all to give thanks to God. Why? Because He is good. God is the epitome of goodness and love, and the goodness and love of God prompted Him to extend His mercy to us in the most beautiful and meaningful way possible—in the gift of His Son Jesus Christ. It was the total goodness of God that caused Him to love you and me when we were totally unlovable. It was that complete goodness that caused the God of Heaven to give up His only son that we might have access to eternal life, to the abundant life, now and forevermore.

The second verse calls upon those who have appreciated that goodness above anyone else to express that goodness to others. Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story — those he redeemed from the hand of the foe. We should appreciate above anyone else the goodness of God! The redeemed—those who have been saved from their sins, should appreciate the goodness of God above all others upon this earth. The world doesn’t particularly appreciate the goodness of God. Those who are living their own lives, going their own way, living as they please, do not appreciate the goodness of God that brought salvation down from Heaven, because they have not responded to that goodness. They have not shown their appreciation in the only meaningful way possible—through obedience to God’s will. But we who are Christians, above all others, should appreciate the goodness of Almighty God. As verse 2 admonishes, we should tell others of that goodness.

Let the redeemed of the LORD say so. In other words, let the redeemed of the Lord talk about the goodness of God. Let’s talk about our religion, not hide it. Generally we think those who talk about their religion—about what the Lord has done for them—are a little strange, don’t we? One cannot criticize the enthusiasm and zeal often characteristic of those even in error religiously. Yet, the redeemed, the truly redeemed of the Lord, those who know they have the truth and have rendered obedience to the truth, say less about it many times that those who have followed the traditions and the teachings of men. Let the redeemed of Jehovah say so. Let the redeemed say that God is good. Let the redeemed say they have been redeemed. Let the redeemed say they have been saved from their sins through the grace and mercy of Almighty God through their obedience to the Gospel, and let the redeemed call upon those of their loved ones, their neighbors, and friends to do the same.

We can be good because of the goodness of God. God’s goodness leads to goodness in us.




Elder’s Corner (#318) – Why Do I Need to Go to Church?

Why do we need to meet as a Church? If I can pray at home and develop a relationship with God at home, then why can’t I worship at home?

Well, the easy answer is that the Bible tells me to just that! We know that the Church is not a social club and we know that the Church is not a place we go for entertainment. Then why should it be so important to me that I can wait to return? The most important reason is to worship God. “Sing Psalms, hymns, and songs, worshiping, praising and glorifying our God!” (Col. 3:16). Yes, these things can be done at home, but there is more.

The Apostle Paul says: As in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Romans 12:4–5)

Together, we are Christ’s body! And according to 1 Corinthians 12, each of us has differing roles that are indispensable to the healthy functioning of this body. Through each of us, God is nourishing and growing his body. There are many tasks associated with being a Christian: we are to spread the Word, to teach, to baptize, to encourage one another, maintain the physical needs of Church, give of our means, and obtain a full understanding of the scriptures. It is impossible for us to do all these things individually. Yet they all need to be done!

Heb. 10:24-25 – And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another. . . .

James 5:16 – Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.

Acts 2:42 – They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

Matthew 18:20 – Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.

Because these verses identify “one another”, we can conclude that the emphasis to get together is for living the faith.  Therefore, we need to be much more spiritually involved when we get a chance to be with Christian friends, family and our spouse.  We need to be aware of our spiritual responsibilities with the time we have available.  

We need to get together often. We need to see others worshiping and studying the Bible. We need the strength that comes from companionship with our brothers and sisters. We are a very close congregation and for that I am grateful. We enjoy each other’s company and we respect each other’s opinion. This is good because we will be spending eternity with each other.






Elder’s Corner (#317) – What about the Thief on the Cross?

 Luke 23:39-4   39 One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself — and us, too, while you’re at it!” 40 But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die? 41 We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.” 43 And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Why do WE have to be baptized and he didn’t?

This point is very simple to answer and it is really surprising to me that anyone would use this story to try and prove baptism isn’t necessary.

First of all, Jesus forgave the sins of this man before the New Covenant had been established. As the writer of Hebrews said, “because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living.” (Hebrews 9:17). The New Covenant was not in effect yet. People were, at that moment, still under the Law of Moses. The criminal on the cross was forgiven in exactly the same way that the paralytic was forgiven in Matthew 9.

Second, Christian baptism is about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. None of those things had happened yet when the criminal on the cross was forgiven. Read the words of Romans 6:1-7 and try to understand why it would be absurd to think the criminal on the cross would be under the same obligation to be baptized as people today:

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.

Third, the Christian gospel had not yet been preached. After His resurrection, Jesus told the apostles that “forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). Forgiveness of sins had not yet even begun to be preached, but it was on the Day of Pentecost, when Peter said, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Salvation today is gloriously different than it was for the criminal on the cross, because salvation today is based on a more complete picture of what God has done for mankind and it is part of a new and better covenant with God (Hebrews 7:22). If you want to enter into this new and better covenant, you must be baptized.

If you trust Jesus, as the criminal did, you will do what Jesus said to do. After Jesus died on that cross, was buried in a tomb, and rose from the dead, He told His apostles to go out and spread the Good News about what He had done. He told them, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).

Faith is about trusting God. The criminal on the cross trusted Him. Do you? Jesus said, “Whoever believes AND is baptized will be saved.” The criminal on the cross wasn’t told that, but you are! Do you trust Jesus? Will your trust be evidenced by your actions?

Baptism is us saying to the Lord, “I believe you and I trust you. Please save me.” That’s why when you are baptized, you are “calling on His name” (Acts 22:16).






Elder’s Corner (#316) – I Can Believe in Anything I Choose!

 God has made man a free moral agent with the power and permission to choose what he will believe and how he will live in this life. God uses no force whatsoever to compel a man to believe something or do something against his will. In this sense, man does have a right to what he will believe. But every man has placed before him right and wrong, truth and error. If man wills to believe that which is wrong and that which is error, he must suffer the consequences of his choice. In this sense, man does not have a right to his own belief; that is, he cannot believe anything he simply wants to believe and still be pleasing in the sight of God.

A person who does not believe in the existence of Jehovah God says, "Everyone has a right to his own belief, and I choose not to believe in God." The question is: Does that person have a right to his own belief? No one has the right to force him to believe in God Almighty. He has a right to his own belief or disbelief. But if when he says, "I have a right to my own beliefs and I don’t believe in any deity," he is boldly declaring that he will not have to suffer any consequences for his beliefs.

A person, who denies the basic teachings of Christianity, and especially the deity of Jesus Christ, does not believe that Jesus was the divine Son of God, but accepts Him as a mere man. This person cannot believe that the Bible is the Holy Word of God. He states: "Everyone has a right to his own belief, and I choose not to believe in the deity of Jesus." Does he have a right to that belief? Sure he does! Here in America it is even written into our laws. No one in heaven or on earth will compel him to believe against his will that Jesus Christ was and is the Son of God.

A person, who denies that baptism has anything at all to do with one's salvation from sin, maintains that a sinner can be saved, die and go to heaven without submitting to baptism. True Christians try to reason with that person by showing him that Jesus said, "He that believes and is baptized shall be saved," and that Peter said, "Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins," but he replies by simply saying, "Everyone has a right to his own belief, and I choose not to believe that baptism has anything to do with salvation."

God has made people free moral agents with the right to choose what they want to believe. God's Word is placed on one hand and man's opinion on the other. God has given them the intellect to discern both, and God has likewise given them the opportunity to decide which they will believe.

The choice as to which we will believe is given by God to all of us. He will not force us to accept His Truth, but he leaves the decision up to us. But here is the fact that is overlooked - if, when one stands up in the face of God and ridicules the commands of Christ, and scoffs at his importance to our salvation, he has no excuse to give God. He ought to realize as he stands before God in judgment that he will be standing alone.

My sincere plea to all is: let us not use the liberty that God has given us to choose between truth and error to believe and practice that which is false, because it is possible for us to believe a lie and be damned.







Elder’s Corner (#315) – Are You Comfortable in Church?

We are told that God’s word provides us great comfort through the hope and peace it gives; we obtain great comfort in knowing the wicked people of this world will be judged justly; and we receive great comfort by knowing we will be with Him for eternity.

Not only that, but we also who have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance (Romans 8:23-25).

People do not come to Church on a Sunday to be made to feel “uncomfortable” do they? One might think that if anyone regularly goes to Church all his days, but has never felt one bit of inner discomfort - he really has not been to a Christian Church, or, conversely, the Christian Church he attends does not preach Christianity.

We should go to Church to find the truth, a truth we could not otherwise come by, and to worship God in the manner he has set down for us. We do not go to Church to learn what we already know or what is supported in our culture. The truth should “prick” our hearts and cause us to become better people. If, in the Church we attend, no one explains to us the whole Gospel, we profit little by it.

We have all also heard stories of good people who have been to churches in which “love” was the only topic ever preached for the last forty years. The congregation never heard mention anything serious about sin, hatred, persecution, law, repentance, humiliation, discipline, or the “thou shalt nots.”

Does your church continuously promote love, peace, and harmony along with prosperity and success? Does your church provide entertainment for you? Do you get a weekly dose of “feel good” religion? Yes, these things are part of the truth, but not the entire truth. But so is sacrifice, judgement, giving to others, repentance, and obedience to God’s word. God can be strict and loving at the same time. He continuously provides comfort and discipline to His children.

“For these are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the Lord’s instruction. They say to the seers, “See no more visions!” and to the prophets, “Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel! (Isaiah 30:9-10).

We are grateful to those blessed with the ability to explain things clearly even if we don’t like to hear of their applicability to our lives.  No one really wants to be deprived of the whole truth. Whether we like it or not, sooner or later we will need to know the truth about ourselves. It is this “whole truth” that Christ came to explain to us. If we read the Gospel and the Epistles, we are often startled by their bluntness and graphic warnings about how to live or what to think. We must be careful not to skip over these things or ignore them. They are essential to our salvation.







Elder’s Corner (#314) - Authority in Religion

When God found that the children of Israel were becoming disobedient to Him, He spoke to them through Moses and warned them that He would bring forth a man like Moses to speak to them. Whoever disobeyed His word would perish (Deuteronomy 18:15-19).

This promise to the children of Israel was fulfilled by the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 3:19-26). He was born to redeem the world. But He was rejected by the children of Israel among whom He was born and grew up.

One day during His earthly ministry our Lord took three of His disciples and went up into a high mountain. There he was transfigured before them.  His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.  And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him! (Mark 9:2-7).

What was the meaning of all this? Moses stood for the Law. People should no longer follow the Law of Moses as a system of worshiping God. Sabbath-keeping, tithing, and animal sacrifices are no longer required. Elijah stood for the prophets who spoke about the coming on earth of a Savior from the seed of David. Now that the Savior has come, men should not go back to the Law and the prophets, but obey the words of Jesus Christ!

Whatever Christ said was not of His own, but words from God the Father. For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say. (John 12:49-50).

Many people do not obey the words of Christ. Even many religious people have turned away from the words of Christ and substituted their own thoughts. They do not think that Christ was right when he said: And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. (Matthew 16:18). “My” indicates ownership. It is completely wrong for a man or a group of people to form their own religious organization and worship the Lord there. Read Matthew 15:13-14.

The founders of human denominations are blind leaders. Those who worship therein are blind followers. This is why Jesus warned us. Members of man-made churches will be saved.  Read Matthew 7:21-23.

At the Judgment, Jesus will deny certain ones, not because they did not worship Him, but because they did not do it according to His will. God promised to build a house (Isaiah 2:2-3). This house is what Christ called “My” church. Jesus bought this church with His blood: Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. (Acts 20:28). No one has a right to form any other church.

We are told in the Bible not to condemn others. We should not determine if one person or another will be saved – that is God job. But we should read what Jesus (God) said and work out our own salvation (Philippians 2:12). Will God allow followers of man-made churches, go to heaven – based on the words of God it is not likely. I would not bet my (eternal) life on it! Read the Bible for yourself. Make up your own mind. Don’t let others determine your destiny.

How do I know that I am following the word of God and not being led by a man-developed organization? Is it in harmony with the word of God, or is it a liberal interpretation of the word?  Has your beliefs been modified to fit “a modern generation”? The answer is easy: Read the Bible for yourself. Question the authority of your leaders. Let us respect God’s authority! We must not add to the things which God has commanded! We must not subtract from any of the things God has commanded (Revelation 22:18-19). If we do not respect God’s authority in the Bible, we cannot be saved (2 John 9-11).






Elder’s Corner (#313)- Encourage One Another

Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. (Heb. 3:13)

This past week I received a text message of encouragement from a member here at New Hope. It was only about three sentences long but the Lord used it to stir some much-needed strength in my soul.

Because encouragement is so important to the church, God doesn’t merely recommend it; he explicitly commands it (1 Thess. 4:18, 5:11; Heb. 3:13). God commanded that his people encourage each other because he knows we need it. In the Gospel of John, Jesus warned that “in this world you will have trouble,” which he then followed with a much needed encouragement: “But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

We live in a broken world where everything calls us toward selfishness and despair. Sin steals joy, our bodies break down, our plans falter, our dreams die, our resolves weaken, and our perspective dims. We are promised suffering, persecution, and trials of various kinds.

When encouragement is absent from the life of a church people will feel unloved, unimportant, useless, and forgotten. God knows his people are in need of grace-filled reminders, so he calls us to encourage each other every day until his Son returns.

Encouragement is shared with the hopes that it will lift someone’s heart toward the Lord (Col. 4:8). It points out evidences of grace in another’s life to help them see that God is using them. It points a person to God’s promises that assures them that all they face is under his control.

The New Testament reveals that encouragement was a regular part of the early church’s life together (Acts 13:15, 16:40, 18:27, 20:1-2, 27:36). They shared Scripture-saturated words with each other to spur one another on in faith, hope, unity, joy, strength, fruitfulness, faithfulness, perseverance, and the certainty of Christ’s return.

Encouragement was and is an essential way of extending grace to each other. There isn’t only one ‘right’ way to encourage each other, but here are a few ideas to help you get started.

  • Pray for God to make you an encourager. Ask him to give you a heart that cares about others; ask God to bring someone to mind that you should reach out to.
  • Study Barnabas and ask God to make you like him. Barnabas was nicknamed the “son of encouragement” by the early church (Acts 4:36). He was the kind of guy you wanted to have around as you were serving the Lord.
  • Make encouragement a daily discipline.
  • Regularly encourage our minister. If he says something that helps you along your journey, tell him about it. Nothing encourages a minister like hearing specific ways God used a sermon to work in your life.

The note I received from my brother included two very specific ways he had seen evidences of Christian love in my life. When I read them, I was humbled and reminded of the fact that God does actually work in and though me. I needed that.

Get started today. Who can you encourage right now? Who has blessed you recently that you can thank? What verse can you share with them? How might God use you?

 






Elder’s Corner (#312) – The Worship Service

Jesus said, Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:23-24). Two things are required of worshipers if our devotions are to be acceptable to God.

We must worship in spirit. That is, our hearts must be right. We must be right in life. We must have the correct attitude. We must be thinking of what we are doing (Isaiah 1:11-20; Proverbs 28:9; Matthew 15:8).

We must worship God in truth. To worship God in truth means that we will worship God according to the truth. God’s Word is truth (John 17:17). Therefore, for our devotions to be acceptable to God, they must be offered in accordance with His Word.

The acts of worship required by God are plainly set forth in the New Testament.

The Lord’s Supper - The Lord’s supper or communion (1 Corinthians 10:16) consists of two things: (1) unleavened bread (without yeast) and (2) the fruit of the vine (grape juice). The purpose of the Lord’s Supper is to bring to our remembrance the sacrifice of the body and blood of Jesus on the cross for our sins (Matthew 26:26-29).

Prayer - Prayers offered to God are to be a part of our public worship as well as our private daily devotions. Our prayers must be addressed to God in the name of Jesus (John 16:23; 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 4:14-16).

Preaching and Teaching God’s Word - God has commanded us to teach His Word (Matthew 28:19-20). Both saved and sinners need to be taught. Therefore, a lesson from the Bible is one of the acts of worship in which Christians are to engage (Acts 2:42).

Giving - Giving of our means is a part of our worship to God. God has given us the perfect plan for giving (1 Corinthians 16:2). We are told who is to give, Let each one of you. We are told when we are to give, On the first day of the week. We show our love for God when we give cheerfully and willingly to Him (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Singing - Christians are commanded to praise God in song (Colossians 3:16). The kind of music God commanded for His church is vocal music only, that is, singing. The purpose of our worship to God is not to entertain ourselves. Therefore, what we do in worship is not based on that which appeals to our physical senses, but must be based upon what pleases God!

True Christians want to worship God. In fact, it is impossible for a true Christian not to worship God. When we understand God’s greatness, His glory, majesty, wisdom, and strength, and reflect upon His infinite mercy in giving His only begotten Son to save us from our sins, our hearts will overflow. We will want to offer up a sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of lips which make confession to his name (Hebrews 13:15).

We can worship money, or power, or a rock star, or we can even worship a lifestyle. Worship is more than an act of reverence. It is an attitude of the heart.

Christian worship is clearly of interest to God. He knows we have an inner need to worship, so He asks us to worship Him. He, being God, can handle the weight of being worshiped; humans cannot. People who are worshiped by others can often be influenced to think more highly of themselves than they ought. The Bible makes it plain that there is only one God worthy of our worship:

"Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land" (Deuteronomy 6:13-15)

Do you love God? Are you thankful for what He has done for you through His Son Jesus Christ?

"Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness" (Psalm 29:2)

 








Elder’s Corner (#311) - The Garden of Eden

The first dwelling place God created for man on this earth was the beautiful Garden of Eden. The garden must have been a place of such magnificent beauty that it would be difficult for us to even imagine. If we could think of the most beautiful place we have ever seen on this earth and realize that this would represent only part of the beauty of Eden, we might have some idea of what Eden looked like. It was paradise on earth. Everything man could possibly need in order to sustain his physical life was readily available in this garden. God supplied all his needs.

Isaiah prophesied that at the first coming of Christ, God would make Zion (Israel) a place of beauty just like the Garden of Eden. The fact is he did exactly that. He gave us a spiritual Eden that is priceless with beauty beyond compare. It is the place where we dwell spiritually with God today. It is extremely important to understand that the last two chapters of Revelation describe the church. They give us a picture of our spiritual Eden in physical terms that we can understand. (Isaiah 51:3)

For example in Rev. 2:7, the church is called the "paradise of God." This is a direct comparison between the Garden of Eden, which was a physical paradise, and the church, which is a spiritual paradise. The church bears many of the same characteristics as the Garden of Eden, but our Eden is for our spiritual souls, rather than our physical bodies. The church is the beautiful, magnificent, spiritual dwelling place of God's people. It is the place God has prepared which will meet all the spiritual needs of man today.

By closely examining the characteristics of the Garden of Eden and applying that symbolism to the church, we can learn much about how God views the church in which Christians spiritually dwell today. First let us examine the relationship between God and man in the garden. It was an extremely close relationship. God walked and talked with Adam and Eve.

The verse found in Genesis 3:8 indicates that Adam and Eve were not surprised to hear the voice of God. Instead they knew exactly who he was, and they were afraid because they had done wrong. They expected God to be walking with them in the garden. If Adam and Eve had not sinned, they could have remained in this close relationship with God forever. But, when they chose to disobey God and eat of the forbidden fruit, they were expelled from the garden. The close relationship between God and man was broken. From this point on, man proved over and over that he was not capable of keeping himself from sin and walking with God in this close relationship. Man needed a Savior to take away his sins so the close relationship with God could be reestablished. Jesus was the answer, and the church would be the spiritual paradise he would prepare in which Christians would live and walk with God while on this earth.

As Christians dwelling in the spiritual paradise of God, the church, we are in that close relationship with God. 2 Cor. 6:16 states, "What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and they will be my people.’"

Just as Adam and Eve walked and talked with God in the Garden of Eden, Christians now walk and talk with God in spiritual Eden, the church of the living God. Matthew 18:20 says, "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." Jesus dwells in the midst of his people today. We walk and talk with God in spiritual Eden today. We are in a close spiritual relationship with God. We walk with God today as we follow his teachings. 1 John 1:7 reads, "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin."







Elder’s Corner (#310) – Should our Conscience be Our Guide?

Perhaps, you remember hearing a number of people say at some point and time, “If your conscience don’t condemn you, go to it.” This is just another case of bad advice, that I would not advise anyone to believe, but there is another saying that seems to have merit: “If it sounds too good to be true, most likely it’s not true!” We, for the most part, cannot trust our minds/consciences, if they are not directed or under the control of God!

And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus (I Timothy 1:12-14).

Paul addressed the cruel and evil reality of this time period in his life when he labored as Saul of Tarsus, persecuting, wasting and making havoc of the church and did not feel any sense of guilt or remorse about it at the time. In retrospect, he said he helped to orchestrate, implement, and inflict pain and suffering on the Lord’s church all in ignorance and unbelief. He did all this with a clean conscience! He thought he was right, but he was wrong, and God showed him that he was wrong while he was on an official mission to do harm to the saints in Damascus (Acts 9).

The kind of training and discipline we receive in life largely determines our over-all responses. This is true in all endeavors of life, good or bad, right or wrong! There are people who do some very evil and sinful things to fellow human beings every day in good conscience! They do not seem to feel bad about their actions to any degree of remorse, until they are caught and face a court of law.

We see people who are suffering immensely, because of bad choices or decisions they made with good intentions. Surely, they thought they could trust their minds. They, for the most part and at the time, believed they had things under control and did not need any advice or counsel before making their decision! Unfortunately, they discovered later that they had made some very critical mistakes.

Mistakes, for the most part, that could have been prevented had they received certain counsel or advice from somebody that had knowledge and experience in their area of need or concern. The point to be made at this time is: we must ever recognize our limitations relative to our knowledge and wisdom; and to be extremely selective in regards to advisors/counselors professionally and non-professionally!

Man has always ran into great difficulties when he made decisions trusting his own mind, though his intentions might have been good!  It is dangerous for anyone to trust their own minds, lean on their own understanding, or to become overly confident on their conscience unless it has been trained and disciplined on the directives of God.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil." (Proverbs 3:5-7)





Elder’s Corner (#309) – Who or What are Angels

We have visions of an angel wearing a white robe and having shoulder length blond hair.  He shines brightly, but looks like a human except for the large flowing, feathery wings extending from his back, one on the left and one on the right.  Another type of angel, who looks like a fat little baby, the cherub, goes about naked or only in a white cloth diaper.  Wings also extend from his back.  Frequently, he carries a harp or a bow and arrow with which he shoots people to cause them to fall in love.  Sadly, a serious gap exists between the fairy tale imaginations of mankind and Biblical reality when it comes to knowledge about angels.

One misunderstood aspect of angels is the belief they are sons of God.  This is a distinction which only Christ and the resurrected share.  Christ according to John 3:16 is the unique or “begotten” Son of God. Christians through the blood of Christ are sons as well (John 1:12). Angels are distinct from human beings. We do not become angels when we die – we actually become greater than the angels (1 Corinthians 6:2-4). 

The true characteristics of angels runs the gamut from the one who lost the struggle with Jacob (Ge 32: 22-28) (Hos12:4) to the one (2 Kings 19:35) who went into the Assyrian camp and put to death 185,000 men in a single night.

There has to be a huge amount of angels in heaven since there is mentioned in Revelation 5:11 thousands upon thousands and 10,000 X 10,000 (one hundred million, if taken literally) who are gathered around the throne of God to sing His praise. They are called celestial attendants of God or messengers of God by the dictionary.  Ironically, only two have names in the Bible.  Gabriel went to Nazareth to tell Mary of her honor of becoming the mother of the Christ and Michael who disputed with the devil about the body of Moses.  (Jude 9) (I Th 4: 16)  Of course Satan has his angels also although no number is given. (Jude 6) (Rev 12: 9) (2 Pe 2: 4)

Christians have angels who are ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation. (Heb 1:14)  Peter escaped from Herod’s prison with the help of an angel who was called “his angel” by the brethren meeting in John Mark’s mother’s house. (Acts 12:15)  Angels appeared to Jesus just before his crucifixion to strengthen him. (Lk 22:43)  One whose appearance was like lightening and his clothes were white as snow rolled back the stone covering Jesus’ tomb.  (Mt 28: 2-7)

We hear Jesus say that in heaven we will be like the angels in that we will neither marry nor be given in marriage and like the angels, we will no longer die (Lk 20:36).

Here on earth men have entertained angels unaware. Abraham (Ge 8), Gideon (Jdg 6), Manoah, Samson’s father, (Jdg 13) were some.  Because of all the different manifestations mentioned here I believe Christians have guardian angels. We are never to worship them, but we should thank God for sending them. (Col 2:18)  

In conclusion, the angels of God have been an active part of the salvation of mankind even though they themselves have not understood the mystery of God’s plan of salvation. Angels are immortal beings who minster to God and man dutifully. 







Elder’s Corner (#308) – The Word of God

One of the characteristics of the people at Athens was that they were always interested in hearing about something new. Luke records this attitude for us in Acts 17:21 where he writes, “All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.

The nation in which we live today is not unlike those Athenians in that we delight to hear of “new” things. We glue our ears to the radio to listen to the next blurb spoken by the next popular commentator. We sit transfixed in front of the television set each evening at 5:30 to find out what is going on in the world. We can even surf the internet to get our news sooner than 5:30. We desire fresh information—things which we have not heard.

Then, Sunday morning rolls around. “It’s time to go to worship, to do the same old things every week. To listen to the same old message that we have heard time and time again. Everyone’s heard it all of their life. Why should we go and listen once more?” Let’s note a few good reasons’ why.

First, while the gospel message may be old news, it is full of good news! That is sure to be something that you don’t find in the dominant media today. Oh there may be a story or two that is more or less positive in application, but the majority of the news today is going to be centered on death, war, fighting, and political wrangling. While such news may be “fresh” it is certainly not good and unlike “fake news”, it is fact! You may not like it, but it is the truth and is beneficial for us to hear. Paul wrote in Romans 10:15, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Yes, we, along with Paul should rejoice in the good news of the gospel!

Second, while we may have heard the message before, we need to hear it again. Missing one meal out of a day may not hurt us, but it will weaken us. Such is also true with spiritual food. We need to be fed regularly from God’s word so that we continue to grow stronger in the Lord. Peter wrote in 2 Peter 1:12 “So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.” He wanted them to remember the truths of the gospel, even though they knew them and were established in them. Spiritual growth requires spiritual nourishment and if we are not growing, then we are dying.

Third, all Christians are expected to grow in the Lord. Peter writes, “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,” (1 Peter 2:2). Like the human body, as Christians we constantly grow throughout our lifetime. In each phase of our life, the message of the gospel may be applied so that old truths have fresh significance for us. There is no end to the things that we may learn from the Bible. No one person can ever say that they have mastered the depths of its pages. Each of us has the responsibility to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).

We may hear the same truths preached each week that we have heard all our life, but let’s rejoice in God’s good news! Let’s feast upon the bread of life! Let’s grow as we encounter life! It all begins with by reading and listening to the word of God.




Elder’s Corner (#307) – Our Attitude Toward our Brothers and Sisters

Have you ever said this: “I am the only sane one I know.”?  Hopefully not, but we might know someone that seems to think that. We meet people like this from time to time; someone who is always criticizing others either in what they think or what they do. “No one seems to as well-adjusted as I am.”

Self-help books, videos and even bumper stickers tell us that we need to have a good attitude, that we need to face the day with a smile and start the day with positive “can do” attitude, but a biblical attitude is more than that. A Godly attitude tells the world how we respond to what life gives us, and as we all know, life isn’t always easy. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon tells us that we can be “too righteous” and “too wise.” Are you more righteous than others? Are you wiser than everyone else? Are you perfect?  If you cannot accept others with all their shortcomings – how can they accept you with all yours?

We jokingly speak of people in need of an “attitude adjustment.”  In reality, we need to be constantly adjusting our attitudes to conform to the standards of God.  The most reliable way to study ourselves and objectively recognize our true attitudes is to compare ourselves with the word of God.  God, as our Maker, knows His human product better than we know ourselves.  He knows what makes us tick – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.  The Scriptures reveal our true inner self, even as a photograph depicts our outer qualities. 

As a community of believers, our job is to lift up our brothers and sisters. Not to dispose of them or avoid them when they displease us. You cannot continually dodge them because of what you perceive they done or said. Just imagine you might be “stuck” with them for eternity in heaven. Check your attitude. Maybe, just maybe, you are not the sane one!  As the song says: “Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord!

No one is perfect – not even our Christian brothers and sisters. We should be humble toward them. We should be willing to accept them for what they are and stop being so critical of them. Otherwise not only are we going to lose our friends, but also, we are in danger of losing our souls.

The apostle Paul wrote about the attitude a Christian should have: Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:27). He’s telling us that no matter what unexpected disruptions, frustrations, or difficulties come our way, we are to respond with a Christ-like attitude. Paul later writes, Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:5). He also encourages us in Ephesians 5:1 to be imitators of Christ as dearly beloved children. As children love to imitate what they see and repeat what they hear; we also are charged to imitate and model Christ’s behavior and to be clear reflections of the Lord (Matthew 5:16). Quit comparing others to what YOU think they should be.

A Godly attitude doesn’t come because you decide to smile harder. A Godly attitude comes because you decided to follow Jesus, to love others more than yourself, and to be obedient to God.





Elder’s Corner (#306) – The Sabbath - Saturday or Sunday?

Some religious organizations (Seventh-day Adventists, Seventh-Day Baptists, and others) claim that Christians must not worship on Sunday but on Saturday - the Jewish Sabbath. However, passages of Scripture such as Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 16:2, Colossians 2:16-17, and Revelation 1:10 indicate that, even during New Testament times, the Sabbath is no longer binding and that Christians are to worship on the Lord’s day, Sunday, instead. 

The commandment in Exodus 20:8-11 states that the seventh day of the week, Saturday, is the day which the Lord selected as the day of rest and worship. However, in the New Testament the Christian church began to worship and rest on the first day of the week - Sunday. Are most Christians violating the Sabbath commandment by worshipping on the first day of the week rather than the seventh day? I do not think so.

Jesus said in correcting the distorted Sabbath view of the Pharisees, The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.—Mark 2:27

It must be remembered that, according to Colossians 2:17, the Sabbath was "These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ." The Sabbath observance was associated with redemption in Deuteronomy 5:15 where Moses stated, "Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and that the Lord your God brought you out from there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day."

The Sabbath was a shadow of the redemption that would be provided in Christ. It symbolized the rest from our works and an entrance into the rest provided by God. In Genesis 3:16-18, we are told that we will work all the days of our lives. After our work, if we are obedient to God, we will rest with our Lord in heaven.

Today, we meet on the first day of the week because of the examples of the first century church as guided by the Holy Spirit:

And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight. —Acts 20:7

Now about the collection for God's people: Do what I told the Galatian churches to do. On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made. —1 Corinthians 16:1-2

The New Testament makes it clear that the observance of a particular day was not imposed as a binding obligation for our salvation. Galatians 4:9-10 warns against going back under the OT Law by insisting on the legal requirement of special days.

Scripture never mentions any Sabbath (Saturday) gatherings by believers for fellowship or worship. It is important to recognize that God has a claim to all of my time. When I give Him one day of the week, it reminds me that He owns all seven!








Elder’s Corner (#305) - Seeking Him

Man makes promises and sometimes either forgets he has made them or just simply fails to follow through. Not so with God. As Israel had moved in to take over the territory of the Promised Land, there was not one of the promises God had made that failed to come to pass. (Joshua 21:45) What God has said, He will do (Numbers 23:19) and that goes just as much for His warnings as His promises.

When Jesus taught to seek and we would find (Matthew 7:7-8), the action was attached to a promise we can count on. Are we actively seeking? Are we seeking that which is worth seeking? Note Isaiah’s exhortation to the people of God.

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:6-9)

We ought to be sure we are seeking the Lord. His Will, not ours, should be what is most important to us. But according to Isaiah’s statement here, it appears a time may come when the opportunity to seek Him might be lost.

Today we should be diligently seeking God and His Will. We may not have the opportunity tomorrow. We must recognize this to be one thing we dare not put off. Felix was going to wait for a more opportune time. (Acts 24:25) It doesn’t appear that such a time ever really came for him. He should have seized the opportunity afforded him by Paul. King Agrippa also had an opportunity. (Acts 26:28) Throughout the Scriptures we find some who took advantage of the opportunity to learn about and seek the things of God while others put it off, and it is no different today.

Let us be sure we continue to seek the Lord while He may be found; while He still provides us with the opportunity to find Him. And may we help others, as well, to understand the urgency of seizing the opportunity they now have. For the time will come when we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:10)

The way we do things and our thoughts are as varied as the number of people in the world. Contrasts vary greatly from a range between basic right and wrong to the expanse between foolishness and genius. But the contrast between God and mankind is even greater. There is a huge contrast between our thoughts and God’s thoughts and our ways and His ways. His are much higher. Even Paul pointed out that man, in his search for wisdom and self-sufficiency, needed to recognize that “…the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Corinthians 1:25) Paul’s statement seems to have implied the greatest contrast possible. God simply outclasses us in every way! All this logically points to the wisdom of continuing to seek the ways of God. Left to our own ways and thoughts we will be lost.





Elder’s Corner (#304) - There is a time for everything

Solomon, the man whom the Bible has tagged as the wisest man who ever lived said, "There is an appointed time for everything." Let me read you Solomon's words found in Ecclesiastes 3.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven, a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-10)

If Solomon is right and he is, then we must acknowledge that there is an appointed time for everything in life. The real question for us then is this, "What time is it and how do I know what time it is?" There is a time for everything, but the real question is, "What time is it?"

Here is an example of one wise person’s view of the importance of fully using the time God has given us instead of wasting it on less important matters. If you had a bank that credited your account each morning with $86,000 that carried over no balance from day to day. Every evening, it cancelled whatever part of the amount you failed to use during the day… what would you do? Draw out every cent every day, of course, and use it to your advantage! Well, you have such a bank, and its name is TIME! Every morning it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it rules off as lost whatever of this you failed to invest to good purposes. It carries over no balances, it allows no overdrafts. Each day it opens a new account with you. If you fail to use the day's deposits, the loss is yours. There is no going back. There is no drawing against tomorrow.

Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:15-16)

Jesus went early in the morning to be alone with God so that He could learn what was on the Father's heart for His day. What was Jesus to do? What was He to teach the people who would come to Him? Who was He to minister to as the day unfolded? During those early morning hours Jesus drew His strength from the Father so that He could fully use His day to the glory of God.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: "Everyone is looking for you!" (Mark 1:35-37)

If we are to use the time God has given us wisely, to make the most of all of the days He has given us, then shouldn’t we ask Him the question, “What do you have planned for us today?

Do you understand the times that we living in? Do you understand what is on God's heart for you each day? Have you even given it any thought about what should be done on this day?  Do you simply wake up from your sleep each morning and begin the rest of life by doing what you have every day? Have you asked God to direct your life?  Why not?  Ask Him to give your life meaning.

If we want to live lives that are pleasing to God and be good stewards of the time He has given us, then we must understand what time it is. Jesus understood His time. He understood God's timing for His life and ministry. Jesus didn't allow others to dictate His schedule. He did what needed to be done, when it needed to get done, and where it was to done and for all the right reasons.

Do you know what time it is?




Elder’s Corner (#303) - The Prophecy of Peace

 

Peace, perfect peace - we all seek peace. Truly the only path to peace, true peace, perfect peace, peace within, is the path that takes us to Jesus Christ. From the Old Testament, in Micah, Chapter 4:1-7; we find what we might, indeed, call the prophecy of peace. This prophecy of peace is a prophecy pertaining to the time when the kingdom of God, the church of Jesus Christ would come into existence. It is not a future prophecy still, as some mistakenly think. It is not prophesying of a time of total abstinence from war or hostility in the physical sense.

Notice, the Prince of Peace in verse 2 of this text, "And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths..." The place of peace - the house of the Lord, the mountain of the house of the Lord - a clear reference to the establishment of the church in Jerusalem. This prophecy is very, very similar, almost identical to the prophecy of Isaiah 2:2-4. So, clearly, here, the mountain of the house of the Lord is identified with Jerusalem.

The Prince of Peace, through whom the peace within, the perfect peace, is obtained is Jesus Christ. In verse 5 of Chapter 5 of Micah, these words are found: "And this man shall be the peace..." - "this man shall be the peace..." - Jesus Christ our Lord. In John 14:6, Jesus Christ himself as he lived among men, said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." The Prince of Peace - he is the only one through whom and by whom any of us may be saved.

What about the particulars of this peace, the specifics? Notice: He will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.”

Now, this is not a literal thing where there is a prophecy about no more wars whatsoever. Micah is talking about the state of those who are in the kingdom and the attitude of those who have come to the Lord in his kingdom. There is that peace, the result or the particulars of that peace, the attitude of love, concern, care for others, and the attitude that says, I no longer have to fear what man will do unto me, as in Hebrews 13:6. The expression in verse 4, we can sit in the open under the vine and under the fig tree, and none shall make us afraid, "and no one will make them afraid, for the Lord Almighty has spoken." These are the particulars of peace.

All the nations may walk in the name of their gods, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever." You see, the path to peace continually is to walk in the name of the Lord our God - that is, by his authority, according to his revealed will in his word, his Last Will and Testament, the New Testament of Jesus Christ - that is the path to peace. Again, John 14:6, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man shall come unto the Father, but by me." This is the path to peace - through Jesus Christ the Lord.

Verse 7 of this text reveals: The Lord will rule over them in Mount Zion from that day and forever." Yes, the Lord reigns now over his kingdom the church; but, when the Lord returns and we meet him in the air, the faithful shall ever be with the Lord in the eternal phase of the kingdom - not a different kingdom, the same kingdom. But entering into that eternal phase - there is the prize of peace. The prize of peace is eternal life with God the Father, with Christ the Son, with the Holy Spirit, and with the faithful of all the ages.

Yes, this great prophecy of peace n Micah 4 tells of the coming of the kingdom, the church. It has come. You now have an opportunity to be a part of that kingdom, that kingdom that brings the peace that passes all understanding, as Paul spoke of it in the Philippian letter. That is only possible by believing in Christ as the Son of God, repenting of your sins, confessing him as the Christ, and being buried with him in baptism as he has commanded for the forgiveness of sins, that he might add you to the kingdom of peace, where you may live faithfully in order to one day have the prize of peace - life eternal.

 







Elder’s Corner (#302) - Aging with Integrity

Every single one of us is aging. From the time of conception each one of us gets older every day. For a while it is fun. We want to grow older when we are little. We can't wait to "grow up" but then at some point we feel like we have reached our peak and we start heading down hill. And when you start down a hill, you pick up speed and when you get older time seems to fly by and you want to slow it up, but you can't – then WHAM it’s over. Let me share with you, a 3 step plan for aging with integrity, no matter what age we are right now.

  1. Celebrate or Rejoice in the Positives of Where you are.

If you are 30, celebrate and rejoice in and be glad for all of the good things about being 30 years old. If you are 85, celebrate the good things about being 85. Every age has its pluses and its minuses. It seems that for most of us the natural thing to do is to focus on the bad stuff that comes with being our age, but then we miss the good stuff. In Psalm 71 we see the psalmist learning to praise God for everything. He praises God and rejoices in his youth, from birth, to when he is old. You see, when our focus is on God's goodness to us at any age, then we will tend to focus on the good gifts that He gives us at every age.

For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth. From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother’s womb. I will ever praise you. I have become a sign to many; you are my strong refuge. My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long. Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone. (Psalm 71:5-9)

Remember verses like Jeremiah 29:11 "For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not harm you, to give you hope and a future."

  1. Trust God to Help You with the Negatives of Where you are.

If you are at an age where you are so young that you don't have as many privileges and freedoms as you would like, then trust God to help you deal with that. If, on the other hand you are at an age when your health is not so great, then you trust God with that. I have forgotten many of the negatives of being a kid or a young adult. I don't yet know many of the negatives of being an older adult with all the aches and pains and other things that go alone with being older. But, I can tell you the negatives of trying to do all the things that are expected of me from friends, neighbors, relatives, and Church activities. And if I asked you to share the negatives of your age, we could have a really great gripe session and complain about everything that is wrong with our own age and situation. But, that would not really be helpful. What is helpful, is to remember that God is there with us every day in the situations that trouble us.

Hebrews 13:5 “… because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

  1. Learn From Others and Teach Others.

At every age we have things that we need to learn from persons that are older or younger than ourselves. And, at every age we have persons who are older or younger than us who need us to teach them what we know. Kids know how to play and have fun, so those of us who are kids need to remind the grownups to have fun and play and then show them how. You are never too young to teach and never too old to learn. Find someone who is another age, younger or older and teach them something that you know about. Find someone younger or older to learn from, ask them how they handle a situation that you struggle with. Embrace whatever age you are right now and make the best out of it. Focus on the good stuff, trust God with the difficult stuff and then learn from and teach others what you need to learn or what you have already learned.




 

Elder’s Corner (301) - Are You an Accessory to Sin?

Within the legal code of the states within the U.S, one may be found guilty of being an accessory to a particular crime. The law clearly makes provision to punish those who may have not committed the actual crime itself, but are involved to such a degree that the crime could not happen without their influence. Such a person is called an accessory to the crime and is held accountable and often punished for helping another do something that is wrong.

As Christians, the crimes that we are concerned about avoiding are not merely against men, but against God. Isaiah states that sin separates man from God (Isaiah 59:2). James writes that sin when it is full-grown brings death (James 1:15). And Paul states that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Just as being an accessory to a crime is in itself a crime, so also being an accessory to sin is in itself a sin.

There is a difference between doing something that is right to support that which is right and doing something that would otherwise be right to support that which is wrong. The Holy Spirit says that the latter is sin. When we give aid and comfort to false teachers, or providing excuses for the sinner, financial aid to organizations that support sinful acts - that is being an accessory to sin.

A Christian can also be an accessory to sin by approving that which is wrong. We read in 1 Corinthians 5:1 that there was fornication among the church at Corinth. The response of the members of the church at Corinth was not to condemn that which was wrong, but to be proud about it (1 Corinthians 5:2). In other words, the church at Corinth was, through their attitude of pride concerning the fornicator, approving his action of fornication. Paul states in Romans 1:32 that not only are those who practice evil worthy of death due to their sin, but those who approve of such things are equally worthy of death due to their sin of approval.

Finally, a Christian can also be an accessory to sin by providing service to that which is sinful. John writes in 1 John 2:10 “He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.” The one who loves will not provide an occasion of stumbling in another. The opposite is also true, the one who sets forth an occasion of stumbling before another does not love him.

Providing service to that which is sinful is of itself a sin. It would be a sin to give an idol to the idolater though you yourself may not worship it. It would be a sin to give drugs to an addict, though you yourself may not do drugs. It would be a sin to serve alcohol to a drunkard, though you yourself may not drink at all. At the least, a person who acted in such a way would be a hypocrite. Paul writes in Romans 12:9, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” When we act out of a love toward our fellow man, we will not encourage him to engage in sinfulness by providing the means of his sin. Instead, we will abhor what is evil. Abhorring something means that we put it as far away from us as possible. If we serve evil, we fail to abhor evil.

 


Elder’s Corner (#300) - Some Aspects of Confession

Personal or public sin is never easy to confess because of pride or ego — but it is necessary in order to get our lives right with God (Isaiah 59:1-15). The following are some aspects of confession that we may or may not have thought of:

Confessing sin necessarily constitutes personal action — It’s not difficult to say, “We all sin” or “he sinned” — the hard part is when we personally must say, “I have sinned” (1 Samuel 15:24; Psalm 51:4). When the known sin pertains to the individual, personal confession is demanded. Notice David’s confession in Psalm 51 when he says, “my transgressions” (Psalm 51:1 NKJV), “my iniquity” (Psalm 51:2), “my sin” (Psalm 51:2-3).

Confession of sin is specific — To say, “If I have done anything” is easy — but it simply is not confession of specific sin. An individual who is unsure whether he has sinned or not, should find out. Until he knows and admits his sin, he can make no real confession. Any “if” confessions are a farce. The one confessing must say, “I have sinned” — no doubt about it. David was definite —my sin is ever before me (Psalm 51:3) — and he knew what specific sin it was that needed confessing.

Confession names sin — Often sin is renamed; and the crime reduced. This is a common practice in civil law. The criminal is allowed to admit a misdemeanor rather than the felony he actually committed. However, this tactic is not allowed in God’s court. We cannot confess to “hurting someone’s feelings” when we have actually slandered a man. The idea of “accidentally” misrepresenting the facts or “exaggerating” will not be adequate when in fact we lied. Confession names sin (1 Samuel 15:24-25).

Confession addresses the one who has been sinned against — Acceptable confession occurs when the individual who lies, goes to the man he injured and says, “I lied about you” — that is true confession. A dozen times down the church aisle would be easier, but it is not acceptable. Confessing to the church will not replace it.

David knew this principle when he stated to God, Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight (Psalm 51:4). If an individual has sinned against God; he must confess to God. He may need to confess his sin to the church, but not before he confesses it to God.

Confession of sin anticipates a plea for forgiveness — A man may admit his meanness — in fact, he may even be proud of it. This is not the Bible brand of confession. A man who seeks no pardon is not confessing sin. Again, notice the confession of David — Have mercy upon me, O God …. Blot out my transgressions (Psalm 51:1).

Confession is good for the soul — Because eternity is in view (Matthew 16:24-27), but for many, true confession becomes extremely difficult because of pride and ego.

When we willingly confess our sins before the Lord, He is always eager and ready to forgive us of our sins (Psalm 32:5; Psalm 86:5; cf. Luke 15:11-24; 1 John 1:9).




FOR OTHER "ELDER'S CORNER" ARTICLES, PLEASE CONTACT US.

 


New Hope Church of Christ

  • 11025 131st St N
    Largo, Florida 33774
  • (727) 517-7517
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.