All posts by Jon Mitchell

A Mother And Daughter Look At Titus And Timothy — Autumn & Kaitlyn Richardson

Editor’s Note:  The church of our Lord is made up of men and women who are older and younger.  Sometimes there can be a disconnect between the generations.  It’s natural for one to easier relate to one’s peers within one’s own generation, but this can easily become a stumbling block to the unity between the young and the old which our Lord would have in His church.  I taught a young man in one of the Carolina schools of preaching who had graduated high school the year before.  One day in class he expressed his frustration about his perception that older brethren were dismissing out of hand any scriptural points he would make in a sermon or devotional due to his youth.  As one who started my preaching career while in my twenties, I could relate.  On the opposite end, I can also remember in my youth dismissing the insights and counsel of those older than me simply because they were older and thus “were out of touch” and “couldn’t relate” to me. 

This generational disconnect between some of our older and younger brethren stands in the way of the church applying the commands and obtaining the benefits of passages like Titus 2:3-5 and 1 Timothy 4:12.  To explore this subject further, I’ve asked a Christian mother, Autumn Richardson, and her college-age daughter, Kaitlyn, to share their insights about the different generations within our brotherhood, particularly among older and younger Christian women.  What follows are their thoughts.  — Jon

Carolina Messenger:  Ladies, thank you for being willing to sit down with us and share your thoughts about this important subject.  To start off, Autumn, has any older woman in your life done for you what Titus 2:3-5 is commanding them to do when you were a very young Christian and a new wife and mother?  If so, how did you react to it?  What benefits did it bring to you as a younger woman, wife, mother, and Christian?

Autumn:  I have been so very blessed to have had Titus 2 role models throughout my entire life.  When I was a teen, a lady named Laura at my home congregation taught our girls’ Bible class and sought out ways to encourage and bless us outside that classroom environment as well.  She was in a struggling marriage herself, and the way she lived out the words in 1 Peter 3:1-6 still impacts me today.  However, during the times she was trying to have a direct influence on me, I did not always receive it well.  Our relationship was great while I was doing good things, but I recall one time in particular when my parents asked her to attempt to “talk some sense” into me because of some bad choices I was making.  I was horrified she knew something less-than-perfect about me, so I became very defensive instead of soaking up her wisdom and appreciating her vulnerability in revealing things about herself to me.  If I recall correctly, we were sitting in a car in the church parking lot, and I sat with my arms crossed and leaning against the door, just waiting for the word that she was done with me so I could bolt.  Looking back, I know that it was my shame making me act that way.  I did ultimately heed her advice that night, and I have learned from her example in many ways, but because of my pride in that moment I did not respect her.  Thankfully, Laura never held my rudeness in that encounter against me, and she and I still enjoy a great relationship to this day.

When I married, these Titus 2 women, as I’ve always liked to call them, became so much more important to me.  When Adam and I first married, I remember the lady whose casserole recipes I always needed and those whose advice I always sought in learning how to host church events in our home.  A couple years later, new mentors came into my life as we became parents.  Some helped me with things like breastfeeding and sleep schedules while others made sure I still valued my husband and my marriage.  We moved several times during our first five years of marriage, and it was always a priority for me to establish a Titus 2 relationship with a lady in the congregation as soon as possible.  It was the thing that grounded me, helped me grow, and gave me an outlet when things were not going well.  The younger I was, the more I tended to buck or push against the advice I was given, especially when unsolicited.  However, I still seek out those relationships now, knowing I have so much more to learn.  I think that all goes back to the positive relationship that I had with Laura, my first Titus 2 mentor.  Otherwise, I might still be trying to figure everything out on my own.

Kaitlyn:  I think it is definitely easier to look back and see who your mentors were.  Hindsight is 20/20, and I agree that in the moment it can be difficult to see what a benefit such an amazing woman can be.  I don’t think we as kids always know what we need until after we have received or lost it.  It’s hard to listen to advice because we often feel attacked, but it is really just our own issues that cause us to feel that way.  I really can’t think of a time that I have looked back on the advice someone I respected gave me and regretted listening.  Even if I disagreed or went in another direction, I always wish I had listened.

C.M.:  Kaitlyn, 1 Timothy 4:12 says, “Let no one despise you for your youth.”  Do you believe any in the church or in our society who are older despise you and your peers for your youth?  If so, in what ways?  How does that make you feel as a young person and as a Christian, especially if it’s coming from fellow Christians who are older?  In hindsight, are any of their critiques and stereotypes about the younger generation right?  Are any of them mistaken?  If so, why?

Kaitlyn:  In the letter from Paul to Timothy, the word he uses for “despise” literally means “to think down.”  I felt the need to clarify that due to the more modern connotation being more about hating than disregarding.

I often feel overlooked by older generations.  A lot of it is just in passive-aggressive comments here and there about how our generation is “so soft-headed” or “stupid little snowflakes” and so on.  It makes it very difficult to get people to take you seriously when they are so caught up in the little things we do differently than they did, whether it be what we wear, our phones, or any mention of anything modern.  I feel as though we are made to feel shame when we even show a slight interest in the latest fad, like we’ve disappointed them somehow.

It also has a lot to do with the fact that people are often patronizing toward my age group.  They pretend to give us credit, or say what they think we want to hear, or tell us how we “just can’t understand” and forget to even listen to what we have to say, often ignoring us completely.  They tell us to grow up and become more mature, but when we try to talk about mature subjects we are shot down and no one will help us learn how to have those conversations.  So the cycle repeats.  Especially as teens, I feel like we are stuck in the middle.  No adults want to hang out with us because we’re immature, but no kids want to hang out with us because we’re too mature.  Funny how that works, huh?

Adults often get so caught up in reprimanding us and becoming exhausted by us that they forget to hear what we have to say.  I mean, everyone who ever changed the world was a kid once, with dreams and plans.  We are important, and we deserve a voice.  I have occasionally made a comment that was just brushed off, but when an older person made the same comment they were recognized and applauded.  We really do think through things.  We just need a lot of guidance, and I feel adults feel more compelled to give orders than to give guidance.  Teens hate orders.  We aren’t soldiers.  We aren’t all the same.  We don’t all think the same way or want the same things or dream the same dreams or have the same pasts.  We aren’t you, either.  While we may be similar, and you may see yourself inside of us, we aren’t you.  You don’t know our whole story.  You have to listen for that to happen, so please hear us.

Autumn:  I have definitely been guilty of brushing off you and other young people because it is the easier thing to do.  It is much easier to load the dishwasher myself than to train a child to do it correctly.  Just like it is so important to train that child anyway to do the dishes, even though it would be simpler, faster, and much less frustrating to do it myself, the same is true with life’s bigger tasks and issues.  It is easier to do things myself and not have the hard conversations that stress me out.  I certainly have never thought of that as “despising your youth,” but if the term means to “think down,” then that is something I have been guilty of from time to time.

C.M.:  Autumn, Titus 2:3-5 commands older women to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not slaves to wine, and to teach what is good and train younger women to love their husbands and children, be self-controlled, pure, workers at home, kind, and submissive to their husbands so that God’s Word will not be reviled.  What efforts do you make to apply the teachings of that passage to your relationship with the younger Christian sisters in your life?  Which of these efforts seems to work best?  In hindsight, would you do anything differently?  When opportunities to teach younger women these things rise, do you find it natural to do or do you have any misgivings or fears about reaching out to the younger generation?

Autumn:  I have attempted to live out being the older woman in Titus 2 in a variety of ways.  It is not something that comes naturally to me, so I have sought out the help of several tools within the church to facilitate that relationship.  I am very involved with the Lads to Leaders & Leaderettes program, whose sole intent is to mentor young people into active service in the Lord’s church.  Through this program I am able to teach skills, but it also enables me to spend time with and get to know these girls so they see me as a part of their lives.  I also teach the teen girls’ and women’s Bible classes, and I frequently remind both groups of their responsibilities toward one another.

The two primary commands of Titus 2:3-5 to older women are to teach and encourage.  Sometimes, probably too often, we do one but not the other.  We have some older women who are strong in encouragement because they value friendship or popularity with the younger generations over teaching and modeling truth.  Others emphasize teaching in the form of pointing out ways to fix or improve behavior, failing to encourage through positive communication and praise.  I believe Paul is expressing a need for balance in this area, similar to what he tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2:  “rebuke, correct, and encourage with great patience and teaching.”  I remind even the toughest, most hardened girls at our congregation that I love them and am always there to listen if they ever need me, while still teaching the things they need to hear but might not want to hear in Bible class.

My active role in being a Titus 2 woman to younger women and girls has become much more intentional in the past few years, partially because of seeing the outcomes of people I cared very much about who did not have those deep connections.  My personal insecurities were what hindered me then, and until recently I never pursued a mentor role in a young girl’s life unless she sought me out.  Until I saw how bad things went without a godly mentor present, I did not realize the seriousness of that relationship.  It had always been present in my life, and I made assumptions that everyone else had that available to them as well and that those relationships happened organically.  That is one of the deepest regrets I have.

Kaitlyn:  I think Mom does a great job of being a Titus 2 woman, even though we mess up sometimes.  I think there are times in someone’s life where they need more encouragement than they are receiving, and there are times they should be encouraging more than they are.  The purpose of Titus 2 women, in my opinion, is to be there for all of those times and to be the level head, the one who can look at it from an outside perspective to help guide you.

C.M.:  Kaitlyn, in what ways do you as a young Christian woman work hard to set the believers an example in the ways listed in 1 Timothy 4:12?  Do you feel you could improve upon any of them?  Have you observed any positive impact in your life or perhaps in the lives of others as a result of working hard to “set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity”?

Kaitlyn:  I have a “loud mouth” and I like to talk about issues, so showing Christ in speech is both my greatest trait and my biggest weakness.  I fight for those with no voice.  I interact with those younger than me to try to help them.  I am respectful.  I try to make sure I show Christ in everything I say.  I am also a perfectionist and I expect a lot from others, so when they don’t meet my expectations I fall into that deep pit which is gossip.  I live and die on the way others view me, so sometimes I lie to hide my faults.  I am prideful.

I know I am not perfect, no matter how hard I try to be.  Yet I always try to live my life as an example of what a young Christian can look like.  I say “can look like” because I know the way my life looks is not the only way a good, young Christian can look.  Some are quiet and show their Christianity in being submissive and peacemakers, some are talkers and preachers, some are kind, but we really all are amazing human beings.

Autumn:  You got your passion for discussing issues from your parents, so I can empathize with the fact that your speech is your greatest strength and greatest weakness.  I can see your growth in that area, I know others can as well.  James 3 tells us we will never be able to tame the tongue completely, but we have to keep trying.  You set an example for those who are older in so many other ways as well.  In speech, you stand up for what is right no matter the cost.  In conduct, you gravitate toward people who are underserved, unpopular, and disenfranchised and treat them with grace and respect.  You love everyone fiercely and with actions.  With regards to your faith, you teach both those older and younger than you and always are ready to give an answer for that belief (1 Pet. 3:15).  In purity, you strive to keep a clean conscience, something many your age care nothing about.  I believe all of these things have and are having a positive impact on older Christians all around you.  IN the same way that we don’t always acknowledge or appreciate our mentors as they teach, older people sometimes realize the power of the younger generation’s example in hindsight as well.

C.M.:  Autumn, do you see any ways other Christian women apply Titus 2:3-5 in their relationships with their younger sisters in Christ?  As far as you can tell, is this something happening as much as it needs to?  If it is, elaborate on how.  If it isn’t, what do you see in its place in the relationships older sisters have with the younger women?  What suggestions would you make to change it for the better?

Autumn:  I see many women who apply Titus 2:3-5 in the church through formal and informal teaching and training, but there is always a need for more.  Several recent studies over the last ten years have shown that if teens develop meaningful relationships with adults in their congregations, they are much more likely to remain faithful as adults.  I don’t think that is something those of us who qualify as “older” can take lightly.  Souls are on the line!  We have the opportunity to give young Christians a place to belong in a meaningful way and model the love of Jesus to them.  Youth group activities alone can’t do that.  Bible classes alone can’t do that.  This requires intergenerational interaction, something which is very easy to avoid in many of today’s congregations.  Every congregation needs to foster and facilitate opportunities where young and old serve, enjoy, appreciate, and learn alongside each other.  Service activities where young and old work on a project together or reach out to the community in some way can provide the soil for these Titus 2 relationships to blossom.  Having people into our homes is the easiest way to model the teachings of Titus 2:3-5 to others, because it provides a chance to see it in action as we prepare food, interact with our families, and show hospitality.  Teaching from a pedestal of knowledge and experience may look nice but rarely has its desired effect.

Kaitlyn:  I don’t think there could ever be “too many” Titus 2 women, but I think that often there aren’t enough.  It’s very easy to segregate ages and to stay on our own sides with those we connect with more easily, but it is very much worth the work it takes to come together.  I believe both sides will always be better for it.  It may be hard.  In fact, it probably will be.  It may be tiring, but I know it will be worth it.

C.M.:  Kaitlyn, how do you believe the church as a whole and your fellow Christians in your own life — both younger and older — could help you as a young Christian woman to set the proper example in the ways listed in 1 Timothy 4:12 so that your youth will not be despised and, more importantly, Christ will be glorified through you?

Kaitlyn:  I think the best way is the “Paul, Timothy, Barnabas” method.  Everyone in life needs at least one Paul, one Timothy, and one Barnabas.  A Paul is someone to whom you look up as a mentor.  You watch them in an effort to imitate them because you respect them as wiser and more experienced than you.  They are the people you can go to when things are really hard and you need advice.  A Timothy is someone who looks up to you.  You are their Paul.  You should want to guide them, help them succeed, and you enjoy watching them blossom into the great person they can be.  You make sure they know they are safe with you and can rely on you for anything.  A Barnabas is someone whom you view as an equal in experience, someone you can go to when you need the link that comes from being peers and sharing similar lifestyles.  Someone you have fun with and connect to.

If everyone would try to make sure they kept friends on all of those levels — find multiple Timothys to love and aid, Pauls to go to and lean on, instead of sticking only with Barnabases that are easier to empathize with, I think the church would be more united.  Young girls could grow knowing they are worth something, and older women could see what we have to offer while sharing what they have to offer.  If we would mingle among those who aren’t our peers, the church would learn so much from everyone else and we would be more like family.

We all need each other.  We all need to respect each other.  That is the first step, respect.  Don’t talk to those older than you like they are dumb and close-minded.  Don’t talk to those younger than you like they don’t know anything and are all immature know-it-alls.  Talk to Timothys like you would talk to Pauls.  Give us the benefit of the doubt.  Love each other and listen to each other.

Autumn:  I couldn’t agree more.  We taught you, your brother, and your sister the “Paul, Timothy, Barnabas” model several years ago because it works!  That balance of having all three in place is necessary for the growth and unity of the church.

C.M.:  Generally speaking, how would you both describe the relationship between older and younger generations in our society and in the church?  What are the strengths and weaknesses of this relationship?

Kaitlyn:  I don’t think there is much mingling between generations, especially in society.  There are very few things that encompass both old and young women.  We kind of tend to stay on our own sides.  I mean, we even eat at different times than each other, so we barely even see them in restaurants.  At church we have separate classes (which have their benefits; I’m not knocking that), youth events which rarely overlap with the older generation, events between the youngest and even the “youth groups” are very rare.

At the same time though, youth in the church generally respect their elders.  They try to please them, even though they barely interact.  The older generation does try to reach out, I think.  I just think they don’t always know how.  Because we have grown up in such different worlds, it’s really easy to see all the things that are different and we nitpick at them.  Things like fidget spinners manage to cause division.  Progress is always going to happen.  I believe there are things that should be kept as they are, but I also believe we need to move forward.  Jesus brought a lot of social change, so I know it isn’t wrong for things to change.  We just have to stop fearing it.

Autumn:  I would call the current relationship between older and younger generations strained.  If we use tension in relationships as a time for self-reflection rather than judging and blaming, it can be very beneficial.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the norm right now in our highly charged political climate.  Satan is using this to hurt our churches by dividing us.  Issues that are debated politically in our society often have moral implications, so how Christians respond to those things matters.  Yet, how we respond to each other matters too, as people outside the church are watching how God’s people treat each other.

C.M.:  What benefits would result within the church if all of the older and younger Christian sisters in the church actively applied Titus 2:3-5 and 1 Timothy 4:12 to themselves and their relationships with each other?

Kaitlyn:  There would be so much peace!  I mean, imagine if we all respected each other and stopped fighting over silly generational differences!  Then we could talk about the real issues and start making change in the world.  We can’t unite the world if we are divided.

Autumn:  If everyone fulfilled their roles in the church the way Paul describes in these passages, we would have healthier churches, healthier families, and emotionally healthier individuals.  Older people valuing and acknowledging those who are younger makes them feel wanted and useful.  Younger people listening to the wisdom that comes with age helps them build stronger families and make better decisions.  When our congregations are made up of healthy families and individuals, they can devote more time and energy to serving others and reaching out to the lost.

C.M.:  Last question.  What steps need to be taken by both the older and younger generations within our society and within the church to improve their relationships with each other?

Kaitlyn:  We need to stop focusing on the differences and instead expound on the similarities, the best of all being Christ.  If the younger generation would realize the older generation is trying to do what is best for us (even if it isn’t always what is best), we could listen and offer our own ideas and solutions so we could talk.  We aren’t right all the time, and we need to accept that.  We need to have an open dialogue between groups; we could get so much accomplished and we will realize we have much more in common than we think.  If the older generation would be more open to what we say, that would change so much.  I mean, really listen, hear what we are saying, ask us to clarify if you don’t understand.  Just honestly try to see how we think and be willing to see that maybe you were wrong.

Autumn:  I think the two verses that Christians of all generations need to remember when interacting with others are Matthew 7:12 and 1 Corinthians 13:7.  Both of those verses can help us temper our responses to people we don’t understand or agree with, particular with respect to generational differences.  1 Corinthians 13:7 says that “love believes all things.”  Love sees the best in others and gives the benefit of the doubt.  This means that when I hear someone younger than me say that they support something I believe is wrong, I don’t automatically assume they have sinful intentions.  Instead, I might assume they don’t realize the far-reaching consequences of what they support or that they are naïve about the reality of the situation.  Matthew 7:12 then tells us how our interactions should look.  Once we assume the best in a person, we can teach, instruct, model, and treat them with dignity and respect — no doubt they way we would want to be treated if someone disagreed with us.

When those of us who are older happen to be in the wrong, we need to own up to that and trust younger Christians to deal with us in this same way.  When younger people are corrected by the older, they need to feel and see the love and patience from which that correction comes.  When disagreements come that are just differences of opinion, we need to not dismiss or downplay the value of those opinions, whether it comes from a younger or older Christian.

The biggest thing I hear from talking with young girls is that they want older Christians to listen to them.  I think, likewise, the older generation feels that the things they say or teach are being mocked and rejected.  We can’t listen to people we aren’t spending time with, and we certainly won’t have a foundation of where they are coming from to know how to filter the things they have to say.

C.M.:  Ladies, we really appreciate the insights both of you have given to these two passages of scripture and how to improve the generational gap existing to some degree within the brotherhood and our society.  Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions. 

Kaitlyn:  Thank you!  I really enjoyed getting to think so critically about all of this!  I hope someone else can glean some information from it as well!

Autumn:  I’m so appreciative for the chance to be a part of this very timely discussion for today’s church.  Thank you.      

Autumn is the wife of Adam and mother of Kaitlyn, Logan, and Macey.  She is also the Assistant Director of Distant Learning at Heritage Christian University in Florence, AL.  She worships with the Petersville congregation, where she loves teaching women’s classes and working with Lads to Leaders.   

Kaitlyn is a freshman communications major at Freed-Hardeman University.  She has a passion for mission work, social issues, and mental health awareness. 

 

 

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Editorial: Is The Bible The Only Way God Communicates With Man? (November/December, 2017) — Jon Mitchell, Editor

We call the Bible the Word of God, and so it is (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  Yet if a sincere yet unknowledgeable soul asked you to explain why you believe the Bible is from God, or why you believe it is the only way God communicates with man today, would you be able to explain it to him?

It is true that many people during biblical times came to know God without reading Scripture.  In fact, no inspired record of any written communication between God and men exists from Eden until He gave the Ten Commandments to Israel at Mount Sinai and then inspired Moses to write the Pentateuch (Ex. 20:1-17; 17:14; 24:4; 34:27; Num. 33:1-2; Deut. 31:9-11).  Before Sinai, Genesis records God speaking directly to various patriarchs, people and kings (cf. 1:28-30; 4:9-15; 12:1-3) and also indirectly through miraculous prophetic interpretation (40:1-23; 41:1-39).  Genesis also speaks of God-fearing people from families, countries and backgrounds different from those to whom we read that God directly spoke, implying that God also directly communicated with these people even though we have no specific record of such (14:18-20; cf. Josh. 2:9-13).  This divine, miraculous communication outside of inspired Scripture would continue at certain times with certain people during and even after inspired men started writing the Old Testament (cf. Num. 22-24; Josh. 1:1-9; Judg. 6:11-27; et al).

It would also continue during the time when the New Testament was being written.  Men who already had inspired Scripture in the form of the completed Old Testament still directly received communication from Deity during Christ’s time, sometimes without knowing so (Matt. 1:20-25; 2:12-15; John 11:49-52; 12:28-30).  Jesus told His apostles that the Holy Spirit would directly communicate with them after He had gone (John 14:16-17, 25-26; 15:26-27; 16:12-15), which the Spirit did starting at Pentecost and afterwards (Acts 2; cf. 4:31; 5:1-10).  Later, the apostles would lay their hands on other Christians like Stephen and Philip and give them the ability to miraculously receive communication from the Spirit and thus prophesy (Acts 6:5-6, 8-10; 7:55; 8:18, 26-29).  During this time, some of these apostles and prophets were inspired by the Spirit to write the New Testament (1 Cor. 2:10-13; Eph. 3:3-5; 2 Pet. 1:19-21; cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Does God communicate to us directly today?  While He spoke to the Hebrew patriarchs in various ways at various times, He now speaks to us through His Son (Heb. 1:1-2; cf. John 15:15), who is interestingly referred to as “the Word” (John 1:1, 14).  When Jesus told the writers of the New Testament that they would be inspired by the Spirit, He said the Spirit would only communicate to them what the Son and the Father directed (John 16:12-15; cf. 1 Cor. 14:37).  Thus, whenever we read our Bibles we are reading a message from the Son of God, Who is the only way the Father communicates with us today.  Any other method of communication is cursed and forbidden (Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6; Gal. 1:6-9; 1 Cor. 4:6; Rev. 22:18-19).  Not being Scripture, it would not equip us to any truly good work anyway (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  The miraculous spiritual gifts imparted by the apostles  through the laying on of their hands — some of which being direct communication from Deity (1 Cor. 12:1, 4-11) — ceased “when that which is perfect has come” (1 Cor. 13:8-10), a reference in the literal Greek to that which is complete or mature.  The same Greek term is used to describe the complete Word of God (Jas. 1:25; Rom. 12:2).  Thus, the Bible says that miracles involving men — including receiving miraculous, direct communication from Deity — would cease when the New Testament was completed.  God does not lie (Tit. 1:2), so we can be confident that, rather than waiting and searching for some other form of communication from Him, all we need is to go to His Word and “rightly handle” it in order to be on the right path (2 Tim. 2:15).

Yet, can we know that the Bible truly comes from God?  Consider this.  No one can successfully dispute the overwhelming secular evidence that the Bible contains 66 books written by 40 authors over a period of 1,600 years on three different continents in three different languages.  These authors came from very different backgrounds and wrote in very different environments about extremely controversial subjects…and yet there is harmony and continuity in the Bible which is unmatched because all were inspired by the same Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21).  That combined with the overwhelming scientific foreknowledge within Scripture (cf. Is. 40:22; Job 26:7; 28:25; 38:16; Ps. 8:8; Eccl. 1:6-7), the hundreds of prophecies historically fulfilled, and the archeological discoveries continually made which support biblical events show the Bible to be what it claims to be: from God.

Thus, let us “in humility receive the word implanted” (Jas. 1:21) and encourage others to do likewise!

— Jon

 

 

Why God’s Word Needs To Be In Our Heads — Chase Green

Ask any preaching student what was his most daunting task in preaching school, and he very likely may say, “Memory work!”  I can still remember the first time I saw a syllabus for a class in the Memphis School of Preaching.  My heart sank.  How was I going to memorize that many verses in such a short period of time?  And to think that this was just one class!

Memorization of Scripture is generally recognized as one of the most basic requirements for a gospel preacher, but this practice should not be limited to preachers only.  The Bible contains many reasons for this.  For instance, consider Psalm 119:1-3:  “How can a young man cleanse his way?  By taking heed according to Your word.  With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!  Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You(emphasis mine).  The blessed man described in Psalm 1:1-3 delights in the law of the Lord, and meditates in His law day and night.  The diligent parent described in Deuteronomy 11:18-23 lays up God’s Word in his heart and soul and teaches it to his children, speaking of it when he sits in his house, when he walks by the way, when he lies down, and when he rises up.  Furthermore, consider also that the teaching, admonishing, and singing mentioned in Colossians 3:16 is predicated upon individual Christians letting the Word of Christ “dwell” in us.  With these and other verses in view, the importance of Scripture memorization can be seen.

In times past, I believe this concept was better understood among members of the Lord’s church.  It used to be said that members of the church of Christ were walking Bibles, that we were a people that lived “by the Book.”  (If you want evidence for this, I would suggest that you search for the video of Garland Elkins’ magnificent defense of the truth on the Phil Donahue Show.  Notice also how ably the members of the church who were in the audience quoted Scripture.)

So what has changed in the last few decades?  I believe that one of the reasons for this phenomenon is that our modern technology has become a crutch upon which many of us lean.  Why memorize verses, chapters, and whole books of the Bible when we could just memorize bits and pieces of those verses and then do a quick search on our phones?  Why spend hours memorizing Scripture when said search can be accomplished in a matter of seconds?  These are legitimate questions that need answered, and the best answer for them lie again in the verses already mentioned.

The Bible doesn’t say that we should hide the Word of God in our iPhones; it says we must hide it in our hearts Ps. 119:11; Deut. 11:18).  The Bible doesn’t say that we should meditate with tablet in hand, with fingers at the ready for a verse search; it says we are to meditate in the law of the Lord “day and night” (Ps. 1:2), implying the desire to ruminate over the Word while awake and asleep.  The Bible doesn’t say to let the Word of Christ dwell in our computers, resulting in teaching, admonishing, and singing; it says to “let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly,” resulting in those things (Col. 3:16, emphasis mine).

With that said, the Bible is clear that the noble task of Scripture memorization takes effortStudy to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15, emphasis mine).  Even though it is not easy, Scripture memorization is a task that is worth our efforts, and it can be accomplished through diligent study.

One may ask, “But how do I go about memorizing Scripture?  What is the key to being able to do this?”  The answer is simple: repetition, repetition, repetition.  If you can memorize a phone number or an address or someone’s name, you can memorize Scripture!  While it is true that memorizing Scripture takes some getting used to, I believe you will find it easier than you think.  Just keep working at it, and don’t give up!

For the remainder of this article, I would like to offer some tips that helped me tremendously in learning how to memorize Scripture.  First, aim small, miss small.  What I mean by this is that you must start down the path of Scripture memorization by focusing on small, easy-to-memorize verses.  If given the choice between John 3:16 and 1 Peter 1:10-12, choose John 3:16!  Chances are, you will be much more familiar with the passage in John, and it will aid you in building confidence in your memorization.  Then once your mind has warmed up to memorization, you can tackle the more difficult verses.

Another tip that I would recommend is to focus on important doctrinal passages.  Do not get me wrong, every passage in Scripture is important and is there for a reason!  That said, it is much more useful to memorize passages regarding baptism or worship or truth rather than passages such as genealogies or salutations of an epistle.

Next, I would say it is crucial to memorize the verse by breaking it down, phrase by phrase.  For instance, rather than trying to memorize the whole verse, try memorizing John 3:16 one phrase at a time:  “For God so loved the world — that He gave His only begotten Son — that whoever believes in Him — should not perish — but have everlasting life.”  By breaking the verse or passage down phrase by phrase, a daunting task becomes much more attainable.

Finally, it is important to take regular study breaks and sleep on it after you have studied.  The human brain is capable of storing a tremendous amount of information, but even the smartest among us can have a difficult time if our brains become overloaded with too much information all at once.  Therefore, when studying a passage of Scripture you want to memorize, make sure you put it down and go do something else in order to give your brain time to process the new information.  Then go back to memorizing and you should find it easier the second time around!  Also, realize that your brain will process this information while you sleep at night, so when you come back to study the passage the next day, you should find the ability to memorize it much more smoothly.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if members of the Lord’s church once again became known as “people of the Book”?  Let us renew our efforts be more like Christ Who answered, “It is written.”

Chase is a 2017 graduate of MSOP and preaches in West Monroe, LA, alongside his wife and children.

 

Practical Considerations Of An Active Faith — Dave Redmond

A few years ago, I wrote a bulletin article concerning “Freedom in Christ.”  While preparing, I became aware of a wonderful blessing.  Under the Old Law, the Jews were expected to keep hundreds of rules and regulations.  I realized that as Christians, while we are expected to keep commandments under the New Covenant, we have the freedom to choose the way we wish to serve God.  This makes the Christian’s service joyous.

Today we are discussing the importance of an active faith.  Hebrews chapter 11 is known as the “Faith Chapter,” but calling it the “Active Faith Chapter” is also appropriate.  Here, the writer reminds us of Noah, who lived in a time of great wickedness.  He was commanded to build a huge ark in order to save his family and the world’s animals.  This was no small undertaking.  Not only was it physically challenging, but took many years.  All who watched thought he was foolish.  They had not seen rain, much less a flood.  Also, the writer tells us of Abraham, who left his home when God called him.  He was not even certain where to go!  Can you think of a harsher climate than in the Middle East?  With large families, animals, and all their belongings, it must have been a tremendous effort to move even a few miles.  Noah and Abraham are men who listened to God, really believed Him, and followed His instructions.  We are here today with the hope of salvation because of their active faith.

Most of us are familiar with James 2:26:  “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”  Perhaps less familiar is Ephesians 2:10:  “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  Here we find our purpose as Christians.  We were created so that we can perform “good works.”  Amazingly, our loving and omniscient God prepared these opportunities ahead of time.  We have the choice of accepting these opportunities, but we are humbled that He would consider us worthy.  Our decision to demonstrate an active faith serves a greater purpose.  God tells us why we are to perform good works in Matthew 5:16:  “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.”

Unfortunately, after we obey the gospel of Christ it is easy to become complacent in our Christian walk, becoming caught up in the problems of life.  Our faith can weaken, and we can neglect opportunities to serve God.

While we are usually motivated by God’s love, fear of punishment is also effective.  Jesus used the parable of the talents to warn against complacency and laziness when it comes to making use of our abilities and opportunities.  What happened to the man who hid his Lord’s money?  In Matthew 25:26 Jesus described this man as a “wicked and lazy servant,” and he was cast out into outer darkness (v. 30).

The verses which follow in Matthew chapter 25 are sobering.  Here Jesus is describing the judgment, and one’s destiny was determined in very practical terms.  Those who were blessed to inherit eternal life had cared for their fellow man: the hungry, thirsty, sick, homeless, imprisoned, or naked.  Those who did not were rewarded with everlasting punishment.  Jesus said that when we care for others, it is as if we are caring for Him.  When we neglect others, we neglect Jesus too.  He expects us to have an active faith and to demonstrate our faith by our actions (James 2:18).  James then reminds us, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (4:17).

Over the years I have seen Christians of all ages and backgrounds serving God in practical ways.  The remainder of this message is a practical application of the preceding Scripture.

For the child, one of the best ways to serve God is by honoring and obeying parents.  Nothing honors a parent more than to hear from a teacher or neighbor, “Your son or daughter is so well behaved.”  While the child does not understand what faith means, the habit of obedience is developed.

For the Christian teen, it is a blessing to be part of a youth group which serves others while having fun.  Youth groups can visit older people, those who may need help with cleaning the house or yard, and the blessings are mutual.  I remember a sweet older Christian who insisted on serving lemonade after our youth cleaned her yard.  Looking back, these were joyous memories.

After high school, we can demonstrate an active faith through our chosen vocation or during higher education.  For those who can attend college, I think it is a blessing to attend a Christian school.  However, many state universities have a Christian support group and this can offer tremendous encouragement at a time when we become independent.  Several of our local congregations support a campus minister who helps our young people remain faithful.

I remember the wonderful congregation and Christian friends we had during military service.  My wife and I were newly married, and a local church took us under her wing.  For me, learning to lead during worship services was a blessing.  My sweet wife was encouraged by the older ladies, and sometimes we would take communion to an elderly Christian.  We now look back to those years as formative in our relationship, and these were simple ways to put our faith in action.

Whether we remain single or marry and start a family, we can find opportunities to serve in our congregations by teaching, preparing communion, helping in the church office, holding a Bible study, inviting others to services, feeding the needy, donating clothing, or simply asking the church leadership what needs to be done.  For those with young children, getting in the habit of bringing our children to Sunday School is one of the difficult but most rewarding aspects of being a parent.

During our middle years, it is a blessing to be a part of a congregation with elders and deacons.  By now we know more about our talents, our strengths, our interests.  A deacon and his wife gain valuable experience in helping the church.  This is the time when some with children are older, and it becomes more convenient to open up our home to others.  Often, we can be of tremendous assistance during Vacation Bible School and other youth activities because we are old enough to be more mature, but young enough to have the energy.  By now we are often settled in our home and community and there are many ways we can give back, glorifying God by our actions.

As older adults, we usually have a little more time to put our faith in action.  In the congregation, the younger ladies look up to the more mature ladies as examples of faith and service.  Perhaps there is time to attend a ladies Bible class, visit those in the hospital, or prepare food and flower arrangements for various needs.  Also, this is the time when we often begin to lose friends to death.  We can be an encouragement to the depressed, downhearted, and those who are facing financial hardship or difficulties with children.

For the older man, this is the ideal time for self-reflection, perhaps offering to serve as an elder in the congregation.  This is also the time when an older gentleman may be an encouragement to the congregation’s minister, since the preacher is often overworked and goes through the same hardships as others.  Many older men and women are ideal teachers.  In the community, there are ample opportunities to help our neighbors and those in need.  In our congregation, some with financial means help support an orphan’s home, a widows’ ministry, and a Bible camp where our youth interact and some respond to the gospel.

Some of the greatest examples of active faith I have seen are by our most elderly sisters in Christ.  I remember one who continued to teach Cradle Roll, getting down on the floor even when her knees were arthritic.  Another took the time to teach the young girls how to bake unleavened bread and in the process conveyed the importance of the Lord’s Supper.  Yet another would call members of her Life Group, providing updates on the sick, requesting various needs in food, and simply encouraging the lonely.  Age was not a hindrance to serve.

In summary, there are endless ways to exemplify an active faith, demonstrate Christ in our life, and bring glory to our Heavenly Father.  Good works which God has prepared for us are waiting.  Just as in Matthew 25:23, we yearn to hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Dave is a former elder at the Long Creek Church of Christ in Columbia, SC. He is a retired physician who started his career in the U.S. Army Medical Corps.

 

 

Some Observations On Church Attendance — Johnny O. Trail

What keeps you away from the assembly of the saints?  I honestly believe that there are potentially valid reasons for one to miss church.  We should all be thankful for emergency responders, hospital workers, and others who provide vital services during Sunday assembly.  No person would want to arrive at the emergency room and see a “closed” sign hanging up on the door.  By the same token, we want someone to answer the phone when we dial 911 regarding a life or death situation that impacts us in some fashion.  Thus, there are people who sacrifice their family time and time at church to keep our nation safely running.  We are thankful for their service and sacrifice.  Moreover, there are people who are “providentially” hindered.  I would imagine that most members of the churches of Christ have heard these words uttered in a prayer.  Providentially is defined as “relating to or believed to be determined by providence.”

Over several years of preaching, I have noted that those who are hindered by various health and mental issues are the ones who want to be at church the most.  Still, there are people who do not attend church because they are simply too sick to be in the congregation.  I personally know of people who suffer with fibromyalgia and various other chronic diseases.  By experience, I know that those suffering with chronic problems would much rather be in church than at home suffering in pain.  I am of the opinion that God understands a person’s circumstances when they are hindered by health related issues.

We have noted that there are valid reasons why a person might not be able to come to church, but what about the other reasons that might be considered?  Can a person choose to be absent from the assembly and sin by their choice?  I firmly believe so.

Church attendance is up to the individual but is not optional in nature.  That having been said, it is hard to judge the motivations behind one’s decision not to attend. Some might believe that it is bothersome to spend a few hours a week in the assembly.  Under the Old Testament law, certain worshippers expressed the same sort of attitude.  This is meted out in the minor prophet Malachi:  “Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! and ye have snuffed at it, saith the Lord of hosts; and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: should I accept this of your hand? saith the Lord.  But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the Lord a corrupt thing: for I am a great King, saith the Lord of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen” (Mal. 1:13-14).

In all honesty, there is work involved with coming to church.  I am always reminded of my wife, Jada, when we see young mothers struggling with children in the assembly.  Since I was always preaching or teaching a class, she had no help in the pew with children who were small enough to be in diapers.  I remarked to her and young parents in our congregations, “It is like moving a small army!”  Still, these godly parents make every effort to get those little ones into the assembly.  I remember asking Jada one Sunday after the services, “How was my sermon?”  She responded, “What little I was able to hear of it was fine.  Your son wiggled on me the entire time.”  In light of these things, one might ask, “So why go?”

Suffice it to say, she went to demonstrate the importance of being in worship and in the presence of like-minded saints.  All of my sons have been baptized, and they actively participate in the worship of the church.  Before they were old enough to understand what was happening, they would pass around our drink coasters and pretend that they were passing around the trays for the Lord’s Supper.  We have a photograph of our middle son in a diaper, standing behind a potato box, holding my Bible, and delivering a “sermon” for all to hear.  This was because he had parents who cared enough to bring him to church.  More specifically in our case, he and his brothers had a godly mother who was willing to do whatever it took to get them to church.

If you are a husband who can sit in the pew with your family, please help your wife.  If you are a mature member of the body, encourage and offer to help families with small children. Seek to encourage them as they struggle with attendance and rambunctious children. We want to continually pray for our young families as they struggle with schedules and bringing their children up on the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6.4).

Still, there are some who see church attendance as a “weariness” because they had rather be doing other things.  Some families have chosen recreational activities over being in the assembly with the saints.  That having been said, I personally know of families who attend early services before sporting events so that they can demonstrate the importance of church assembly to their children.  Still, there are families who have sacrificed their souls and families to the god of sports and entertainment.  We demonstrate our priorities by the choices we make.  If you fail to make Christ and being in the assembly a priority, so will your family members.

At this point one might quote Hebrews 10.25:  “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”  This passage refers to continually and purposefully being absent from the assembly, and it would include, in my estimation, times other than Sundays. Contextually, it is written to Christians who are discouraged because of various persecutions they were facing.  In part, we attend to church to help us remain faithful (Rev. 2.10) and encourage good works (Heb. 10.24).

Several years ago, I was in an assembly where a brother led the following portion of a prayer.  “Heavenly Father, please punish those who are absent from church simply because they have chosen not to be here…”  I wonder how many of our brethren would tolerate such a prayer?  I believe that it is scriptural because of the following passage:  “For the Lord disciples the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.  It is for discipline that you have to endure.  God is treating you as sons.  For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons” (Heb. 12:6-8).  I sincerely believe that this prayer was uttered in loving concern for the brethren.  We are concerned when we do not see YOU in church.

Johnny preaches for the Sycamore Chapel Church of Christ in Ashland City, TN.  He is a practicing marriage and family therapist.  He is married to Jada and they have three sons, Matthew, Nathan and Noah.

 

Why Are We Christians? — Stephen Scaggs

Our inquiry is a personal one.  “Why are we Christians?”  Indeed, each of us owes an enormous debt to those who have gone on before us, from the faith of Abraham to the courage of restorationists like Guy N. Woods.  Many of us would not be Christians if it were not for our familial heritage, which seemed to be the case with Timothy (2 Tim. 1:5; 3:15).  Yet when it boils down to it, each of us is a Christian because each of us chose it.

The inspired physician tells us “in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians” (Acts 11:26c).  Since that day, this name “Christian” has bound all disciples together, whether Jew or Greek, whether male or female, whether black or white.  In a short time, this name infiltrated the houses of royalty and spread across the Roman Sea (Acts 28:14ff).  By sharing some of the reasons that we are Christians, we might persuade those who hear us each day to become just as we are (Acts 26:28-29).

We Are Christians Because God Has Called Us 

No list would be complete without mentioning God.  The apostle Peter wrote that we are Christians because of God who called us “out of darkness into His marvelous light” (2 Pet. 2:9).  Our English word “call” is quite vague, but the Greek word kaleo can either refer to the act of naming (e.g., as in Acts 11:26 mentioned earlier, or “He was called Jesus” [Luke 2:21], or summoning as in a court summons).  Peter uses the latter sense.  How does God summon us?  He beckons to us through the preaching of His gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ (2 Thess. 2:14).  When people believe and surrender to the gospel call, God has called them out of darkness into His marvelous light.

The apostle Peter repeatedly refers to our calling (i.e., when man responds to His calling) as a point of reference for the excellence of moral character.  His calling sets the precedence for our holy conduct (1 Pet. 1:15); that we may proclaim His excellencies (1 Pet. 2:9); for our following in Jesus’ steps (1 Pet 2:21); for how we retaliate (1 Pet. 3:9); and His calling is how we will inherit His eternal glory (1 Pet. 5:10; cf. 2 Pet. 1:3).

Let us “give the more diligence to make [our] calling and election sure” (2 Pet. 1:10) by living up to His holy calling.

We Are Christians Because We Believe In Jesus

At the very heart of Christianity is the person and work of Jesus Christ.  After all, He is the namesake of our religion.  Fifty days after Passover during the Jewish festival of Pentecost, the apostle Peter stood up and preached, “God hath raised [Jesus] up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it” (Acts 2:24).  The Christ, “though he was a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salvation” (Heb. 5:8-9).

At the center of Christianity are Jesus and His resurrection.  The fact of Jesus’ present living gives Him precedence over all false religions.  Indeed, as one poet writes, “Because He lives, I can face tomorrow/Because He lives, all fear is gone/Because I know He holds the future/And life is worth the living, just because He lives.”

By inspiration, Peter and John declared boldly before the Sanhedrin, “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.  And there is salvation is no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:11-12).

We Are Christians Because It Matters

The motivation for the Christian walk is the prize.  This was the case for the apostle Paul.  He wrote, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).  This was Paul’s driving force behind all that he did.  Paul pressed on because he understood his labors mattered.  As the apostle concisely wrote after discussing the general resurrection, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58).

“The uttermost hevel, says the Preacher, the uttermost hevel!  All is hevel!” (Eccl. 1:2, paraphrased).  This word hevel is a difficult to translate (and it is repeated several times in the Hebrew, simply underscoring the intensity of the word).  In an effort to translate it, some have rendered it “meaningless” (NIV, NLT); “vanity” (ESV; KJV; NASB; YLT); “futility” (HCSB); “pointless” (ISV).  While these words try to capture the meaning of the Hebrew word hevel, the point is not the life has no meaning, but that its meaning is not always readily apparent.  The Hebrew word hevel literally refers to “smoke.”  Just like being in a thick cloud of smoke, the meaning of life is not readily visible.  Yet there is meaning in what is concluded: “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the totality of man” (Eccl. 12:13).

One day when Jesus returns, He will clear the smoke (hevel) and all the pains of this life will dissolve into eternity.  As we often sing, “Soon we will see our dear loving Savior/Hear the last trumpet sound through the sky/Then we will meet those gone on before us/Then we shall know and understand why…Farther along we’ll know all about it/Farther along we’ll understand why/Cheer up my brother, live in the sunshine/We’ll understand it all by and by” (W.B. Stevens, “Farther Along”).

Conclusion 

While this list is by no means exhaustive, it contains sufficient reason for this writer to be a Christian.  We are Christians because God has called us, because we believe in Christ, and because it matters.  If you have never surrendered to Jesus Christ, I encourage you to do so.  If you have any questions, the writers of the Carolina Messenger publication would be pleased to give you a Bible answer to any query you may have.

Stephen is a 2012 alumnus of the Memphis School of Preaching in Memphis, TN.  He is currently living in Dublin, GA, where he is seeking to further his education in ministry.  He is married to Rebekah and they have two children, Emmett and Edison.

 

 

Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ — Robert Bedenbaugh, Jr.

It has been said, “One who studies only the Bible doesn’t know much about it.” This statement recognizes the fact that we are so greatly removed from the original languages. Even what we can read “in black and white” is just a translation and “some things do get lost in translation.” Conversely “commentaries written by men are just that” and not the Word of God. I admit at times, early in life, I blindly disregarded God’s Word because reading and understanding modern human writings was an easier choice compared to following 2 Timothy 2:15.

Instead, consider supplementing your personal Bible study with reference books of the original language: dictionaries, concordances, lexicons, and the like. Any human comment(ary) must refer back to God’s Word or it is opinion. Discern what God meant by where, how, and in what context He used words versus what someone says He meant.

As we explore our topic, we will consider both words, Lord and Savior, their generic and specifically divine uses, and introduce another word that may help blend the two together and clarify our understanding of His role as both our Lord and our Savior.

Jesus Christ, Our Lord (Romans 1:4)

The word kurios, translated “lord,” may also be translated as “master” when referring to one who is in control of another person (Acts 16:16-19; Eph. 6:5-9) and “sir” in situations of cordial politeness (John 4:11-19, 49; 5:7). It is also used and typically translated “lord” when referring to an owner of a thing. Each references, at its root, the ultimate power to control the fate of a person or thing.

Jesus is referred to as the Lord of inanimate objects. He’s Lord of the Sabbath (Matt. 12:1-8,; Mark 2:23-28; Luke 6:1-5). Since He and His Father are One (John 10:30), He is also Lord of heaven and earth (Matt. 11:25; Luke 10:21; Acts 17:24) and Lord of the harvest (Matt. 9:38; Luke 10:2). None of these come as a surprise since He is Lord of everything that exists (Ps. 24:1; John 1:3; 1 Cor. 8:6).

Neither is it a surprise that He is Lord of His people, since they are His (Rom. 12:13; 1 Cor. 6:2). In fact, He is Lord of all people (Acts 10:36; Phil. 2:11) even of those that are called lords (1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 17:14; 19:16). Incidentally, what comes to mind when you hear “Jesus is Lord of lords”? Replace the word “Lord” with any of our definitions. He is Master of masters. He is Controller of controllers. He is in control of those who are in control. He decides the fate of those who decide fates. He is Lord of lords…and King of kings or Ruler of those who rule and reigns over those who reign.

But our topic says “our Lord.” Is He? There are two answers to this question because there are two points of view, one objective and one subjective. If we stand back and view our relationship with Him as the Creator and the Creation, then absolutely yes, He is everyone’s Lord as we noticed earlier (Acts 10:36; Phil. 2:11). He is Lord of all and one day all will admit that fact. Yet if we consider our personal relationship with Him, and ask, “Is Jesus my Lord?”, there may be a different answer. We’re given the opportunity in this life to voluntarily submit to Him and have Him as our Lord (Josh. 24:14-24). We can choose to do otherwise and often we all do fail to submit to Him and allow our lives to be mastered, controlled, and owned by Him.

Some years back, I saw a little skit exemplifying this very thing. The stage was the life of a little girl and in the middle of the stage was a throne. As the skit began, she was on the throne of her life and various individuals would come on stage representing friends and acquaintances, each putting her in different situations. She was in charge and did what she willed. Shortly, one friend actually brought in another friend whose name was Jesus. Jesus and the little girl were introduced and the friend helped the little girl understand who Jesus was, what He had done, what He offered the little girl, and what He required (Matt. 7:21). Essentially, He wanted to sit on the throne of her life. She agreed, got down out of the throne and Jesus sat down becoming her master.

Friends and acquaintances continued to come.  In each situation, she’d ask Jesus what she should do. She would obey, even if she didn’t like His answer. Her friends wouldn’t understand her choices and might ridicule her but she obeyed. As the situations became more intense, she began to argue with Jesus and even try to squeeze herself into the throne with Jesus. At the climax, she shoved Jesus out of the throne of her life and she sat down. She was back in charge. Jesus stood up from the floor, dusted Himself off, and simply asked her, “What are you doing?”

Brothers and sisters, have you ever been there?  Have you ever been at a point where you could imagine that Jesus was asking you, “What are you doing?” Maybe you’re there now. Maybe you’re in that far off country eating pig slop. Someone is waiting for you. Come to your senses and do yourself a favor.  Go home and be willing to owned. Instead, you’ll actually be treated like family (Luke 15:11-24).

Is He your Lord? Objectively, He is whether you like it or not and one day you’ll admit that He is Lord. Subjectively, only you and He know the answer. If He isn’t on the throne of your life, get out of His way and let Him be your Master, your Controller, your Lord.

Jesus Christ, Our Savior (Titus 1:4)

The word soter, translated “savior,” is defined as just that, a savior, a deliverer, a preserver. At that, I think of a life preserver without which we would lose our spiritual life, drowning in sin and its consequences. Maybe you think of something else but roll those words over in your mind and get a good picture of the act of saving. In case that were not enough of a word picture, we look beyond the word to its root.

So often we learn more about a given word by researching its etymology. The noun soter has its root in the verb sozo which is defined as “to save” but also “to make well,” “to restore to health or heal,”, and “to make whole.” Hopefully the analogies are obvious. Jesus Christ, our Savior makes us well from the disease of sin, restores and heals our sin-sick soul, and makes our spiritual life whole again.

He is Savior in both His accolades and in His actions. Let’s observe His accolades as Savior. He is the promised Savior (Acts 13:23), the Savior of His body, the church (Eph. 5:23), and, as pointed about above, the Savior of the world (John 4:42, 1 John 4:14). Even His human name, Jesus, means savior, deliverer, and rescuer (Matt. 1:21). Let’s also notice His actions as Savior. He gives repentance and forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:31), abolishes death and brings life and immortality (2 Tim. 1:10), and is the medium through whom God richly poured out His Holy Spirit (Tit. 3:4-6).

Without any of these facts about or deeds done by Jesus Christ, He would not be our Savior because we would not be saved, nor made well or whole, nor restored to health or healed. He is the Savior of the world because all humanity has the opportunity to have this salvation (Tit. 2:11) but He is, most affectionately, pictured as the Savior of His people (Matt. 1:21; 23:37).

Let’s stay with our last reference (Matt. 23:37), where Christ says He longed to gather the children of Jerusalem as a hen gathers her chicks under her wing. Google images of a hen with her brood. That’s the picture Christ is sharing. He, with arms out-stretched, gathers, covers, and protects those who are His family, or at least He wants to. He desires to self-sacrificingly suffer by sheltering those He loves so dearly, but He is brought to tears by those who “were not willing.”

Are there benefits to being “gathered” to the Savior of the world? Certainly so. There is fellowship with Him and the Father (1 John 1:3). There is life in the light without darkness (John 8:12; 12:44-46; 1 John 1:5-7) but with godliness and contentment (1 Tim. 6:6-10). And just as we see in Matthew 23:37, there is a family (Eph. 2:19-22; Gal. 6:10; 1 Tim. 3:14-15).

Have you been gathered to Christ? Are you gently nestled close to Him…or have you been unwilling? Only in Him who is the fullness of the deity (Col. 2:9) can every spiritual blessing be found (Eph. 1:3). He invites each of us as a group and individually to come to Him (Matt. 11:28-30).

Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ

It is interesting that these exact words are only found three times and each is in the book of 2 Peter (1:11; 2:20; 3:18). Paul does mention the idea once and so does Jude to some degree, but only Peter pens “κυρίου ἡμῶν καὶ σωτῆρος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ.” But before we comment on that, let’s have a few thoughts on inspiration.

I would never argue against the fact that all scripture is God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16) and I, in no way, acknowledge or subscribe to neither dynamic inspiration nor limited inspiration. However, it is noteworthy that each pen-wielder of our New Testament has a personal style. The elite education of Paul can be seen in the letters he penned (large compound words and long sentences) and likewise for John and his lack of formal education (small words and short sentences, yet just as profound). Luke, the physician, has his personality revealed as well. We also have Peter, who, by inspiration, openly admitted that some things Paul wrote were hard to understand (2 Pet. 3:16).

Peter, like John, came from a simple life and was promised to be transformed from a “human who fished” into one who “fished for humans” (Luke 5:10).  His is the only pen that writes “our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” and only three times in only one letter.  Why him and no one else?  I’m not sure that question can be answered this side of eternity, but let it suffice to say that all scripture is God-breathed and the roles of both Lord and Savior are not contradictory but complementary in every way.

The Good Shepherd (John 10)

It seems the roles described separately by the terms Lord and Savior may come together in the role of Shepherd. Jesus shows the Good Shepherd is Lord of the sheep because He owns them (John 10:14) and He even calls them “My sheep” (v. 27). Jesus also indicates that the Good Shepherd is Savior of the sheep because He lays down His life for them (vs. 11, 15) and provides life to them (v. 28).

Consider Psalm 23:1-3 where David wrote of the responsibilities of a shepherd as fulfilled by God. He, as Lord, commands His sheep making them to lie down and leading them. He, as Savior, provides His sheep with that which is required for life (still waters and green pastures) and even restores their very soul.

I close by asking the reader to examine Ezekiel 34 and notice the word pictures God uses of how His sheep were being treated and how He would treat them, being their master and their healer. Also recall the parable of the lost sheep and the risk the Shepherd takes and the care He provides (Luke 15:4-6) all because of His compassion for them (Matthew 9:36). Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, truly is the Good Shepherd.

Robert worships at the Seneca Church of Christ in Seneca, SC, with his wife, Heather, and their daughter, Savannah.