All posts by Jon Mitchell

Top Five Challenges Facing The Church – Jamie Bellar

From the moment man was created by God it seems that Satan has worked to drive a wedge between man and his Creator. Yet, even before sin entered into the world (Gen, 3:1-5; Rom. 5:12, KJV), God had purposed the plan by which man, who is separated by sin (Is. 59:1-2), could be redeemed from sin and reconciled unto God who knows no sin (Gen. 3:15; Rom. 5:17; Eph. 2:12-16; 1 Pet. 1:18-21). Just as the cross was according to God’s eternal purpose, another essential component of God’s eternal purpose is the church (Eph. 3:8-11).

According to scripture, the church is: according to purpose of God, the prophecies of inspired prophets (Is. 2:2-3; Dan. 2:44), the proclamation of John and Jesus (Matt. 3:1-10; 4:17), the promise of Jesus (Matt. 16:13-19; Mark 9:1), and it was purchased by the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:23-26). Scripture also provides a number of designations for the church such as, the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27; Eph. 1:19-22; Col. 1:18-20), the household of God (1 Tim. 3:14-15), the temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16-17), and the vineyard of God (Matt. 20:1-2). Also used within Scripture, and the designation that will be used throughout this article, is the kingdom of God (Acts 8:12; John 18:36).

Concerning this designation, brother Rex A. Turner, Sr. observes, “In short, the Lord’s people have been called out of the world. Just so, the term kingdom emphasizes the government feature of the Lord’s people. Christ is their King, and His people are His subjects. Christ’s kingdom is an absolute monarchy. Christ is the King, and the will of the king is the law. Every citizen in His kingdom is under a divine obligation to obey the law. Ignorance of the law does not constitute a defense for the violation of the law, or for a failure to comply with the law.”

From the moment the eternal kingdom was established on the earth, the kingdom of God has been confronted with challenges. From without, the kingdom of God was, and continues to be challenged by persecution (Acts 8:1; Rev. 2:10, etc.), postmodernism, and pluralism. While challenges from without is expected, it is the challenges from within that are the most discouraging, divisive, and destructive. For instance, consider the internal challenges that confronted the church at Corinth as addressed in First Corinthians. Internal challenges caused by personalities (1:11-16), and pride (5:1-13; 11:17-34) were the foundation for discouragement and division at Corinth. Just as internal challenges confronted the kingdom of God in the past, so it is that internal challenges continue to confront the kingdom of God today.

Challenge #1: Ignorance. Historically, one of the things that have challenged the people of God has been ignorance. One is reminded of Judges 2:10 which declares that following the death of Joshua and the generation that outlived Joshua, “there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, not yet the works which he had done for Israel.” As it relates to ignorance, one is also reminded of words spoken by the prophet Hosea as declared about the people of God, “My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children” (Hos. 4:6).

Of great importance is understanding that knowledge is not only a matter of intellectual, but it is also a matter of intimacy. For instance, John declares, “Hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments” (1 John 2:3). God’s desire is not for His people to merely know about Him, His desire is for His people to know Him. Sadly, just as ignorance often confronted the people of God throughout the Old Testament, ignorance often confronts the kingdom of God today. Such ignorance, whether willful, or otherwise, will often lead not only to division among God’s people, but more so division among God and His people.

  1. Ignorance concerning the existence of the kingdom (Col. 1:13).
  2. Ignorance concerning the essence of the kingdom (Heb. 12:28).
  3. Ignorance concerning the entrance into the kingdom (John 3:3-5).
  4. Ignorance concerning the eternality of the kingdom (John 18:36; 1 Cor. 15:24).
  5. Ignorance concerning leadership in the kingdom (Matt. 18:1-4; 20:20-28; Luke 22:24-27). Note: Leadership in the kingdom is not a matter of position and power, but a matter of humble service.

Sadly, while the list could go on, it is imperative that we not be content in our ignorance concerning the kingdom of God, but rather we seek to understand and appreciate those things concerning the kingdom of God. Beloved, let us seek ways by which members of the kingdom of God will be better equipped to tell the lost world about the eternal King and His eternal kingdom.

Challenge #2: Indifference. Another matter that has long challenged the people of God is indifference. By definition, indifference means having a lack of interest, or having a lack of concern. While it a great enough challenge to confront those within the world who are indifferent toward the kingdom of God, an even greater challenge is confronting those within the kingdom of God who are indifferent. Among the areas where an indifferent attitude is seen are:

  1. The purpose of the kingdom of God (Eph. 3:8-11; Matt. 28:18-20).
  2. Worship in the kingdom of God (John 4:24; 1 Cor. 11:23-29; Eph. 5:19).
  3. Discipline in the kingdom of God (Matt. 18:15-19; 1 Cor. 5:1-13; 2 Cor. 2:7-9; 2 Thess. 3:6-14).
  4. Repentance in the kingdom of God (Luke 13:3, 5; 17:3ff; James 5:19-20).
  5. Reconciliation in the kingdom of God (Matt. 5:23-24; Matt. 18:15-35; Gal. 6:1-2).

When members of the kingdom of God possess an attitude of indifference toward these and other matters of Scripture, it should not surprise us that the world would be indifferent toward such matters.

Challenge #3: Identity. To some extent, the first two challenges lead to the third challenge—a challenge of identity. While the religious world often seeks a denominational identity, member of the kingdom of God must not fall in step with seeking that same identity. Sadly, in a world where the overwhelming religious mottos have become “one church is as good as another,” and “attend the church of your choice,” for members of the kingdom of God to embrace such mottos is reflective of either ignorance, indifference, or a “spiritual identity crisis.”

“Identity crisis” has often been a challenge to God’s people. So often the children of Israel wanted to be identified with the world while at the same time remain in fellowship with God (1 Sam. 8:5). Sadly, the children of Israel often found themselves in captivity as a result of their failure to maintain their identity with God by walking with God. For instance, the book of Judges contains a number of instances when, because of rebellion (Judg. 2:7-11), the children of Israel would go into captivity, and as a result, God would raise up judges to deliver them. Not only were the judges raised up to deliver the children of Israel from captivity, the judges were also seeking to restore the identity of Israel through reconciliation with God.

Not only did “identity crisis” challenge the children of Israel within the Old Testament, an “identity crisis” seemed to be something that also challenged the church at Corinth as evidenced by the book of First Corinthians. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul reminds them of the identity they are to bear as a result of being sanctified in Christ Jesus (1:2). Further, he declares not only the demands of bearing such identity (1:10), but also how that identity is distorted by division that is among them (1:11-17). Throughout the book, Paul calls the Corinthians to repentance in order to be reconciled unto God, but also in order to restore an identity that is distorted by sin.

Today, just as in times past, knowing and appreciating our identity as the kingdom of God often presents a challenge to many in the kingdom of God. As result, we need to often be reminded of the need and nature of maintaining our identity as the kingdom of God.

Challenge #4: Involvement. It may very well be that the challenge of involvement is the result of ignorance concerning why one is a member of the kingdom of God. Specifically, for what purpose does one become a member of the kingdom of God? Often, the answer given to the question, “Why did you become a Christian?” is “So that I can go to heaven.” While such an answer is true and good, it does miss an essential component as to why we are Christians.

The apostle Paul declared, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). The phrase “walk in them” denotes that the life we are to live as those created in Christ (i.e. members of the kingdom of God) is to be life of good works. This includes, but is not limited to, evangelism (Matt. 28:18-19; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 8:4), exhortation (Heb. 10:24-25; Heb. 3:13), and entreating the erring (Gal. 6:1-2; James 5:19-20).

Often involvement, or lack thereof, becomes a challenge to the kingdom of God because of a “That’s why we have a preacher and elders” mentality. Sadly, when such a mentality is embraced and enabled, many are robbed of the joy of being involved in the work of the Lord, but more importantly, many opportunities are neglected to have others added to the kingdom of God (Acts 2:47).

Challenge #5: Immorality. Perhaps no challenge has confronted the kingdom of God more throughout history than immorality. Such was a challenge to the people of God in the Old Testament, as well as in the New Testament. While there are many forms of immorality, the term essentially has reference to sin. Immorality presents a challenge to the kingdom of God because it not only separates the individual from God it can also result in many others being separated from God (Is. 59:1-15).

Another reason why immorality presents a challenge to the kingdom of God is because in many instances immorality goes unaddressed and undisciplined. Take for instance, the immorality addressed by Paul in First Corinthians 5. In this particular instance, not only was fornication among them, it was such that is “not so much named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife” (1 Cor. 5:1). However, along with fornication, the church at Corinth had been “puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from you” (1 Cor. 5:2). Because of immorality that had gone unaddressed and undisciplined, at stake were the perpetuity of the soul of the sinner, as well as the souls of those who approved/consent of such immorality (Rom. 1:32), and the purity of the church (1 Cor. 5:6). While there are many objections today concerning addressing and disciplining those who refuse to repent of immorality, Scripture is clear concerning the attitude and actions that the kingdom of God must have toward such (2 Thess. 3:6-14; Gal. 5:19-6:2).

Yes, there are also many challenges that exist within the kingdom of God. The aforementioned challenges are among those from within which we must address and overcome if we desire to be part of the kingdom when Christ presents it to His Father (1 Cor. 15:24). May we have the humility to do so!

jamiebeller@yahoo.com

 

Top Five Methods Of Personal Evangelism – Robert Alexander

The growth of the Lord’s church, both in the universal sense and in the local sense, is something that ought to be of utmost concern to all Christians. “How does the church ‘grow’?” is a question of fundamental and ultimately eternal importance.

Simply stated, growth is accomplished through the instrumentality of God’s drawing power the Gospel (Jn. 6:44, 45; 12:31; Rom. 1:16), which is the seed to be sown into the hearts of all men (Lk. 8:11). Evangelism is the heart and lifeblood of the work of the church. Without evangelism, the church will not grow because the seed will have not been sown. Only when the seed is sown can it produce fruit (Lk. 8:15). Without evangelism, all who are accountable unto God by way of knowing right from wrong, will remain in and die in a lost condition having never obeyed the gospel of Christ (2 Thess. 1:7-9).

Because of the importance of the subject at hand, the question that might be considered is this: “Who is to evangelize?” It is often argued that it is solely the job of the preacher since Paul told Timothy to “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5). Yes, preachers of the gospel are evangelists and must do their part in evangelizing, but they cannot do it alone. The answer is found in Christ’s words within Mark’s account of the ‘great commission’: “Go YE (emphasis mine—RA) into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15 KJV).

In considering these words, it is understood that Christ was speaking to the twelve at the time. However, this command is one of a permanent nature. Never is there a moment from that time on that the people of God are not to be going and teaching. Understanding the basic nature of this command is, by way of implication, deducing that this command applies to you and me as Christians. I recognize that just as my name is implied in such passages as John 3:16 and Matthew 11:28, it is also implied in this particular passage of Scripture as well. When Christ said “Go ye,” He says “Go me (Robert Alexander).” The command of Mark 16:15 applies to ALL Christians. ALL have the responsibility to do their parts in evangelism.

Unfortunately, many are the Christians who do little to nothing in regards to personal evangelism. Excuses abound as to why so many Christians do not engage in personal evangelism:

  1. They do not have a zeal for it (and in reality, the lack of zeal manifests a lack of interest in lost souls.)
  2. They have “no time” for it.
  3. They do not know what to say (i.e., ignorance of the Word.)
  4. They are simply “afraid” (of being rejected, of forgetting what to say, etc.)

However, all these excuses can be nullified, and all Christians can be encouraged by the fact that personal evangelism can be accomplished by all. There are many effective methods by which one may engage in the work of evangelism which ought to encourage every Christian and thus instill a sense of zeal for this important work, which does not take that much time, easing the ‘dread’ or ‘fear’ one may have in regards to doing personal work. The goal of this article is to encourage every member to develop the mindset that “I can do my part in evangelism” by setting forth five effective methods that every member can or may choose to use to help spread the gospel.

Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, etc). As with anything else, social media can be abused. However, if used properly it can be a great tool for teaching others. From personal experience as a preacher, it has thrilled me to see members of the congregation I labor with use Facebook to set forth the gospel. It also thrills me to see members of the congregation use Facebook as an opportunity to invite others to visit with us. Is this evangelism? YES! If you have a fear of talking one on one with a person, then this method is for you. Can you set forth the plan of salvation? If so, post it to a social media site so that those who are your friends but who may not be Christians will read what they must do to be saved. Social media can be used for good discussions of God’s word or to answer questions others may have in a less pressure filled setting. Social media is a great tool that if used properly, can spread the truth of God’s word far and wide simply from one’s computer.

Good Bible Material (Tracts, publications such as Carolina Messenger, etc). The passing out of good biblical material written by faithful brethren in Christ is another effective way of spreading the gospel. Not only can you pass these out, but you can also leave such material in hospital and doctor’s office waiting rooms. When I preached in Cleveland, Alabama, we had a dear sister there who always took a handful of tracts or House to House/Heart to Heart publications with her whenever she went to the doctor or to a hospital. Her method was to leave a bunch on tables there for others to take and read. Was this effective? Yes, because due to her zeal and efforts she came to be known as the “tract lady” whenever she would show up at a hospital.

Separate and apart from the aforementioned suggestion, you might consider when paying bills to place a small tract in the envelope along with your method of payment. Will the tract be read? Perhaps, perhaps not, but the point is by sending it you are doing your part in taking the gospel into “all the world.”

Personal Conversation. Christ is the perfect example of using personal conversation to deal with spiritual matters (please read and study John 4 and His conversation with the Samaritan woman). Christ started out by talking about something both were interested in (physical water) which ultimately led to a discussion of the spiritual. You can engage in personal conversation wherever you are (grocery store, work, gas station, etc). Just strike up a conversation and you never know where it might lead. Remember, in evangelism, you do not have to come right out immediately talking about the Bible. Start out on common ground, listen to the interests of others by showing interest in them and allow the conversation to go from there. It is the personalization that makes the method of simple, personal conversation effective.

A Simple Invitation to Services. Have you ever considered that just taking the time to invite someone to visit the congregation in which you are identified with as a form of personal evangelism? Inviting someone is a form of personal evangelism because of your desire to have the prospect visit and hear God’s word proclaimed from the standpoint of hearing the word of God proclaimed publically. I know several individuals who came to obey the gospel as a direct result of just simply being invited to services. Inviting others may not sound like much to some, but as has been pointed out it is a powerful method of personal evangelism.

Spending Time with Those who are Lost. We all have friends, family and neighbors who have never obeyed the gospel (or who are in need of restoration). We need to spend time with them, and demonstrate before them a Christ like disposition of concern and compassion for their souls, for in so doing they will be influenced by our behavior to either obey the gospel or be restored back to their first love (cf. 1 Pet. 3:1 ESV). I have been told by some dear brothers and sisters in Christ that they were converted to Christ simply by the interest shown them by other Christians through their living of the gospel of Christ before them (cf. Phil. 1:27; Matt. 5:13-16). A kind word, a kind deed or just simply your presence can go a long way in influencing others to come to or return to Christ.

Personal evangelism is not just limited to preachers, it is imperative that every Christian be active in some way, shape or form. And ALL can do so, it just comes down to possessing the “I can!” mindset (cf. Phil. 4:13).

As a Christian, let me encourage you to not be intimidated by personal evangelism. There are many methods by which you can communicate the good news of salvation to others in simple and easy ways that are not intimidating. This article has considered five effective methods every Christian can use in personal evangelism. Perhaps one of these will work or is working for you or perhaps you can think of something else which may work better, that is up to you. May God bless you as you seek to do your part in carrying out the work of evangelism.

roblee79@netzero.net

 

Top Five Blessings Of Being In God’s Kingdom – Vincent J. Eagen, III

The “Kingdom of God” is often a misunderstood term, even among the religious. Historically, God’s Kingdom was known as Israel, to whom he gave the Promised Land. God symbolically dwelt among them in the tabernacle (and later, the temple), gave them victory over their oppressors, and allowed them to face trials when they failed to follow him. Ultimately, God brought forth his own Son through them, and it was known that the kingdom would pass through him. The kingdom was taken from those who failed to follow God, and opened to others (the Gentiles). Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it” (Matt. 21:43). In Jesus’ lifetime, people expected an earthly kingdom, but Jesus clearly stated that his kingdom was spiritual (John 18:33-37; Acts 1:6-8). Clearly, the kingdom is the church.

Still, there are many today who make mistakes about God’s Kingdom, thinking it is a future earthly kingdom. Those who look only for a future kingdom are missing the point, and they are missing out on the glorious blessings God has bestowed on those who are Christians (for every Christian is a member of the church, and thus every Christian is a citizen of the Kingdom of God). “What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?” (Psa. 116:12)

Blessing #1—We are part of God’s family. Paul said, “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the house hold of God” (Eph. 2:19). Isn’t it great to know that no matter where you go, when you find Christians there you are among family? Everyone in the kingdom is part of the same family. We have the love and encouragement of our brothers and sisters as we travel through this life. The Spirit through Paul illustrated it as a body: “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Cor. 12:26). When something bad happens to a family member, we ought to feel sympathy for that member, and if something good happens, we ought also rejoice.

Blessing #2—We have forgiveness. Not just forgiveness for the sins we committed in the past, but forgiveness for our current sins as well. John was writing to people who were already citizens of the kingdom when he said, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). As long as we recognize our sin when we are convicted, and ask forgiveness from the Father, we have continual cleansing from the fountain of blessing. Under this blessing we could also include grace—that is God giving us what we do not deserve, and mercy, which is God not giving us what we do deserve.

Blessing #3—We are heirs. Seeing as we are children of God, adopted as it were into his family, we become heirs to the promise and joint-heirs with Jesus. We inherit all he has to give. “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together” (Rom. 8:16-17). There are several things we inherit. The Hebrews writer described us as heirs of salvation: “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” (Heb. 1:14). He also referred to us as being heirs of the promise: “Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath” (Heb. 6:17).Peter wrote that the Christian husband and wife are “heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Pet. 3:7).

Blessing #4—We have freedom. Paul said, “Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Gal. 4:7). Since Jesus redeemed us, or bought us back, from sin with his blood, we are now freed from our burden of sin and the wages that come with that. According to Romans 6:23, the wages of sin is death. The faithful in Smyrna were promised by the risen and glorified savior that, “He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death” (Rev. 2:11). In Revelation 21:8 we are told that the second death is the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, wherein all those who practice unrighteousness have a place. Because we are citizens of the kingdom, we are free from that burden.

Blessing #5—We have salvation. Because the kingdom is built on the confession that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the living God (Matt. 16:16), and because Jesus lived his entire life without sin (Heb. 4:15), he was able to be that perfect sacrifice that could take away sin from any who would come to him. In Acts 2 we learn that God added to the church—which is the kingdom—those who were being saved. Thus, all those who are part of the kingdom have salvation.

James reminded those to whom he wrote that all good and perfect gifts come from above, from the Father (James 1:17). This suggests that everything that is truly part of the kingdom is good and perfect, and there for our help. Sometimes we get caught up in our lives here and we forget the glorious blessings we have as citizens of the Kingdom of God. When we catch ourselves slipping into that, it would behoove us to take a few minutes to remember who we are, and where our citizenship truly lies. When we take the time to focus on that with which we have been blessed, we will remember that there is no better thing than to be a citizen of the Kingdom of God!

chessed777@yahoo.com

Psalm 73: Drawing Near To God – Samantha Harvey

Psalm 73 is unique in that it tells a story about the psalmist’s struggles with envy, doubts, and his faith in God. However, through his struggles the psalmist Asaph learned to trust in God.

Asaph describes what the pleasures of life could offer him based on the fortunes and prosperity of those around him (vs. 3-5). They had everything their hearts wanted and more and did not lack for anything. They had the confidence of one who could do anything he wished because he had no fear of the consequences. The psalmist describes his temptation to be envious of those earthly possessions because of how much easier they made living.

Asaph also observed the wickedness of his neighbors. They clothed themselves with violence to protect the pride they wore as jewelry (v. 6). The wicked mocked the Almighty God. Their attitude expressed an atheistic view by showing their doubt to His existence. One could say their attitude also expressed a deistic view in that if He did exist He was disengaged from the people (v. 11). Because they had no fear of or respect for God, the wicked felt and accordingly behaved as though there was no reason to give thought to their actions, to care for others, or to filter what comes out of their mouth (vs. 6-12). After all, if one does not believe in God, then he does not have to fear any consequences of committing sin not punishable by human law.

Asaph began to doubt himself for being good because he was plagued and chastened every morning (vs. 13-14). What was the point of all his suffering if this is what being good cost? It was too painful for Asaph to comprehend… until he went into the sanctuary of God (vs. 16-17). Only then did he come to understand the ultimate destiny of the wicked: destruction (vs. 18-20, 27).

Ladies, the world seems like it has a lot to offer us. Wealth, pride, and pleasures of all kinds are at the top of the list. However, in reality the world is a sinking ship. Asaph observed how the wicked spoke loftily, and the unfaithful of today share the same attitude (v. 8). The Hebrew word used for loftily means “‘haughtily,’ as if from on high.’” If we don’t serve the Most High God, we become self-serving and lead a sinful life. How would we be different than those evil people described in the psalm?

When we seek to serve ourselves, we don’t always make the right choices. Just look at the way people dress immodestly, speak hatefully to one another, use foul language, treat others disrespectfully, lie, steal, cheat and use the name of our God and Savior in vain. In addition, we see how people are affected negatively by greed and power every day. The news and cable programs on television reflect society’s unscriptural view of marriage and its promotion of irresponsible parenthood. The media also promotes premarital lust and fornication. Furthermore, people turn to drugs and alcohol to escape their troubled hearts, minds, and souls instead of turning to God for relief and comfort. I’m sure Asaph witnessed many of these same sins.

Feminism in some ways has been detrimental to the mindset of Christian women. God instructs women to be submissive to their husbands in everything “for the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church” (Eph. 5:22-24). Ladies, do not think because you can gain power and money in your place of employment that you are entitled to rule your household. It is good for a woman to be able to provide for herself and her family within the guidelines set by God. Paul writes to Titus beseeching the older women to admonish the younger women to be home-makers and obedient to their own husbands (Titus 2:3-5). When choosing to work outside the home, ask yourself “Am I doing this because I want to or because I need to?”

Ladies, you don’t have to go down with the ship. Satan made his choice. He took the pathway that leads to destruction and awaits eternal damnation. He wants you to come with him. That is why he fuels your selfish desires. Abandon ship! Ladies, remember that you have a life preserver in Jesus Christ. He has planned to rescue you before the foundation of the world (Matt. 25:34). Yes, you are that important to Him! Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and no one comes to God except through Him (John 14:6).

Sadly, choosing to serve Jesus is a choice that few make “because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life” (Matt. 7:13-14). It is easier to serve ourselves and obtain our own satisfaction than it is to serve God. In order to serve God, we must make sacrifices of what we have, such as money and personal time, as well as what we allow ourselves to do. Asaph realized how the wicked are on the brink of disaster and how their wealth and pride are valueless in the place of eternity (vs. 18-19). Although we can empathize with Asaph for wanting to make things easy for himself, we can rejoice in his decision to renew his trust in God and his commitment to Him. Ladies, are we making the same decision?

When life gets hard and you start to doubt yourself or your faith weakens, do what Asaph did. Go to God and He will straighten things out for you. It was after doing this that Asaph realized his foolishness and was penitently thankful for God’s protection, counsel and reward (vs. 21-24). As a result, his trust in God was renewed as we can see in verses 25-26: “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Although being righteous as God asks will cost you things you could have while you are here on earth, it is something worth dying for because the reward is far greater than any pleasure this world could give. Going to God is no further than a prayer away and the effort of studying God’s Word is well worth it. It is the most important investment you could ever make and it has the most rewarding return! As Asaph said in verses 27-28, “For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry. But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, That I may declare all Your works.”

James instructs us to “submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (Jas. 4:7-8). Ladies, we are drawing near to God when we study our Bibles, pray, thank Him for all our many blessings, sing hymns and spiritual songs, and keep His commandments. I have found that I have to consciously make these decisions. Sometimes I struggle to study and pray as I should because I would rather read a novel, watch a movie, take a nap with my son, or run errands. However, when I choose to do God’s will for me, I benefit tremendously. The more I study and meditate upon God’s Word, the closer His teachings are at the front of my mind. Consequently I become more proactive with initial godly choices instead of reactive with self-serving choices. I can tell when I have not studied God’s Word enough because I end up looking back at a situation with remorse and repentance on what I should have done because the biblical teachings were at the back of my mind at the time. If only I had remembered God’s counsel when I needed to remember it! Ladies, only with continual study and meditation will we store up God’s words in our hearts so that we don’t sin against Him (Ps. 119:11).

It is best to approach situations with God in mind in foresight rather than hindsight. Asaph and James would agree that one can only do this if he or she is drawing near to God. When I draw near to God in the ways described above, my relationship with my husband is better because I remember to be submissive and exhort the qualities found in Titus 2:3-5 and Proverbs 31:10-31. I feel like I am a better mother, a better friend, and a better teacher when I put to practice what I study in 1 Corinthians 13 where love is described. In these ways God has drawn near to me because I have drawn near to Him by studying His Word. Furthermore, studying has improved my prayer life because I learn the areas in my life that need improvement and can therefore petition the Almighty for assistance. Since there is always room for improvement, this will be a life- long process that takes a life-long commitment. However, we can accomplish it with God’s help (Phil. 4:13)!

In conclusion, we must regard the warning of Psalm 73 to not be envious of the prosperity of the wicked for they will receive their judgment in due time. Let us renew our trust and confidence in God by drawing near to Him through studying the Bible and prayer. I am thankful that God has given us in written form the tools to help us be successful in keeping His commandments. When we choose to use them, we will be better Christian women overall.

sharvey08@att.net

Remembering N.C.S.B.S. – Jim Hobbs

When I stop to consider the effects that the North Carolina School of Biblical Studies has had upon my life, my thoughts immediately flash back to the two years I spent there, to the time shared with dedicated brothers and sisters in Christ. With the benefit of seven years hindsight since my first day inside those doors, and five years removed since my graduation, I can now understand that this school has a long-term mission. The goal is to slowly, deliberately mold its men into knowledgeable servants of God. The two years of intense study and practice were but the beginning; the true tests are faced after the final day of classes has concluded.

It mattered not at all that I entered the NCSBS as a fifty-four year old husband, father of four grown children, grandfather of nine, and foster-dad to an eleven year old little girl. My initial thought had been that I would be looked upon as being too old to start school again, but I quickly discovered that my age and experience as a manager and professional salesperson with a major corporation were actually great assets. The most difficult hurdle to cross was that of leaving my wife and home, moving about three hours away to Clemmons, N.C. Therefore, with little more than my clothes and a commitment to myself to become a much better Bible student and teacher, I headed west for school.

My first realization as I began my classes was that there was no introductory period; we jumped into the deep end from day one. The reading was non-stop, which was most agreeable to me. It also became quite apparent that research papers would be the norm and not the exception for nearly every class. Looking back from today’s perspective, I can appreciate the value of personal research into required topics and the transferring of gained knowledge into written words. The organization of facts and ideas into a logical progression of structured argument is one of the great teaching tools utilized by the instructors at the NCSBS. This required activity, practiced over and over again throughout the two years of classroom learning, is one of the school’s greatest strengths.

I quickly noticed during the first week of classes that the men enrolled had come from various academic backgrounds. Some twenty- five years earlier, I had been fortunate enough to gain much experience in writing term papers during my undergraduate and graduate school years in college. Conversely, there were men in my classes who had not gained such educational training. One of the great tributes that can be given to the instructors of our classes is that they were willing to work with these men as they struggled with the required research papers. These men worked exceptionally hard, and at the end of two years there was an evident mastery of the term paper displayed by all.

While I possessed an advantage in terms of writing skills, my shortcomings in Bible knowledge were glaringly evident to all, including myself. It was a long and arduous road, but with the requirement of scriptural memorization being present in nearly every class, my knowledge and understanding of God’s word slowly increased. The very process of striving to memorize blocks of verses taught all of us the necessity of hard word, dedication, and patience. During my drives home on weekends, I would find myself taping the memorization passages to my steering wheel, stealing a glance every now and then to check my progress. The mandatory use of time management became a seven day a week, twenty-four hour-per-day reality. It took but a few days to come to this understanding: If I were to complete my assignments on time, then the time in my car traveling was to be put to the best use possible. There was no reason to complain about the hours it took to complete my assignments, for as I worked, I was learning. I was being shaped into a servant for God. I had come to school to learn, and I was committed to doing so. The NCSBS provided me with the structure within which I could grow in God’s word without boundaries.

A great strength of the NCSBS is to be found in its sponsoring congregation, the Warner’s Chapel church of Christ. The school of preaching is a local mission work for this congregation and its elders. With much planning, patience, and prayer, this loving assembly of the Lord’s people has made it a congregational goal to soundly train men in God’s word. The preachers, elders, deacons, and members of Warner’s Chapel unfailingly supported me in my efforts to learn and understand the scriptures. I am not exaggerating at all in declaring that these godly people supported me, cared for me, and literally fed me for two years. Whenever I was feeling overwhelmed by the workload ahead, I could always draw strength from this congregation, knowing that it was constantly praying for my success. The backing of a congregation such as this one was of immeasurable benefit to me as I struggled with class work and with being separated from my family.

Just prior to my graduation from the NCSBS, I took a few moments to reflect upon how much I had changed as a man, and as a Christian, after two years of study. My conclusion was this: I had stretched myself farther than I thought was possible, I had grown both spiritually and in biblical knowledge, and I had developed prayer habits which had been non-existent upon my arrival. Most important of all, though, was the realization that I had learned to put my trust in God. He had provided for me during that period of time, and He is still doing so today.

It is not stretching the truth to say that I have referred to my notes taken from classes at the NCSBS nearly every week since my graduation five years ago. Having kept all class notes in individual binders, it is possible to quickly refresh my mind on topics as they now come before me in real-life situations. Additionally, I now find myself adding to these binders as classes are taught in the local congregation or during lectureships. It is now possible for me to reference literally hundreds of pages of relevant notes and nearly one hundred and fifty books I now possess as a direct result of my time at the NCSBS. Together, we share the common goal of saving lost souls, and there is no substitute for sound preparation as we meet the spiritual struggles of individuals on a daily basis.

At times, I find myself in need of further guidance as I face these challenging situations. Without hesitation, I call one of my former instructors, knowing that I can place my trust in their words. Such relationships are invaluable, and they have come about as a direct result of my time spent in Clemmons, North Carolina at the North Carolina School of Biblical Studies.

Looking back over the past seven years, there is no denying the fact that a two-year period of time in biblical study changed my life forever. Do I have any regrets for the time away from home, for the endless hours spent in reading and study, for the effort exerted in memorizing countless verses of scripture? The answer is an emphatic, “No!” James provided us with the end result of such efforts when he wrote through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8).

jlhobbs@earthlink.net

Remembering C.C.S.O.P. – Jariell Cooper

In the 1990’s several preachers from the lower midlands area met on Saturdays teaching classes to members of surrounding congregations who were interested in more knowledge and training in the Scriptures. Several meetings were conducted to consider and plan a full-time school with Joseph Barr, Braker Carter, Roland Cumbee, Billy McVey, Melvin Sapp, Halbert Tucker and Larry Williams being present. Thus the Central Carolina School of Preaching was established in 1995 in the vicinity of Kingstree, South Carolina. In 2001 it was moved to the Kingsbury Road Church of Christ building in Sumter. The Central Carolina School of Preaching is currently under the oversight of the Kingsbury eldership (Claude Helton and Melvin Sapp). Melvin Sapp serves as director.

The school offers a two year program, which places emphasis on doctrinal soundness and absolute authority of the scriptures. Within this program are offered contextual studies of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Also other related subjects such as Bible Geography, Greek Language, Christian Evidences, Personal Evangelism, The Godhead, The Preacher and His Work and many more. The program is composed of 64 classes, each class lasting three hours Tuesday through Friday, with Monday being a study day. The school also provides a house to accommodate some of the students. The Central Carolina School of Preaching has a code of conduct which is based upon Bible teaching. All students are required to wear suits and ties to class.

I gained some wonderful experiences with the Central Carolina School of Preaching that will never be forgotten. I entered the school in 2012 after being baptized into the Lord’s church in 2011. Being a new convert there were many things needed to be learned. I had never preached or taught a Bible class anywhere. The Central Carolina School of Preaching provided all of those things that were lacking to become an effective gospel preacher.   I am thankful to God for this great institution.

Being a student at the Central Carolina School of Preaching was more than just being in a classroom.   A person doesn’t have to be in a classroom to be considered a student. The word “student” is defined as one who studies or learns. A learner is a disciple is a student. The apostles of Jesus were initially his students involved in a variety of activities. While students with the Central Carolina School of Preaching we had the opportunity to participate in funerals, food giveaways, teach Bible classes, attend many gospel meetings and lectureships, and take a trip to Trinidad and Tobago to help with personal evangelism (along with many other activities). All were wonderful experiences that I will never forget.

The Central Carolina School of Preaching provided us with a lot of information that was amazing regarding many things. One item that the school helped us with was the work of the Holy Spirit which is confusing to many today. Before I attended the school I held several false views on the Godhead such as that Jesus and the Holy Spirit were the same being. The school presented a proper comprehension of the Holy Spirit. The class entitled “The Godhead” expounded on the work of each member of the Godhead. Learning about the Godhead was vital especially in a society that needs to know about the Trinity. The information regarding the book of Revelation was also highly interesting. I learned that most of the events in the book are completed. Before attending the school I believed that most of the events in the book of Revelation were still occurring. What was taught in the book of Daniel was also amazing. It was surprising to learn that Daniel predicted many specific historical events of the ancient Mediterranean world as well as the kingdom of Christ.

There were some great experiences shared with fellow class mates while attending the Central Carolina School of Preaching. The friendship and fellowship that we developed for one another was astounding. It was encouraging to be among brethren who were endeavoring to do the same work. We were from different areas and getting to know one another was great. Sometimes we would dine-out and fellowship with one another. There were times we sang hymns and prayed together. We encouraged one another and visited various congregations together. We would study together and help one another with various assignments.

The Central Carolina School of Preaching provided us with a lot of advantages. Most of my instructors were gospel preachers for many years. Thus the experiences that they had as gospel preachers were shared with us. They were capable of answering all of our questions due to their many years of study. We had access to approximately 200 years of knowledge and experience from the instructors in the Central Carolina School of Preaching.

Being a student in the school of preaching provided me with a lot of time in the pulpit. There were several congregations that allowed me to preach for them.   There were at least ten different ones that allowed me to speak from time to time. Not being familiar beforehand with preparing and delivering sermons speaking in their pulpits was highly beneficial.

The school distributed a lot of material without any cost (which was a blessing). There was never a time when collections were taken in the school for the cost of books, paper, travels, etc. All the things that we received in the Central Carolina School of Preaching were free. There were several congregations that sent books to the school without any cost. Some preachers gave books to students. The school provided us with an abundant amount of material. And much of the material that we received was expensive.

If you desire to gain more Bible knowledge and/or to become an effective gospel preacher, the Central Carolina School of Preaching is certainly for you. It is superb in its training and distribution of knowledge of the scriptures. The school still adheres to the teaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The world needs more gospel preachers, who are willing to stand firm and boldly proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ without additions or subtractions. These are the kind of men that the Central Carolina School is developing every year. If you have any interest in the school we certainly would love to communicate with you. If you desire more information call the director, Melvin Sapp, at (803)-775-0510.

Jariell.cooper@yahoo.com

Lessons Learned From The Jerusalem Church – Tim Bench

Acts chapter 2 discusses in great detail many of the attributes and details of the church established in Jerusalem. It can and often has been often argued that the ideal, perfect, and biblical precepts of how a church is to be operated is exhibited within this chapter of Acts. In this article, we will briefly analyze and discuss four facets of this first century congregation and how the church of the 21st century can, and should, in many ways emulate this example.

The amazing effectiveness of the evangelistic efforts of the Jerusalem church

We are to “take the Gospel into the whole world” and “unto every creature” (Mark 16:15). Nowhere in scripture does a church fulfill this command and commission more effectively than the church at Jerusalem.

In Acts 2:41, we see 3,000 conversions from a largely Jewish audience in a single day, with 5,000 more on another day (Acts 4:4). Mass numbers of Jews had ventured to Jerusalem for Pentecost, one of the three feasts of the Jews (2 Chr. 8:12-13), with the others being Passover and Tabernacles. “Pentecost” was also known as “Firstfruits,” “Harvest Festival,” and “Feast of Weeks” (Lev. 23:15). Having such a massive Jewish audience would provide the perfect opportunity for these earliest Christians to widen their following. These mass baptisms likely occurred at the pool of Siloam, just south of the Jerusalem Temple, or possibly Upper Gihon or Lower Gihon (“Pool of the Sultan”).

The sheer numerical tallies, impressive as they may seem, of these early evangelistic efforts do not serve to adequately express the impact of these early efforts. We can certainly assume there were uncounted and unrecognized results from that first sermon in the power of Pentecost, lost to history. Masses of people heard the Word, and were converted, and obeyed and received baptism, and were thus added to the Lord; these people would soon return to their homes and native lands across the known world of the time, and would thus help dramatically to help spread Christ’s message. We can never know precisely how many souls were ultimately affected and influenced for the cause of Jesus Christ due to the Jerusalem church efforts, but certainly it would be exponentially higher than the specific numbers we are provided in Acts 2. A seed was planted, so to speak, which would spread across the Middle East, and ultimately the world.

Even Jewish priests, seemingly the ones who would be the most resolute in their dedication to Judaism, were brought to the gospel (Acts 6:7). Souls were added to the church daily (Acts 2:47), proving that these jaw-dropping evangelistic results were ongoing, consistent, and startlingly effective.

We may well never equal the amazing numerical conversion results, but we certainly can, and should, apply the evangelism efforts seen in Acts 2 to today’s world, largely apathetic and indifferent to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As is stated above, we cannot know the effect, for untold generations to come, of a person who obeys Christ…saving “merely one” might well be the prelude to saving many, many more. One saved soul, fervent and dedicated to the cause of Jesus Christ, may influence many more to follow, across geographical areas as well as for the future.

Stewardship and need

We see a startling view of wealth, money, and stewardship from these early saints. Let us briefly consider the circumstances and atmosphere of the day. There were literally thousands of people on pilgrimage in Jerusalem, many of them hundreds of miles from their homes, with no effective way to provide for themselves food and shelter. The only realistic way to provide for the gathered masses was for followers of Jesus Christ to surrender their own possessions, selling what they owned so that the proceeds might be given to the church for “distribution” to every man who had need (see Acts 4:31-35).

The Jerusalem church was filled with cheerful and supportive givers (2 Cor. 9:7). There was no rampant greed, no thought of self, no hoarding or desire to gather and accumulate the temporal possessions of this world. Possessions were “all things common,” the expressed ideal of community of goods, lands, wealth, and possessions. This phrase does not, as some would claim, indicate that everyone was obligated to sell off everything that was owned, but instead illustrates the ideal that all held their possessions not for satisfaction of their own wants and lusts, but as a communal trust for the good and benefit of all. We see this theme expressed in 1 John 3:17 as well.

Many of the Jews present had traveled vast distances and had few, if any, supplies. People willingly give what they had so that others might have what they needed. This is a startling and foreign mindset for many in modern culture, where the pursuit of wealth and “things” is tantamount to self-worth and “success” for many people. The Jerusalem church did not merely give from convenience, as we often do today, but gave until they impoverished themselves (see Heb. 10:32-34, Acts 11:27-30, Rom. 15:25-27) for the cause and the mission of Jesus Christ. These amazing first century Christians did not regard their possessions and wealth as belonging to them, but instead as the property of the brethren as a whole, and thus to be shared as need arose (see Acts 2:44 and Acts 4:32).

How many of us today would truly be able to say that we would do likewise? Could you literally sacrifice EVERYTHING you owned in the name of Jesus, to help provide for the needs of others you do not even know?

Necessity of baptism clearly established

Numerous faiths, denominations, and “churches” of today will claim that baptism is not at all necessary for salvation, or that salvation may be a necessity but somehow precedes salvation. It is imperative that churches of today can effectively address this all-too-common viewpoint, which is also thwarted in Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, etc.

A cursory reading of Acts 2:37-38 seems to clearly illustrate the necessity of baptism, except for those who simply choose to not read the text openly. The Jews, upon hearing the preaching, were “pricked in their hearts” and ask the eternal question of “What shall we do?” for salvation (this clearly demolishes the viewpoint that “faith alone” or “faith only” provides salvation). Peter does NOT tell them that they are saved by faith alone, and replies “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Scripture is abundantly clear here in response to the “What shall we DO?” query. What they were “to DO” in response to hearing the Gospel is stated with no ambiguity by Peter. They were to be baptized for the remission of their sins.

Earthly leadership established

The church at Jerusalem was established and organized as per biblical principle, not upon the whims of culture of popular opinion. Specifically, elders were selected and installed to oversee the church (Acts 15:6 and Acts 15:22). Deacons were likewise selected (Acts 6:1-7). These men (and contrary to popular public opinion amongst many today, elders and deacons were NOT to be women) were selected based on qualifications very clearly specified and described in 1 Tim. 3:1-10.

It is important to note that the church at Jerusalem, established biblically, did NOT belong to or adhere to dogma from any “society”, national group, “accrediting agency”, “convention”, denomination, ecumenical “alliances”, board of directors, or any other earthly foundation. Each individual church was to be established and overseen by elders, who would be responsible for their individual congregation (Acts 11:29-30).

In summary, the Jerusalem church serves as the epitome of Christianity in its most pure, first century-form. The structure, function, and amazing effectiveness of this church should serve as the inspiration and goal of Christians every bit as much today as it did nearly 2000 years ago. We have no better model to emulate or imitate than the Jerusalem church.

Tulsa4@aol.com