Category Archives: 2014 – Oct

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

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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

Editorial: Reconciliation With God (October, 2014) – Jon Mitchell, Interim Editor

The weeping prophet pleaded, “Restore us to yourself, O Lord, that we may be restored!” (Lam. 5:21). In a sense, the entire message of Genesis through Revelation can be summed up in the concept of restoration…Jehovah reconciling man to himself. We see God’s plea with us in the inspired pen of Paul when he wrote his second letter to Corinth: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20). His love for us is so great, his compassion so deep, his kindness so beyond comparison, that he was willing to give his only begotten Son for our redemption (John 3:16; 1 John 3:16).

Our Father is the source of “every good gift and every perfect gift” (James 1:17). His love for man is so far-reaching that he sends blessings every day even upon those of us who reject him and do not even try to follow his ways (Matt. 5:44-48), which in the end will be the majority of his creation (Matt. 7:13-14). The plate of food for which the atheist refuses to give thanks to a God he refuses to acknowledge, each breath of air taken by Muslims who adhere to corrupted views of their Creator…all come willingly and freely from a God who loves them in spite of themselves, a God who freely offers us all the gift of salvation and eternal life which none of us deserve (Rom. 6:23; Tit. 2:11).

Yet it takes two for complete reconciliation to occur. God’s hand has always been outstretched from Eden until today, and will continue to be held out for us until the day of judgment. Are we willing to take his hand and allow him to pull us back to his side? We are given the choice as to whom we will serve (Josh. 24:15). The Almighty is pleading with us to make the right choice. The apostle wrote, “Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain” (2 Cor. 6:1). God loves us with all his being, and only asks that we do the same by submitting our lives to his will (Matt. 22:37; John 14:15; Rom. 12:1-2).

How Satan tries to deceive us into thinking that we can offer God less than our all and still be restored to him…and how sad it is that he succeeds more times than not! From the beginning God’s followers have often wrestled with the sin of giving him lukewarm, mediocre service (Rev. 3:14-22; Mal. 1:6-9). We love the idea of God saving us from our sins by his grace…and yet we also love to follow own desires instead of his! This leads us to believe Satan’s lie that we are still reconciled to God even if we unrepentantly and rebelliously usurp his authority and turn away from his commandments (Rom. 6:1-2; Heb. 10:26-31; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Friends, our Father in heaven has done and continues to do more than enough to bring us back to him. His hand is outstretched. We must take hold of it by giving to him what is rightfully his…our lives, our service, our obedience.

Jon