Tag Archives: Cougan Collins

The Conversion Of The Ethiopian — Cougan Collins

Philip, the evangelist, had just finished a great work in Samaria converting many to Christ, including a “sorcerer”. His next mission would be one individual (Acts 8:26). God used an angel to direct Philip to the right location to meet a man who was ready to hear the gospel. Angels are used in many ways, but they were never used to proclaim the gospel to the lost (Acts 11:13-14). He is told to go south toward the road that goes between Jerusalem and Gaza. Gaza is one of the oldest places mentioned in the Bible (Gen. 10:19).

Philip does not argue with the angel; he arose and went (vs. 27-28). The eunuch was the treasurer of Queen Candace. All the queens of Ethiopia were called Candance, similarly to how the rulers of Egypt were called Pharaoh and the rulers of Rome were called Caesar.

According to BDAG, eunuchs were “(a) castrated male person … Eunuchs served, esp. in the orient, as keepers of a harem (Esth. 2:14) and not infreq. rose to high positions in the state.” Even though this eunuch was not allowed to go into the temple, he still traveled hundreds of miles to worship God in Jerusalem, which shows his dedication. I wish more Christians had this same zeal to worship God. The eunuch was returning home on his chariot and was reading a scroll from Isaiah the prophet.

The Holy Spirit tells Philip to overtake the eunuch’s chariot (v. 29). The Holy Spirit didn’t teach the lost the gospel either. Instead, He would direct preachers like Philip to the person that needed to hear it. Today, salvation is taught by the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Eph. 6:17).

Philip hears the eunuch reading from Isaiah, and he asked him a great question: “Do you understand what you are reading?” (v. 30). The eunuch didn’t understand what he was reading, and he needed someone to guide him (v. 31). His lack of understanding does not mean that we can’t read and understand the Scriptures on our own because we can (Acts 17:11; Eph. 3:3-5; 1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 1:19; Rev. 1:3). However, a person new to reading the Bible can benefit from a person who has studied it for years. The eunuch invited Philip to join him (v. 31).

The eunuch wanted to know if the prophecy was about Isaiah or someone else (vs. 32-24; Is. 53:7-8). Philip answered his question by preaching to him about Jesus from Isaiah 53 (v. 35). Though we don’t have the details, we know he taught him the same basic message he taught the Samaritans, which included Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection and what he needed to do to be saved.

The desert spoken of earlier (v. 26) was not dry sandy wasteland but was just an isolated place because there was a pool of water there (v. 36). As Philip preached to the eunuch about Jesus and what was needed to be saved, he taught him about the necessity of baptism. We can know this because when the eunuch saw the pool of water on the side of the road, he immediately wanted to know if there was anything preventing him from being baptized, which shows his eagerness to become a Christian (v. 37).

Some Bible versions don’t have verse 37 because it isn’t found in any of the earlier manuscripts. However, part of the Ethiopian’s confession of faith in Christ was quoted by Irenaeus in the second century (Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. 1 Against Heresies, III.xii:8), which suggests that it belongs there. Also, the answer and the response given in verse 37 fits naturally within the text. Even without this verse, it doesn’t take away from the question the eunuch asked.

Philip said that he must believe with all his heart, and the eunuch makes the confession that Jesus is the Son of God, which agrees with what Jesus said: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk. 16:16). A person must believe before he can be baptized. You will notice the eunuch didn’t schedule his baptism later so his family members could watch it. No, he saw the water on the side of the road and he wanted to be baptized immediately.

The eunuch commanded the chariot to stop, and they went down into the water (v. 38). Philip baptized him, and they came up out of the water. Those who teach that pouring or sprinkling is a valid way to baptize will say that they went to the edge of the water and Philip either took a cup and poured some water on him or perhaps put his fingers in the water and sprinkled him. We can know this is not true because the Greek word that has been transliterated into the word ‘baptism’ means to dip, plunge, or immerse. Besides, the text says they went ‘into’ the water and ‘came out’ of the water, which proves they did not just go to the edge of the water.

When they came out of the water, the Holy Spirit sent Philip to a new area, and the eunuch continued his journey home rejoicing because he knew he was saved (v. 39). Rejoicing was the typical response of those who had been baptized (Acts 16:34). The eunuch had a lot to rejoice about because he would no longer have to make an arduous journey to worship God outside the temple in Jerusalem. Now, he would be able to worship God in a local congregation with his brothers and sisters in Christ with no division, and we have the same privilege today. 

Cougan is the minister of the Lone Grove Church of Christ in Lone Grove, OK.

Thoughts on Prayer – Cougan Collins

God talks to us through His written Word. However, prayer is how we talk with God, praise Him, thank Him and make requests of Him. In this article, I will show you that prayer is a part of our public worship and our private lives as well. I will also answer the following questions: How do we pray and by what authority do we pray? How should we pray in public worship? Finally, I will give you four steps to a better prayer life.

How do we pray and by what authority do we pray? Study the words of Jesus in Luke 11:1-4. In this model prayer, notice to Whom the prayer is directed: the Father in heaven. Consider also what Jesus said in John 14:13, 15:16, and 16:23. What do all of these verses have in common and teach? Jesus made it easy to see that our prayers are to be directed to the Father, and we are to pray in His name, or by His authority. Based on His teaching on prayer, we are not supposed to pray to the Holy Spirit or to Jesus. Rather, we are to pray to the Father in Jesus’ name. This is the example we find throughout the Bible (Ep. 5:20; Co. 3:17; Ac. 4:23-30).

How should prayer be done in public worship? In our public worship, two things happen during a prayer. First, a person leads the prayer. Second, everyone else is listening to the prayer and making it their own.

Who should lead in prayer?   James teaches us that we need a righteous person leading the prayer (Ja. 5:16). We should never want a person living in sin or a non-Christian leading us in a prayer.

“Well, what about a righteous woman? Is it acceptable for her to lead prayer in a worship service with men present? Paul gives us the inspired answer (1 Co. 14:34; 1 Ti. 2:12-14). In doing so, he is not being a chauvinist pig. He doesn’t have a bone to pick with women, nor does he view them as being lesser than a man. He was an apostle of God, and he is teaching us how God wants things done within His church.

Interestingly, the word “silence” in the above passages doesn’t mean absolute silence; if it did, a woman couldn’t tell her children to be quiet or even sneeze during worship or she would violate this scripture. All Paul is saying is that a woman should not take a position of authority over the man in public worship, which would exclude her from leading prayer when men are present. God has chosen the men to lead in the public worship, which is why He inspired Paul to tell Timothy, “I desire therefore that the men prayer everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath or doubting” (1 Ti. 2:8).

Since the men are to lead prayer in church, I want to share two tips about leading prayer:

  1. When you pray, pray with reverence and respect for God, keeping in mind that you are praying for the church and not just for yourself.
  2. When you pray, speak loudly and clearly so that everyone can hear you and be a part of the prayer. If you are soft-spoken, then come to the front of the assembly and use a microphone if one is available.

If you will follow these simple steps, you will know that everyone can hear you and take part in your prayer. For the rest of us, we need to make sure we are listening carefully and not messing around with something else. It’s important that we think about what is being said and make that prayer our own. We can agree with the prayer by saying “Amen,” either to ourselves or verbally. We should always keep this in mind every time someone leads a prayer.

Let me conclude by sharing with you four steps to a better prayer life:

First, your prayers must be sincere. Consider as a great example the sincere prayer of David after he sinned against God (Ps. 69:13-17). As you read this prayer, you can hear David’s sincerity. We need to follow this example by being sincere when we pray.

Unfortunately, there are many today who pray without sincerity. The story is told of a wealthy man who went wading out into the ocean when a big wave swept him out to sea. He began to struggle to save his life, but all his efforts failed. When it looked like he had no chance of survival, he prayed. He said, “Lord, if you will save my life, I will give you half of all my money.” A few moments later, he had managed to make it a little closer to safety. He then said, “Remember Lord, I promised you 255 of all my money if you will save my life.” A few moments later, his safety was still questionable; yet it still looked more hopeful so he prayed and said, “Lord, keep up the good work! Just a little more help and I will be safe. Don’t abandon me now! Remember, I promised you 10% of my money if you will save me from drowning.” A few minutes later, the man finally was able to touch the ground. He prayed to God one last time and said, “Thank you, Lord, for saving my life. Don’t forget my promise to you. If you ever need anything, I will seriously think about giving you some of my money.”

While it’s easy for us to see this man’s lack of sincerity to God, many are just like him today. They make little plea bargains with God. Yet when things work out for them, they disregard what they said they would do. People who do this will not be pleasing to God. Therefore, we must be sincere in our prayer life.

Secondly, we must pray with faith. How many times have you prayed to God and doubted He would answer your prayer? Christians should never doubt (Ja. 1:6-7). We must realize that God answers our prayers. After Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He illustrated how they must be persistent when they pray with faith (Lk. 11:5-10). Not only does this parable show how we must pray in faith, it also shows that we must be persistent. God does answer our prayers, but He will answer in a way that is best for us. He might answer a prayer with a “Yes,” “No,” or “Maybe later.” Paul gave us a great example of God saying “No” to prayer (2 Co. 12:7-9). His prayer was answered with a “No” because God’s grace was sufficient for him. It is important that we learn to accept God’s answers and trust in His decisions, as Jesus did (Mt. 26:39). Christ prayed for the cup to pass, but He left it up to God’s will rather than His own. Many today try to take matters into their own hands instead of accepting God’s answer. However, Christians must learn to pray with faith and accept God’s answer.

Thirdly, we need to pray with humility. God will not hear your prayer if you are haughty or self-righteous because He wants us to be humble like His Son. Peter wrote, “Be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble’” (1 Pe. 5:5).

How many times have you heard of someone praying to God with the attitude that they deserve something because they have done so many good deeds? Jesus gave us a great example of an insincere prayer (Lk. 18:9-14). This self-righteous Pharisee came to remind God of how good he was and how glad he was that he wasn’t like the tax collector. How many of us have prayed to God and told Him how good we are or how better we are than someone else? While I hope that none of us have done this, if we have we are just like this self-righteous Pharisee and we will not be justified in our prayers. However, the tax collector came before God and wouldn’t even look up to heaven. He asked God for mercy with a humble heart. This is the example we should follow. If we do, we will be justified in our prayers as well. Don’t forget to pray with humility!

Fourthly, pray for the right things. Sometimes people think they can pray for whatever they want and they should receive it. They completely forget about the will of God and pray for things which God will not allow. For instance, some will pray before they enter a casino and ask God to help them win big. Some have even prayed for vengeance on those they don’t like.

The story is told of some college students who filled up water balloons and dropped them on people from the third floor. One night, they realized they hit a police officer and were scared to death. One of them suggested they pray about it. However, instead of asking God to forgive them for what they did wrong, they prayed that the officer would not catch them. They were praying for the wrong reasons.

Sometimes when we are selfish, we pray for the wrong things as well. James wrote, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures” (Ja. 4:3). If we have the wrong motives and pray for the wrong things, God’s answer to our prayer will always be “No.” Yet when we pray from our hearts for things in accordance with His will, He will acknowledge and answer our prayers to make things work out best for us based on His wisdom. Thus, let us always strive to pray for the right things!

Christians, we need to remember to use prayer in our everyday lives because it is how we talk to God. We must use prayer in our worship and in our private lives. Our prayers should be directed to the Father in the name of Jesus. Men must lead in mixed public prayer and we must take part in that prayer. Let us be sincere, praying in faith and humility for the right things, realizing that God answers our prayers according to His will.

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (He. 4:16)



Lessons Learned From Elijah The Prophet – Cougan Collins

Elijah is a unique prophet because he left this earth before he died physically (2 Kings 2:11), was prophesied to return (Mal. 4:5), a prophecy which was accomplished through John the Baptist (Mt. 17:12-13), and he appeared with Moses at the transfiguration (Mk. 9:4). Elijah was a godly man as indicated by the meaning of his name, “My God is Jehovah.” There is much for us to learn from this prophet of old.

We are first introduced to Elijah in the following verse: And Elijah the Tishbite, of the inhabitants of Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word’” (1 Kgs. 17:1). Right away, we see Elijah carry out the will of God by rebuking the sins of Ahab. It did not matter that Ahab was the king. All sin has consequences regardless of who you are. At times, those sins can affect everyone, which is what happens with Ahab’s punishment. There would be no rain or dew for the next three and a half years (Lk. 4:25). All Christians should have the spirit of Elijah when it comes to speaking out for the Lord, no matter who stands before us, because no one is above the law of Christ. Exposing sin requires us to be bold and courageous, and we should never be ashamed of what God’s Word calls sin.

After Elijah’s encounter with Ahab, the Lord instructs him to hide by a brook (1 Kgs. 17:2-7). He obeys, and the Lord takes care of him. He has water to drink, and ravens bring him food. When the brook dries up, the Lord tells him to go to Zarephath where a woman is supposed to take care of him (1 Kgs. 17:8-16). When he finds the woman, he learns that she has been hit hard by the drought and was making final preparations for her and her son to die. She only had a handful of flour and a little bit of oil. Elijah performs a miracle which makes the woman’s flour and oil not run out until the drought is over. God provides for His people. Just because hard times come along does not mean that God does not care. He knows what we need, and He will be there for us; why should not worry (Mt. 6:25-34)? Instead, let us put our trust in God as Elijah did.

However, not everything works out like we might hope. For example, this woman’s son gets sick and dies (1 Kgs. 17:17-24). She is not happy about this, but Elijah cries out to God and brings her son back to life. Though God cares for us, He is not going to stop life from happening. People die and babies are born; it is the cycle of life. Though Elijah brought her son back to life physically, we can all be made alive in Christ spiritually when we obey the gospel. When we live faithfully to God, we can know that physical death is just the beginning of eternity (Phil. 1:21-24).

In 1 Kings 18, Elijah meets with Ahab again. Ahab is quick to blame Elijah for the trouble Israel is going through, but Elijah corrects him and tells him that he is the one who has caused the trouble because he stopped obeying the commands of God and had embraced the Baals. Elijah says, “Now therefore, send and gather all Israel to me on Mount Carmel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table” (1Kgs. 18:19).

Elijah is ready to put these prophets to the test because it is time to see who the real God is. The challenge is as follows: “‘Therefore let them give us two bulls; and let them choose one bull for themselves, cut it in pieces, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it; and I will prepare the other bull, and lay it on the wood, but put no fire under it. Then you call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD; and the God who answers by fire, He is God.’ So all the people answered and said, ‘It is well spoken’” (1 Kgs. 18:23-24).

Elijah allows the prophets of Baal to try first. They try all day long, and Elijah points out the obvious. Their god is not listening. Being full of confidence, Elijah gathers the people and takes his turn. He builds an altar to the Lord which includes twelve stones. He gathers the wood and puts the bull on it, but he does not stop there. He also digs a trench around the altar, has the people fill up four buckets of water, and has them drench the bull and the wood. They do this three times, and they even fill up the trench around the alter with additional water.

Elijah cries out to the Lord: “‘Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that You are the LORD God, and that You have turned their hearts back to You again.’ Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench. Now when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces; and they said, ‘The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!’” (1 Kgs. 18:37-39).

What a sight this must have been, but it shows us just how powerful and attentive our God is. Every Christian should have the same confidence Elijah did. Though God is not working miracles in our age, He is always in our corner, and we can draw strength from Him (Phil. 4:13). With God on our side, who can stand against us (Rom. 8:31)? Even if we are the only ones willing to take a stand for the cause of Christ, we are never alone (Heb. 13:5).

After Elijah’s great victory, we find him fearing for his life because Jezebel sent word to him saying she was going to kill him just as he killed the 450 prophets of Baal (1 Kgs. 19:2). So he ran off and hid. As courageous and confident as Elijah was, he was still human. He had a weak moment and even became depressed, but God did not allow him to remain in that state of mind. God came to him and encouraged him by letting him know that he was not alone because there were 7,000 other faithful men (1 Kgs. 19:18). Like Elijah, we might struggle with keeping our confidence in God, especially if we feel like we are the only ones who seem to care. However, we must realize that there are always going to be others who are just as concerned about living for God and keeping His commands as we are. Even if we have a weak moment, we can always re-ignite our faith in the Lord and get busy serving Him again.

God gives Elijah three things to do: “Then the LORD said to him: ‘Go, return on your way to the Wilderness of Damascus; and when you arrive, anoint Hazael as king over Syria. Also you shall anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel. And Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel Meholah you shall anoint as prophet in your place’” (1 Kgs. 19:15-16). There is always plenty to do for the Lord. When we focus on serving God, we have less time to be depressed or worried about what others think. Notice also that besides anointing these kings, God wants Elijah to anoint Elisha as his replacement. While it is important to stay busy for the Lord, every Christian should be training and encouraging others to take their place. Imagine if the church only had the elders and preachers it has right now. If other men are not trained to take their place, we will end up with a church without any leadership, which is why it is imperative we train our youth to be the next leaders of the church.

In 1 Kings 21, another scandal happens involving king Ahab and Jezebel. A man named Naboth had a vineyard that Ahab wanted. He tried to buy it but Naboth would not sell it, so Ahab acted like a spoiled child who could not have the toy he wanted. Jezebel fulfills the role of a mother who makes sure her spoiled child gets what he wants, which leads to Naboth being put to death. Now the vineyard belonged to Ahab, but God would not allow this scandal to go unpunished. Elijah’s faith is put to the test once again because God tells him to confront Ahab about this wicked deed done to Ahab and to pronounce judgment on him and his wife (1 Kgs. 21:17-19). Though Elijah had a weak moment earlier when he ran from Jezebel, his faith in God has been restored because he does not hesitate when God tells him to go to Ahab. We must learn to have this same courage in our lives. Like Elijah, we should continue to conquer any fears we have that keep us from serving God as we should. Just because we are weak today, does not mean we have to be weak tomorrow.

Usually when Elijah rebuked Ahab, he did not listen, but this time things were different (1 Kgs. 21:20-29). Ahab allowed the message from God to move him to repentance. Though people may not listen to us at first about God’s Word, it does not mean we should give up. One day, they just might take heed and turn to the Lord. Do not underestimate the power of God’s Word to convert the wicked.

Though Elijah mainly dealt with the sins of Israel, he also sent a letter to Jehoram, the king of Judah, in which he pronounced judgment on him and the people because of their wickedness (2 Chron. 21:12-15). Elijah’s boldness continues to show his trust and faith in God are intact. Let us also continue to grow in our boldness in God and in His truth.

One last event in Elijah’s life is his encounter with King Ahaziah (2 Kgs. 1). The king falls through the lattice of his upper room. Instead of asking the Lord about whether he would recover, he sends his men to ask Baal. Elijah meets these men and rebukes them for trying to go to Baal instead of God, and he sends the men back to the king with the message that he is going to die and never leave his bed. The king is not happy with Elijah, so he sends a captain with his 50 men to get Elijah, but Elijah brings fire down from heaven, which consumes them all. This happens twice. After the third group of men came, the angel of the Lord tells Elijah to go to the king with the same message as before. It is implied that if the king had asked of the Lord instead of Baal, he would have recovered. Ahaziah’s example teaches that no other god, person, or thing can help us like God Almighty. So don’t put your trust in worldly things. Put your trust in God.

In 2 Kings 2, Elijah leaves this earth in a unique way when a chariot of fire appears with horses of fire and separates Elijah and Elisha, and Elijah is taken up into heaven in a whirlwind.

Like Elijah, we must remain faithful until the end (Rev. 2:10). Yes, we may fall short of the glory of God occasionally, but this does not mean we have lost the war. Rather, we have only lost a few battles. Elijah teaches us to never stop fighting the good fight of faith/ If we perservere like him, heaven will be our home as well.