Tag Archives: love

Editorial: The Solution To Our Troubling Times (October, 2017) — Jon Mitchell, Editor

I write this editorial the week after the shooting at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tennessee.  Last Sunday afternoon, I had gone to Wal-Mart after worship services to get my daughter a birthday cake for a birthday party we were having for her at church that night.  As I was standing in the checkout line, my smart phone lit up with a notification from Fox News that there was a church shooting.  As was the case when my phone notified me of the shooting that took place in 2015 at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, my first prayer was for the safety and health of all within that place of worship, followed by a prayer that this church was not a church of Christ and that my brothers and sisters in Christ were not the ones suffering through this tragedy.  Sadly, when I then opened up the notification to read the news story I discovered that it was in fact a church of Christ who was the victim of this particular atrocity.  Since then, my heart both rejoiced to learn that most of those wounded have stabilized and sank with sorrow at the news of the death of a single mother of two, Melanie Crow Smith, as well as the news of the critical condition of the minister of that congregation, Joey Spann, who was wounded in the chest and hand after shouting for everyone to run.  (I’ve since heard that he seems to be improving, for which I and others are thankful to God.)

This shooting is just the latest of a long line of tragedies and divisive actions which make the times in which we live very troubling indeed.  In the past decade alone, in addition to the shootings at Burnette Chapel last Sunday and the church in Charleston in 2015 we can recall the movie theater shooting in Colorado; the Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut; the Washington Navy Yard massacre; the tragedy at Virginia Tech; the shooting in Arizona which killed a little girl and wounded others, including a congresswoman; the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin; the bloodshed at San Bernardino, California; the slayings at the Orlando night club last year; the tragedy in Dallas which also occurred last year and Charlottesville this year; many more incidents of violence could be cited.

There also seems to be much division and animosity drawn along lines of race and ethnicity in our society today.  The president of Lipscomb University recently made national news after inviting minority students to his home to discuss their experience at the university.  After hosting Hispanic students in his home and serving them tacos, he then invited African-American students to his home the following night and served them traditional “southern comfort” food such as collard greens and corn bread at a table decorated with a cotton stalk centerpiece.  The students were offended, some of them taking to social media to air their grievances after trying to express them to the president, Randy Lowry, who later publicly apologized for insensitivity.  This controversy took place days before the aforementioned Burnette Chapel shooting in which a black gunman of Sudanese background opened fire on an assembly of Christians of different races, causing some pundits and commentators to wonder if racism played a factor in the shooting as it had clearly done in the similar incident in Charleston in which a white gunman had opened fire on a predominately black congregation.  Also taking place on the same day as Burnette Chapel was another controversy in which National Football League athletes and coaches knelt instead of standing during the singing of the National Anthem.  This controversy had its roots last year in the actions of a quarterback who had knelt during the Anthem in protest to another controversy: alleged police brutality against African-Americans in recent years, something which gained and kept national attention after the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, following Michael Brown’s death and a grand jury declining to charge a police officer with wrongdoing.  Since Ferguson, more protests, riots, and incidents of proven and alleged discrimination against minorities and police officers have taken place.  Much more could be cited, but these serve to illustrate the troubles facing our country and culture these days.

It is my sincere and firm conviction that the love of God is the solution to our troubles.  As Carolina Messenger writer Lorraine Smith wrote in last month’s issue, love is “an overworked word with underfelt meaning.”  We tend to throw that word around a lot without really stopping to think about or put into practice its meaning.  Yet if both Christians and non-Christians would put the biblical meaning of God’s love into practice with all whom we come into contact, we would very readily find that love to be the solution to our troubling times.

Consider what 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says about the love God has for us and which He desires for us to have for each other.  The passage states that love is “patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.”  The kindness of godly love in itself would cause all acts of violence such as the aforementioned shootings to cease, since kindness demands that we would all treat each other the way we would want to be treated (Matt. 7:12).  Such universal adherence to the kindly conduct prescribed by the Golden Rule would also exterminate all racism, bigotry, and discrimination.  Applying the other tenets of godly love would only further solve the division amongst us if they were universally applied.

What if the patience, kindness, humility, and respect of godly love had been in place by all from the very beginning with the Lipscomb controversy?  Much if not all of the contention would have been avoided if both sides had shown patience with each other from the beginning.  From what has been reported, President Lowry by his own admission initially dismissed the students’ expressed concern about the cotton centerpiece, something for which he later acknowledged as wrong and apologized.  In turn, some of the students showed little patience with his dismissiveness, instead taking to social media to complain about it.  Having read their posts  and similar posts about the controversy, including the subsequent comments of many from all sides, much of which were extremely profane and insulting to all parties involved, it is clear that such unkind, boastful, arrogant, and rude communication only exacerbated the problem and resulted in even more division.  The patience and kindness of godly love, if shown from the beginning in love’s humility and civility by not only all initially involved but also by all who have since made observations, would have gone a long way towards solving the problem.

The Bible also says that godly love “does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.”  Imagine if all sides of the National Anthem controversy put these tenets into practice.  What would happen if everyone who attended a football game and saw an athlete kneel instead of stand attentively during the National Anthem decided to NOT resent it or be irritated by it?  What if the athlete who considers kneeling in protest saw the uproar resulting from others doing it and, rather than insisting on doing what he wanted to do above all, decided to put others’ interests above his own (Phil. 2:3-4) and protest in a way less controversial?  Would a solution to the problem be more easily attainable?  Probably.

The passage goes on to say that love “does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.”  It seems to me that with every allegation of police wrongdoing and racism in recent years, there are many who do not care about first finding out whether the police officer in question is in fact guilty of the discrimination and bigotry of which he is charged.  Many assumptions of guilt are made, often based on appearance and in many cases not even that.  Such lack of concern about obtaining the truth only more intensely fans the flames of the chaotic anarchy of the riots plaguing our society in recent years.  These tumults in turn result in more “rejoic(ing) in wrongdoing,” as many take advantage of the strife to loot, assault, and rape.  Would the riots and protests that were the catalysts to even more criminal activity and loss of life and property have taken place if everyone in our society refused to “judge according to appearance,” but instead decided to “judge with right judgment” (John 7:24)?  How much better would our society be if everyone cared solely about punishing only those found beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law to be guilty of bigotry and criminal conduct, and rejoiced that the truth was found and upheld when such was done?

God’s Word ends its discourse on godly love by saying that love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  We all let each other down, disappoint each other, and hurt each other because we are all human and fallible.  What would happen if we all chose to bear with each other in all things, basically putting up with each other?  What if we all gave each other the benefit of the doubt instead of automatically assuming the worst about each other?  What if we all genuinely hoped for the best for each other and were all willing to endure each other’s mistakes and follies while actively working with each other to make our positive hopes for each other a reality?  How much better would our culture be?

Am I being naïve?  If I think that everyone will have God’s love for each other, of course (Matt. 7:13-14).  Yet, more people can be like this than we might think, Christians.  It depends on each of us to make it happen.  You see, only those who truly put the will of the Christian God first in their lives, continually striving to penitently grow in God’s love in every area of their hearts, with come to show God’s love to every person they see.  Yet that will never happen unless you — each of you — brings the gospel to them and lives it in front of them (Matt. 28:19-20).

Robert Engle, the Burnette Chapel usher who stopped the gunman last Sunday, refused to be called a hero, ascribing that honor to others and calling on everyone to pray not only for the victims but even for the shooter and his family.  That’s godly love.  Imagine if more were like that.            — Jon

 

 

 

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An Overworked Word With Underfelt Meaning — Lorraine Smith

There are certain words we need to be careful about how we use them or throw them around.  One word we use on a daily basis has probably become the most overworked and overused word we know today.  It is a simple four-letter word.  Everyone uses it.  We have allowed this word to come out of our mouths repeatedly day in and day out.  The word is love.

Just think about it for a moment.  Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about:  “I love gardening!”  “I just love your shoes!”  “I’d love to see that!”  “I love baseball!”  “I love to hunt and fish!”  “I absolutely love my morning coffee!”  “I really love to eat at that restaurant!”  “I love you to the moon and back!”  “I love spending time with my family!”  “I love this great weather we’re having!”  “I love the holidays!”  “I love to read, play games, and watch television!”  The list can go on for miles.  We are like the McDonald’s catch phrase, “I’m Lovin’ It,” all over the spectrum.  In most cases, we don’t even realize we are doing it.

There are volumes upon volumes of poetry and songs written with love as the theme.  No matter the genre, most all songs are about love for someone, something, or a broken heart from lost love.  “Can’t Buy Me Love.”  “Love Me Do.”  “What’s Love Got To Do With It?”  “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”  And hymns too.  “Faithful Love.”  “Love Lifted Me.”  “I Love The Lord,” just to name a few.

Love is the most misunderstood and misused word in our language.  It is used so loosely it has lost its true meaning, becoming very commonplace.  We need to step back and discern what love is, especially true love.

I think there is a difference between how women and men think about love in our society.  I also know there are different types of love, or maybe I should say degrees of love.  You do not have the same love for your spouse as you do for your children.  You do not have the same degree of love for your children as you do for your friends.  Each makes your heart sing the same song but with different verses or tunes.  I know I do not have the same degree of love for my husband now as when we first married.  Isn’t that marvelous?  God made our hearts with the ability to expand as big as the universe to accommodate different and many loves.

Love is an instinct while so much of our behavior is learned.  There again, we are created that way.  Love can’t be explained away with a simple definition.  Genuine, true love is a longing, a burning and a wanting to cling to someone.  Love grows just like we do.  It has a beginning, matures and grows.  When I hear someone say, “We fell in love,” the very first thing that pops into my mind is, “It hurts when you fall.”  I have never understood “falling” in or out of love.  It’s just not that easy.  Genuine, true love cannot be swept aside so easily and quickly bestowed on the next stranger who walks through the door.

God’s Word has more to say about love than we can begin to fathom.  We are born to love.  The Almighty designed us to be that way.  Matthew 22:34-40 is a short passage of God’s Word that man has named “The Greatest Command.”  It reads:  “But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together.  One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question to test Him.  ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’  And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Our love for the Lord and His Word needs to be deep in our very souls with a never-ending, burning desire to be with Him.  We need to have an aching, longing thirst to know more and more about him, a thirst which cannot be quenched.  Love for the Almighty is not a one-time deal.  It needs to be constant and ever present in our minds as well as our hearts.  If we can love God this way (which we absolutely can), then we will have love for one another and love for ourselves.  This love will stimulate us to do our very best.  It will create in us the desire to be with fellow Christians as much as possible to share this love and share the Lord together.  This love will generate our spirituality to heights we would never think possible.  In turn, this love will aid in every aspect of our personal lives, our work, our friends, and especially in our families.  Just imagine the domino effect that will impact everything we do!

The book of 1 John is a guide book to love.  Please notice how gentle John speaks, calling Christians “beloved” and “little children,” giving us the truth but in love.  “Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves  the world, the love of the Father is not in Him…See what kind of love the Father has given to us; that we should be called children of God…Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him…For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another…We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers.  Whoever does not love abides in death…If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?  Little children, let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth…Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.  In this the love of God has made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him.  In this love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us…Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.  So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us.  God is love and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.  By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as He is so also are we in this world.  There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.  For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.  We love because He first loved us.  If anyone says, ‘I love God’, and hates his brother, he is a liar, for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.  And this commandment we have from Him: whoever loves God must also love his brother…Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of Him.  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey His commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments…” (1 John 2:15; 3:1-2, 11, 17-18; 4:7-12, 15-21; 5:1-3).

It all comes down to this.  We need to love God in the way and manner He wants from us.  After that, everything else will fall into place.  God is willing to help us anyway He can.  All we have to do is allow Him to do so.  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37).

Lorraine worships at and is involved in the work of the Calhoun Church of Christ in Calhoun, GA.  She is the author of the books Just Asking and Heaven? or Hell? A Soul’s Choice.

 

The Kindness of David — Jake Sutton

No one owes you anything. You also owe no one anything. Let us be honest with each other for a moment and come to the realization that there is no earthly reason for any of us to do any good whatsoever.

Yet we as members of the body of Christ don’t live by earthly tutelage. The readers who see my words in this article most likely  “live by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25). Thus we understand that goodness first originated from God and His marvelous benevolence (Mk. 10:18). David the psalmist wrote, “Thou art good, and doest good; teach me thy statutes” (Psa. 119:68). It is from this verse and others like it that we examine the obedient faith of one soul who accepted such statues and applied it to his own life, even in darker days. Thus we know, as God’s elect, that we are very much in debt to every man in bestowing the good news of Christ (1 Cor. 9:19). Going back to our initial thought of goodness, may we make some observations.

Goodness Is The Fruit Of God

I grew up in the North Georgia foothills in the city of Adairsville. The Cherokee natives called it Oothcalooga.  They deemed it very prosperous to grow crops of all sorts because the ground was so fertile. Altitude-wise, Adairsville is the lowest point between Chattanooga and Atlanta. If there were such a thing as the “middle of town” we would be it. Horticultural folks will tell you that this would be a wonderful place for one to grow crops. The Cherokee didn’t know the altitude factor, but the “fruit” of the land bore witness to that fact. My point is this: goodness is the “fruit” from which we ascertain God’s benevolence.

Outside of Christianity, there are what the world will call “good ole Joe’s,” people who were in a good moral climate and go around doing good deeds. The reason for this is because the world is so permeated with the effects and influence of the Gospel. Most folks know the “Golden Rule” but they don’t trace it to our Lord’s words in Luke 6:31. They are good folks but biblically do not know our Lord. As the Holy Spirit would say, they “aren’t known of God” (Gal. 4:9) because they haven’t come to obedient faith of the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 10:5).

Kindness is something every person can observe from God’s creation (Rom. 1:19-23) and those created in His image (Gen. 1:26). We can clearly see His consistent love in making a world and her inhabitants live and have their being by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3). God has providentially loved us and shows unending kindness and not one honest person will deny that fact. With that in mind, we cannot be excused from exercising kindness to our fellow man in any regard. Even if you withhold a physical blessing from a man who will not work (2 Thess. 3:10), you are still to do so with kindness. Keeping their souls salvation in mind, we are commanded to deal with them in meekness (Gal. 6:1).

David showed us this in his treatment with the house of Saul during David’s reign as Israel’s earthly king. David asked the question in 2 Samuel 9:1: “…Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” With that question, you and I are reminded of the love that David had for Jonathan and that Jonathan had for David. These men had an affection for each other that was deeply rooted in trust and honor. It was evident that this was the case because it was custom for the king of a new dynasty to massacre those in cohort with the previous. However, David was the game changer and didn’t follow the custom of man; he followed the custom of God. Not only for the Lord’s sake did he do this, but also for Jonathan’s. David took an oath and made a covenant on behalf of Jonathan’s family, that he wouldn’t allow them to be absent from the kindness the two had for each other (1 Sam. 20:14-15).

Cripple Over Crown

Our text of 2 Samuel goes on to show that there was one soul left unblessed who was of the house of Jonathan, Mephibosheth. This would turn out to be Jonathan’s son who became a paralytic by accident (2 Sam. 4:4). For the faithful today, we have mighty men and women who are battle tested in the fires of spiritual war and we have a code of honor and trust with them like David and Jonathan. We consider those whom we can trust the best of friends; even their children are considered our own. An adopted nephew of David, Mephibosheth unfairly suffered physically because of the sin of Saul. David could have ended this poor soul’s life by living in the statutes of man, but chose rather to do favor to the cripple over his own crown.

David was simply reciprocating the kindness showed to him by God.  What a wonderful example to behold!  Are we not blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ?  Yes (Eph. 1:3).  Are we as New Testament Christians crowned as priests and kings?  Yes (Rev. 1:6).  But just as Moses said to the children of Israel, we must not forget that we were once strangers (Ex. 22:21) and are to treat the people “without the camp” with kindness.  The first lesson to see here is that we were all spiritual Mephibosheths before coming to Christ.  And like Mephibosheth (2 Sam. 9:6), all we can do is pour out our soul and pledge allegiance to Christ by calling Him Lord (Acts 22:16) and giving our service to Him (Rom. 12:1). Recognizing we have nothing to offer for the Lord by merit, we are spiritually crippled (Matt. 5:3). Yet after dying in the waters of baptism, we rise to that newness of life (Rom. 6:4).  Like David, we bless others with the divine kindness bestowed to us. Who are we to withhold that from the world? May we never choose the decor of our own crown over the spiritual cripples in our lives.

Humiliation Over Honor

May we also like David suffer worldly humiliation for the cause of Christ. David had every worldly right and physical stature to walk into a room with a lame and defenseless man and slaughter the final member of the house of Saul for his own honor. Bystanders within and without the camp of Christ will speak with disgust over you showing kindness to the undesirables of the world. May we keep in mind that “all who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). The source of that persecution isn’t limited to our heathen friends but also includes members of the body. Some will gather their circles together and humiliate you and your name because you, like David, want to show the kindness of God to the weak of the world (2 Sam. 9:3).

Notice to where David gives credit the idea of kindness: the God of heaven! Take comfort in knowing that God will always give honor to His faithful ones and never to the proud ones (Matt. 6:1). Rest assured, those of us like David, when we take the worldly “low road” please know that  God considers it the “holy road.” Make no mistake about it. “The Lord knows them that are his” (2 Tim. 2:19). 

Jake preaches at the Moultrie congregation in Moultrie, GA.

 

 

 

 

Adding Love To Brotherly Kindness — David R. Pharr

Editor’s Note:  This article was adapted from a lecture given by the author at Freed-Hardeman University in 1984.  Used by permission.

It is not surprising that “charity” (KJV), love, would be included in the list of Christian graces which are needed “to make your calling and election sure.”  It may be assumed that love is something one either has or does not have regardless of his own effort.  In fact, the Bible teaches that love is not only the supreme trait (1 Co. 13:13), but that it is something we can, and should, cultivate. Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians was: “And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you” (1 Th. 3:12).

Love is the grace of a special commandment.  Jesus said: “[A] new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another, as I have loved you” (Jn. 13:34).  Love always was a priority. It is before, above, and inclusive of all other rules for human relationships (Ro. 13:8ff).  What, then, is “new” in Jesus’ commandment? It is that it goes beyond “Love thy neighbor as thyself” (Le. 19:18), calling for love like Christ’s love.  It is a “new commandment” because of the new measure of love it sets before us. Certainly love is not peculiar to the gospel.  Rather, the New Testament gives new light on an old precept.  As someone stated it, “It is an old book in a new, expanded edition.”  The “golden rule” has become the “platinum rule.”

Love, therefore, is a grace we have in common with our Lord.  This may be one reason why love is greater than faith and hope (1 Co. 13:13).  Without love we cannot know God or have fellowship with him (1 Jn. 4:8, 16).  Peter said that as Christians, we are “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pe. 1:4).  So much of what is called “love” is sensual and selfish.  Jesus’ whole life was a demonstration of what love really means.  Usually we tend to think of the cross as proof of his love, but we need to remember that his love was not shown in just one single, supreme act, but in a lifetime of caring for others.  We must grow in grace that we may “walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us” (Ep. 5:2).  Jesus did not love us for what we could do for him, but for what he could do for us.  This is especially seen in the events of John 13, the occasion of the last supper.  First, consider how he reacted to the treachery of Judas.  Here was love overcoming hate.  We notice the emphasis in verse one that his love never failed.  Love washed his disciples’ feet.  Is it not a fact that most of the time the challenge is not whether we can keep from hating, but whether we can keep from being selfish?  The cross was only a few hours away, yet, knowing this, he continued to love sacrificially and without self-pity.  Even toward Peter, who failed to grasp the situation, and who seemed most concerned with his own self-confidence, Jesus could be patient and forgiving.

Love is the grace that identifies disciples.  “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (Jn.13:35).  The converse is also true.  Nothing denies discipleship as does an unloving spirit.  Jesus knew the impact that a church united in love would have on the world (cf. Jn. 17:21, 23).  But even unbelievers can see through claims of a church filled with selfishness, suspicion and strife.  Sound doctrine without sound hearts makes only an empty sound (1 Co. 13:1ff).  How can men be his disciples (learners) when they fail to learn experimentally what is his special commandment.  Those who serve Christ must wear his colors.  They have “put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness” (Co. 3:14).

Not only does this grace help to identify the church to the world, it also assures a disciple of his standing with God. “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. . . .  My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.  And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him” (1 Jn. 3:14-19).  Genuine love provides the capstone of confidence for the faithful.

Love is a grace that is never is finished.  Some commands are completed at one time (i.e., baptism), but love is a continuing grace.  The use of the Greek present tense in 1 John 3:14 indicates “keep on loving.” It is an obligation that is never completely fulfilled.  It is without limits.  We never reach a time when we have loved enough.  There is no limit as to whom we should love, how long we should love them, or whether we have loved to a sufficient degree.  Instead it is a grace that should be always growing, ever expanding (1 Th. 3:12).

Finally, let’s consider that the grace of love is a common grace.  It is not command to a few, but to all.  Some people have more talent than others.  Some are more influential than others.  But everyone of us — rich or poor, educated or unlearned, skillful or clumsy, known or ignored — everyone of us has the same privilege of love.  One may be unable to deliver a sermon, compose a song, or write a book, but he can have as full a measure of this grace as any man, and this is the one thing that matters most (1 Co. 13).

drpharr@msn.com

David is a member of the board of directors and the former editor of the Carolina Messenger.  He is an elder of the Charlotte Avenue Church of Christ in Rock Hill, SC.

God Is Bigger Than Cancer — Caleb Sams

Part of all this trial is coming face to face with the man in the mirror, in God’s hands, by the trial, God is showing you what kind of man you are really and what kind of God he is really and what it really is he wants you to be.” –Mike Mobley 

My desperate prayer and hope for this story is that you read this and become enamored with the strength, faithfulness, and love of our God. Pause perhaps for a moment even now before you continue reading and praise Him for his marvelous works in your own life. May we know deeply that it is not any one of our stories that matters, yet his alone; it is not about my name, but all about exclaiming his wondrous name.

For the purposes of information let me explain my circumstances. In September of 2012 I began to experience pain in my left ankle, thinking I had re-injured a spot of tendinitis I thought nothing of it. I wouldn’t be able to rest my leg  (the required treatment for tendinitis) until mid-December, so I acted as if it was fine and continued life as normal as possible for the next few months. When I got home in December I stayed off of my leg for 3 weeks the pain and large amount of swelling that had already taken over my ankle only got worse. I went to a sports clinic fearing that I had pushed my leg to far and snapped a tendon in my ankle. They ran X-rays and found a large fracture in my tibia that was the source of the pain; it was the source of the fracture that caused the doctor to pause. I was told that they would need to have a radiologist examine the X-rays and I would hear from them within the next day. The radiologist called within the hour. It was January 3rd; I was home alone sitting on the couch when I was told about something called osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer. It only took 4 short days for tests and other doctors and surgeons to confirm the radiologist’s fear. After they biopsied the tumor in my ankle and received a pathology report from it I was informed that it was stage four cancer. Based on the location of the tumor and the way that it had ruined my tendons and ligaments I would never walk again without amputating my leg. Within the next month I had already began aggressive chemo treatments almost weekly requiring hospital stays of up to five days. At the end of the treatment, about nine months away, there would be a chest surgery on my lungs to remove all of the tumors found within. Osteosarcoma isn’t a soft tissue cancer, the cells rapidly growing are bone cells, and the tumors in my lungs were calcifying and could not remain there.

I could continue, I could explain in detail each treatment or hospital stay. Or the side effects of chemo or about the nausea, but that’s not what’s important. In fact my story isn’t important. You have your own. Whether it’s cancer or not, your story can do one of two things: it can break you or it can create you.

My entire life I’ve been extremely good at knowing the right thing to say, I’ve been able to pass as a Christian for a very long time, I could live however I wanted, but look extremely pure. I’ve wasted a lot of God-given talents and opportunities throughout my entire life. I’m not trying to beat myself up, I’ve done good things but I’ve masked my life in many ways. For the last six months of 2012 I was praying that God would put something in my life that either completely broke me and ruined my faith or on the other end required me to lean wholly on him. This year he has blessed me with an opportunity to experience a situation in which I had no hope if I relied on my own strength and yet if I gave it to him I had all hope. You story, your trials or sufferings can either break you or create you.

I’ve had one prayer on my heart throughout this process, I’ve begged and pleaded with God that if I were going to have to go through this valley that it would have a purpose. My prayer was simple. That God would use my cancer to make his name great. I could care less of any other outcome, but it would mean something if my story caused people to praise God. Something that came to me early was a phrase, the title of this article actually, God is bigger than cancer. Anything I sent out from then on, any update or tweet or email or Facebook post was sure to have that hashtagged along with it. #Godisbiggerthancancer became something people could hold on to. It’s a cry for hope that no matter what lies ahead God is bigger than it. The thing I’ve learned though is that, sure God is bigger than cancer, but he’s also bigger than me. I’ve never had to stare death in the face before. One of our biggest concerns in life is control. I’ve learned that I have none. Even better still, I’ve learned that I want none.

Two verses seem to have oddly become coupled to me throughout this process.  1 Corinthians 13:13 and Hebrews 11:6. The first: “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” The second: “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he is the rewards those who seek him.”

1 Corinthians 13:13 starts with faith. This remains, why? Because we must have it to please God, not just to please him, but because it is the foundation of everything God hopes for us to access in our lives. What does he hope for us? Listed more times than any other commandment all throughout scripture, listed even more times than the commandments to love God and love one another, is the commandment fear not. Why is that his greatest desire? Because someone who fears nothing this world or Satan tries to throw at them is someone who is fully invested in God; a God that forms mountains and breaths life. Base your faith on that principle: that God is bigger than anything.

When you fully believe and know that God is everything he says he is 1 Corinthians continues, that kind of faith breeds hope. Why? Because if you truly believe with all your heart, soul, and mind that God is able you will find that he is active. See he doesn’t just offer his proof, he offers his power, Hebrews 11:6 ends with him currently being described as the rewarder. Doesn’t that give you hope? Hosea is placed in constant turmoil in his life to be a direct example to Israel of their relationship to God. He describes a valley, the valley of Achor, which literally translates to the valley of trouble, in chapter 2.  In the beginning of chapter 1 God explains that he will put an end to the house of Israel and “on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the valley.” Hosea explains the trouble Israel will go through.  In chapter 2:14-15 there’s a turn, though.  He writes:  “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. Egypt.” Their trouble became hope. God, who is able, was active.

Faith gives you the strength to get through trials. Hope, bred by faith, gives you the sight to see the end of trials. But love, why does love remain and why is love the greatest? It’s simple, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 3:18-19.) Notice the language of being perfected in love. Perfected how? “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (Jas 1:2-4). How do we know that he first loved us? Because instead of just existing, which was enough, he chose to reward us.

Therefore faith, which produces strength, gives birth to hope, which produces sight, which harvests love that proves our hope and invigorates our faith and eliminates our fear. In love we understand Paul’s writings “‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:54-57).

We have a victory, because God is bigger.  “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Ps 107:1)!

cmo.sams@gmail.com

 

 

Some Leave The Church, Leave The Lord – David R. Pharr

They went out from us, but they were not of us: for if they had been of us, they would not doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.  (1 John 2:19)

The words of John are blunt.  There were certain ones who had once participated in the fellowship of the saints who had left the church.  The apostle’s explanation was that “they were not of us.”  He does not mean that they were not physically and personally associated with the brethren, but rather that they were of a different mind set, of different convictions.  This had become “manifest” (evident) in their actions as “they went out.”  There had been a time when they appeared they were “of us,” but their apostasy had demonstrated otherwise.

Comparable observations can be made in regard to modern departures.  The Holy Spirit warned that “some shall depart from the faith” (1 Tim. 4:1).  Some leave the church to pursue a worldly lifestyle.  Some leave seeking acceptance by the world.  Some leave to affiliate with denominations.  Some abandon faith altogether.  Some leave because they want a broader, more liberal and more compromising fellowship.  And some leave because they have drawn their circle of approval so small that they have no room for most of the brotherhood.

We will borrow John’s language to name some reasons why some “went out from us.”

They went out from us because they had doubts about the verbal inspiration and inerrancy of the Holy Bible.  This means that the Scriptures cannot be trusted 100%.  Such is the thinking in worldly theological circles and some who have their degrees from denominational schools show that they have swallowed this kind of infidelity.  One who does not have full confidence in the reliability of God’s Word will never be comfortable where there is sound Bible preaching.

They went out from us because they were not of us with respect for the pattern authority of Scripture.  We believe the New Testament provides a pattern for our faith and practice and that it is by compliance with the pattern that the church of Christ is identified.  Those who pride themselves in their rejection of “pattern authority” logically must embrace an unscriptural paradigm.  The only alternative, according to 2 John 9, is either to abide in the doctrine of Christ or to leave the Lord by leaving the doctrine.

They went out from us because they were not with us as regards the hermeneutic of command, example, and necessary inference.  This has sometimes been incompletely described “as the ONLY way the Bible teaches.”  Obviously there is much more in the Bible (history, facts, poetry, etc.)  The point about command, example, and necessary inference is that this is the only basis by which to establish religious authority.  The place of commandments is obvious (Matt. 28:19ff).  The examples in view are those which are demonstrations of how commands are to be obeyed (1 Cor. 11:2; Phil. 3:17).  Necessary inferences are conclusions so logically necessary as that two plus two equals four.  Those who leave the church over contempt for this hermeneutic have nothing to offer in its place.

They went out from us because they found the simplicity of New Testament worship to be dull and meaningless.  Religious entertainment has a greater appeal.  After all, how can bread and grape juice compare to dramatic performances?  And how can singing scriptural hymns compare to “Christian rock”?  Such measure church by how it makes them feel, not by what is authorized in God’s Word.  We make no defense for worship assemblies that are half-hearted.  “In spirit” is as essential as “in truth” (John 4:24).  But those who go out from us in order to have a more satisfying church experience either never knew or have forgotten that worship is to praise God, not to satisfy fleshly emotions.

They went out from us because they resented preaching that upholds truth and exposes error.  With some audiences there is no longer room for sermons showing biblical proof for our distinctive positions regarding worship, the oneness of the church, scriptural baptism, the sinfulness of divorce, etc.  It’s the same story as described by Isaiah, people who do not want to hear “the law of the Lord” are demanding “smooth” preaching that pleases the multitudes (Is. 8:19ff).

They went out from us because of an inordinate emphasis on grace and faith to the exclusion of obedience.  We know and preach that salvation is by grace, unearned and never merited, and that God’s offer of pardon must be accepted by faith (Eph. 2:8-9).  However, any preaching of grace and faith which minimizes or excludes the necessity of obedience is unacceptable (Heb. 2:1-3; 5:8-9; 1 Pet. 1:22).

They went out from us trusting an inflated view of grace.  Our only hope is in the grace of God and his grace is sufficient to cover all our sins.  It is an invention of men, however, to assume that there is (as some have called it) “an umbrella of grace” that makes the rejection of God’s instructions acceptable.  Yet it is more comfortable for some to ignore the demands of truth and to justify continuance of sin and error by saying “grace will take care of it.”  Some who have gone out from us realize they have affiliated with unscriptural organizations, which teach unscriptural doctrines, and which worship unscripturally, but feel satisfied because they think grace will make it right.

They were not with us with regard to the restrictions implied by the silence of the Scriptures.  We have long endured the mockery of those who ridicule our convictions regarding instrumental music in worship.  Our position has been explicit – such is not the music for worship authorized in the New Testament – and this position has never been refuted.  In many places there has not been sufficient teaching on the principles involved, but whatever the fault, some are going “out from us” because they don’t realize that what is NOT authorized is NOT authorized!

They were not with us in recognizing the principle of GENERIC and SPECIFIC authority.  Some biblical instructions are generic, leaving the specifics of how to follow the instructions to our judgment as to what is expedient.  For example, the instructions for our meeting together on the Lord’s Day are generic as regards to time of day and the place.  Any practice which fits within the framework of that generic command is acceptable.  But there are also commands that are specific, which can only be obeyed in the specific way authorized.  The elements for the Lord’s Supper are specified and to omit these elements, or to substitute other elements, or to add to these elements is in violation of specific authority.  Liberalism tries to make the specific generic, to allow more than is authorized.  Radicals try to make the generics specific, binding what God has not bound (Matt. 18:18).

They went out from us because they lacked love and loyalty for the church, which is the body of Christ.  It is easy enough to point out the failures in the human side of the church.  But such does not justify contempt for the church.  Some of the meanest, most unfair, and false things that are said against Christ’s church are said by those who were once among us.  We suspect that this is their psychological compensation for their own sense of guilt that they have deserted the cause they once loved and served.

It is not a new thing that some are deserting the church.  John saw it happening and placed the blame on the ones who were leaving, not on the faithful.  Paul was saddened by the defection of Demas, but he knew the fault was in Demas (2 Tim. 4:10).  When someone leaves the church it is in order for us to examine how we might have better helped and encouraged them.  We realize our human side of the church has many shortcomings and we want to do our best in helping all who are weak and struggling.  But the faithful must also realize that some are going to depart because “they were not of us.”

The Challenge To Grow A Church – Brock Shanks

In the first century, multitudes of people abandoned their lives of sin and wickedness and obeyed the New Testament pattern (Acts 2:36-42; 4:1-4; 5:12-16).  Today, the absolute necessity of teaching the same redeeming power of the gospel to every accountable person is just as urgent.  Are we preaching the same pure gospel that the apostles preached?  If we are abiding by Galatians 1:6-9, the answer would be yes.  The seed of the kingdom is still the Word of God, and the soil upon which the seed is sown is still the hearts of men (Luke 8:4-15).  Has the seed lost its potency?  Absolutely not (1 Pet. 1:22-25).  In order for results to occur we must, therefore, get the seed upon the soil and plant the Word of God in the hearts of men in the most effective way possible.  In view of the ongoing challenges facing the growth of the local church, our methods of evangelism must never grow stale or become ineffective.  If our methods are not effective, we must prayerfully and properly examine ourselves and find the most expedient manner of fulfilling our obligation to evangelize.

When considering all of the aspects and prospects of evangelism, no expedient method, person, or group of people can be excluded.  Effective evangelism must occur in places other than within the walls of our building.  More often than not, the majority of the families living in the houses surrounding our buildings are lost.  We need to visit them in their homes and encourage them to attend our services.  Door knocking is still an effective method of evangelism.  We must never doubt the battle-tested ways of former years (Jer. 6:16; Acts 5:42).  We might be pleasantly surprised at the effectiveness of a well-organized summer afternoon spent knocking on doors and setting up Bible studies in our local communities.  Different methods of evangelism can indeed help the small local church to grow.  However, we must always be diligent and prayerful in our endeavors.  We must be steadfast in asking our Father in Heaven to help us in our evangelistic efforts (James 4:2).  We must realize that faithful prayers alone cannot take the place of obedient action coupled with a spirit of humility (James 2:26; Luke 17:10).

With these thoughts in mind, let us consider the following four different methods of evangelism that should aid in the growth of small local congregations of the Lord’s people:

  1. Restoring our wayward brethren is one method of evangelism in which the small local church can grow.  The word “evangelize” simply means to announce the good news to another.  The good news to our erring brethren is that they no longer have to continue in their terrible state of rebellion.  There is hope if they repent and confess their error (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9).  Some wayward members of the church have been away so long they may not even remember why they stopped attending.  Others never forget past mistakes, nor allow anyone else to forget.  We need to take the time to patiently explore the matter and continue seeking the proper avenues of correction.  Was their departure due to a former preacher’s poorly worded sermon, or feelings of apparent neglect from the leadership, or possibly financial stress?  Perhaps there was no particular reason at all.  Regardless of the circumstances, these individuals are souls that are lost and need to abide in the doctrine of Christ in order to have fellowship with God (1 John 1:3; 2 John 9).  They have obeyed the first principles of the gospel and need to be restored to the fold (Gal. 6:1-2).  Therefore, we must evangelize our erring brethren.
  2. Equipping our faithful brethren with the whole armor of God is a second method of evangelism in which the small local church can grow.  Every aspect of the armor of God is in reference to understanding and implementing the gospel of Christ (Eph. 6:10-18).  The good news directed toward our faithful brethren is that, when properly equipped, they can accomplish greater things for the Lord in His kingdom than they ever thought possible.  Can we grasp the concept of an entire congregation of the Lord’s people in which every member is prepared to give an answer for the hope that is in them with meekness and fear (1 Pet. 3:15)?  Imagine the difference that would make in our workplaces.  Instead of being unprepared to answer the denominational and worldly quibbles, we would be ready to calmly and patiently discuss and refute any and every Bible topic without hesitation.  Great are the opportunities for evangelism in the workplaces of well taught members of the church.
  3. Advertising all upcoming events taking place at the building is a third method of evangelism in which the small local church can grow.  We generally send our gospel meeting flyers to the congregations in the (somewhat) surrounding area, and yet fail to place flyers in our local businesses.  Although we love for our brethren to attend our meetings, our hearts would rejoice to have just as many or even more visitors from our local communities.  We pray that the day and hour has not come in which we have gospel meetings only out of habit and not due to a sincere desire of seeing souls snatched out of the fire (Jude 22-23).  Adequate advertising in the local community can be a greater asset than we believe.  This is an excellent opportunity for some lost soul to see a welcome invitation to hear sound doctrine!  We never know who is searching for something better or who may be receiving the House to House/Heart to Heart publication and visit our services for no other reason than sheer curiosity.  Brethren, we must sow righteousness abundantly in order to reap righteousness abundantly (Gal. 6:7-9)!
  4. Perfecting our love toward one another is the fourth method of evangelism in which the small local church can grow.  You may not think this to be a method of evangelism, but it is an important one.  Imagine for just a moment that you are a visitor at the congregation where you regularly attend.  Is there a feeling of tension in the air?  Do you observe individuals who do not shake hands or even look each other in the eye?  If we can see it, our visitors can as well.  Visitors have a knack for being aware of tensions that are unnecessary in the assemblies of the saints.  Our manner of life must always be in harmony with the gospel of Christ (Phil. 1:27).  There is nothing more discouraging than for visitors from our communities to detect disharmony among the Lord’s people.  The disharmony amongst us will cripple our efforts of evangelism.  The Bible commands us to love one another (1 John 4:21).  What doth hinder us?

We must always strive to find the most effective way to accomplish the greatest good for the kingdom.  We must be convinced that the fields are white unto harvest (Matt. 9:36-38; John 4:31-38).  James says we must be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22).  When the love of evangelism gets into a faithful congregation of the Lord’s people, the results will be evident and everlasting.

Lexington, NC Church of Christ