Eighty-six years ago today

Turn on the Light!

Eighty-six years ago today (October 18, 1931), Thomas Alva Edison died. As you know, Edison was a great inventor. By the time of his death at the age of 84, Edison had acquired 1093 patents for his inventions. One of the most well-known inventions of Edison was the incandescent light bulb.

Very few of us reading this message ever experienced a world without electricity and light that could be accessed so conveniently with just a “flip of a switch.” To say we take “light” for granted is an understatement. When we do experience power outages, we walk around our homes, instinctively flipping switches throughout our houses, expecting light. None of us probably appreciate, as we should, the light that Edison brought to our lives.

Well, if you can agree with and appreciate that statement, then how much more true is it that we probably do not appreciate the light that Jesus brought into the world?

Jesus was the “Light of the World” and the “Light of Life” (John 8:12). Prior to his coming, there were “flickers” of light, but the “brilliance of light” that allows us to see clearly, was brought into this world by Jesus (John 12:46).

Consider:

  • Jesus illuminated God’s providence (Genesis 3:15).
  • Jesus illuminated God’s glory (John 1:14).
  • Jesus illuminated God’s nature (Colossians 2:9).
  • Jesus illuminated God’s love (John 3:16).
  • Jesus illuminated Man’s hope (Colossians 1:27).
  • Jesus illuminated Man’s future (John 14:1-3).

Friends, if you can appreciate the “light” that Thomas Alva Edison brought into this world, how much more should we appreciate the “light” that Jesus brought to us? Thank God for the “Light of Life!”

by Steve Higginbotham

In 1854 the McGuffey’s Eclectic Reader taught, warned and predicted…

We all sympathize with the thousands of people who are affected by storms, floods, and other natural disasters.  We understand that these natural occurrences are part of the world we live in.  They are often called “Acts of God.”  Then we watch in horror as hundreds of innocent people are gunned down by a very disturbed individual who, for whatever reason decided to terrorize a peaceful concert.  And all we can do is ask, “Why?”

Perhaps the following may shed some light on the “Why?”  In 1854 the McGuffey’s Eclectic Reader taught, warned and predicted…

If you can induce a community to doubt the genuiness and authenticity of the Scriptures; to question the reality and obligations of religion; to hesitate, un-deciding, whether there be any such thing as virtue or vice; whether there be an eternal state of retribution beyond the grave; or whether there be any such being as God; you have broken down the barriers of moral virtue, and hoisted the flood gates of immorality and crime.  I need not say that when a people have once done this, they can no longer exist as a tranquil and happy people.  Every bond that holds society together would be ruptured; fraud and treachery would take the place of confidence between man and man; the tribunals would be scenes of bribery and injustice; avarice, perjury, ambition, and revenge would walk through the land, and render it more like the dwelling of savage beasts than the tranquil abode of civilized and Christianized men.

 Is the answer to the crime and moral problem so simple that our highly educated and sophisticated society either cannot, or will not, see it?  It is time we as a civilized society start identifying the disease instead of just talking about the symptoms.

We will never cure the problem of out of control crime, and immorality until we put God back in people’s hearts and lives and stand firm on His Holy Word.  But it must begin with those of us who claim to be God’s people.  You see, we are either contributing to the problem by neglect and apathy, or we are helping to solve it by faithfulness to God and His Word.

Jim Davis

The Value of Problems

An injury sustained in a car accident can be a good thing. Doctors taking x-rays to discover the extent of the damage can discover other lurking problems that might have remained hidden until they were too far developed. God can use problems to bring about good results spiritually.

God uses problems to correct. The singer of Israel wrote, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, But now I keep Your word” (Psalm 119:67). He also said, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes. The law of Your mouth is better to me Than thousands of coins of gold and silver” (Psalm 119:71-72). Our heavenly Father can use troubles to chasten us and bring forth good fruit (Proverbs 20:30; Hebrews 12:5-6).

God uses problems to bless. “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4). God can use problems to produce maturity in the suffering individual, which is the meaning of “perfect.” Overcoming trials is a means of developing hope (Romans 5:3-5). That is why we need to focus on hearing God’s word and doing what it says (James 1:21-25).

God also uses problems to deliver. Joseph’s words to his brothers show how that works. “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:20). Paul had to learn God could show his strength in delivering the apostle from his thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:9). The Almighty used the suffering of his Son to give us the means of being delivered from our sins. “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5a).

The next time we face trouble, we should look for the ways God might use it for our good.

Gary C. Hampton

The “Sinner’s Prayer” — What is it?

Should You Pray for Salvation?

(Acts 22:1-16)

 A man is sitting at home alone, feeling empty & in need of something real & meaningful for his life. He turns on the television & there is an evangelist who speaks movingly about the need for faith in Jesus & how He has the power to turn your life around. The man’s curiosity is aroused, b/c his life needs turning around, so he listens intently. At the end of the message, the evangelist says, “Now if you want to receive all the blessings I’ve just described, here’s what you need to do. Just say this prayer after me:

Dear Jesus, thank you for dying for my sins. I confess that I’m

       a sinner & that I need your forgiveness. I take you as my Lord

       & Savior & ask you to take away all of my sins at this very

       moment. I ask you to come into my heart & make me clean in

       your sight. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”

The evangelist then declares, “If you prayed that prayer with me, you are now saved, all your sins are forgiven, & the Holy Spirit has come to live in you.”

  1. That prayer, or something very like it (it has 1000s of versions) has become the standard way in evangelical circles that people are taught to accept Christ.
  1. So much so, that to question or deny its validity is considered to be heresy.
  2. Ironic, b/c the prayer itself is never found anywhere in the Bible, nor do we ever find anyone in the Bible being told to pray in order to be saved. So where did this Prayer come from??
  1. Nobody really knows where the Sinner’s Prayer originated.

(1) Some say it has its roots in the Protestant Reformation, as              a reaction to RC teaching of salv. by works. “Just say this prayer. . . .”

(2) Others suggest it originated on the American frontier, when large revival meetings saw 100s of people at a time moved by highly emotional preaching (“The Great Awakening”). Meetings outdoors or in large “tabernacles” w/out baptisteries, so needed a way to “process” so many conversions. Sinners Prayer = result.

(3) One recent study says the SP grew out of the large Billy Graham crusades of the 1950s-80s, when again there were 100s each night. So many heard for so many years that that’s the way to accept Christ, assumed it as “the” right way to respond to the gospel.

  1. One thing is certain: It didn’t originate from the Bible. From the way the prayer is taught, you would think there is a script of it somewhere in Scripture – but there isn’t. It’s an entirely human invention, presented as the God-ordained way to find salvation in Christ. That ought to make us more than just a bit uneasy!
  1. NOTE: There’s nothing wrong with a sinner praying, & lost people for centuries have cried out to God to show them the way to find salvation. But nothing in the Bible ever suggests that prayer itself results in salvation.
  1. NOTE: I am in no way questioning the sincerity or good intentions of those who teach this prayer, or of those who pray it. What I AM questioning is the validity of something that the Bible doesn’t teach.
  1. What is the big concern here? The big concern is that the “Sinner’s Prayer” (something the Bible doesn’t say) has been substituted for what the Bible does say re how to accept Christ.
  1. We’ve been talking about it for the past 2 Sundays: Matt 28:18-20, Acts 2:36-38 & 41, Acts 8 (Ethiopian), Acts 10 (Cornelius), Acts 16 (Lydia & her household, & Jailer & Family), Gal 3:26-27, Rom 6:1-5, 1 Peter 3:21.
  1. Scripture is clear: When people trust in Christ & are baptized into Him, that’s when salvation comes, when sins are washed away, when the Spirit begins to dwell w/in, when we are buried & raised with Christ, when we put Him on.
  1. Here’s the question: Why does anyone think it’s okay to substitute what God doesn’t say in His word for what He does say? Isn’t that what the scribes & Pharisees did? Mk 7:1-13. “You make void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down.” Making substitutions for what God says is NOT OKAY!
  1. That’s not “legalism” – that’s respect for God & His word.
  1. So here’s the question everyone needs to ask: “Do I want to put my confidence in a prayer that isn’t taught in Scripture, or do I want to follow Christ in the way the Bible teaches?”
  1. That raises another big concern: The notion of simply praying to find salvation undermines what Jesus taught about obedience.
  1. Thankfully, many who still believe in the SP are getting away from the idea that the Prayer is “all you need to do in order to be saved.” Have seen that leads to shallow discipleship & often doesn’t lead to a Christ-focused life.
  2. It’s what some have called “easy believism” – the idea that salvation is “easy” – all you need to do is recite the prayer.
  1. That may not be the intent of those who teach the SP, but it’s easy to see how “easy believism” is the result.
  1. But that should have been evident all along:

(1) Jesus never taught that any single act – whether prayer, baptism, or anything else – is “all you need to do” to be saved. That was the RYR’s question: “What good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (Matt 19:16)

(2) Rather, Matt 7:21. Discipleship is a consistent following of the Lord & His teachings. Bap only the beginning.

(3) He asked this ques in Lk 6:46 – “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ & not do what I tell you?”

(4) To those who would say, “But I love the Lord so much, obedience doesn’t matter,” Jesus says in Jn 14:15 – “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

(5) Do you see how hollow the SP sounds when compared with Jesus actually said?

  1. Make no mistake: You cannot, even by obed. to Christ “earn” or “deserve” the salvation He offers. Nothing you or I could ever do could make us “worthy” of the blood of God’s Son.

(1) Salv. is a gift – it comes to us by God’s grace (Eph. 2:8-10).

(2) Obed (including bap) is simply the way God has ordained for us to receive the blessings He offers through His Son. It’s how we “unwrap the gift” God has given us.

(3) The power of God for salvation comes from God, not from our side. But that salvation is received by those who obey & rejected by those who don’t.

  1. Back to that man watching TV & hearing the evangelist.

  2. He prays the SP – & then what? Chances are, nobody ever knows he even did so. May or may not be any changes in his life.
  1. Sometimes people who pray the SP anonymously are urged to find a church & join it, but the overall thrust of Evangelical thought is that what is really important is simply your “personal relationship with the Lord,” so nothing else is really necessary.
  1. In other words, that man can supposedly live the rest of his life w/out contact with other believers. He doesn’t need the church.
  1. What does the Bible say?

(1) Acts 2:41, 47 – “the Lord added” – i.e., to the body of those who had previously believed.

(2) 1 Cor. 12:12-13. “For just as the body is one & has many members, & all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Grks, slaves or free – & all were made to drink of one Spirit.”

(3) Bap puts us into the “body” of Christ (the church). It connects us to other believers. It isn’t a solitary act done alone that may never even be known by anyone else.

(4) It is both an individual response to the gospel & a communal act, b/c it joins us to the “one body” of Christ. EX: Gatherings around the pool* when someone is bap’d.

  1. There’s nothing about the SP that does that.

Concl: Scrip rdg. from Acts 22. After his vision on Damascus Rd., Saul prayed for 3 days. Nothing ever says all that praying saved him. Rather, Ananias was sent to tell him “all that is appointed for you to do.” First thing A. told him to do was “Rise & be baptized & wash away your sins, calling on His name.”

Question: Was he saved before his sins were washed away?

More important question: Can you be saved w/out having YOUR sins washed away?

*For those not familiar with the Glen Allen church, we are one of the few churches I’ve ever heard of who has a swimming pool, which we affectionately refer to as “the world’s largest baptistery.” It was part of the property which was donated to us back in 2000, & since our building doesn’t have a baptistery built in it, in the warm months, our baptisms take place outdoors in the pool. It makes for some inspiring gatherings as people put on their Lord with virtually the whole church standing around them, welcoming them into the family.

Tommy South

“What The Seer Didn’t See”

A story out of Massachusetts last week told of a psychic who pleaded guilty in Federal court to tax evasion.  The case centered on her work with an elderly lady in Boston who paid $3.5 million over a seven year period to have demons exorcised from her life.  The psychic failed to report the money as income.  Even psychics, it seems, have to pay taxes.

This psychic’s web site is easily found (though I won’t help you with that).  On her site she claims she can “see” imbalances in a client’s body systems, and can give advice on how to correct those issues.  She must, of course, be in an “altered state”.  To achieve that, we suspect, a price must be paid.

It strikes us as interesting that one who claims to be able to “see” things ordinary people can’t could not see what all of us know: nothing is certain except death and taxes. (Why did she not see the investigation that would ultimately lead to her legal problems?)

The Bible has warnings against the occult.  Isaiah 8:19 portrays the folly of such activity: “And when they say to you, ‘Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,’ should not a people seek their God?  Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living?”  Popular movies like “Ghost” (1990) suggest that the dead can be channeled, but the Bible says otherwise.

Where then can a person turn for advice and counsel?  Isaiah 8:20 gives the answer: “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”  The law and the testimony to which Isaiah refers is the word God has given us in Scripture.  There is the light that people need.

Some suggest this experiment: Call up one of the many psychic hotlines that advertise on the Internet.  When they ask for your name (or your credit card information!), say, “Why do you ask?  Don’t you know that?”  (My advice, however, is to keep your distance from all such services.)

If you’d like to be enlightened about the future, here’s some can’t-miss information.  John 1 introduces Jesus in this way: “That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (John 1:9).  Earlier John wrote, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4).

In John 3:19 Jesus said, “And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”

Jesus is the Light.  To really understand life – past, present, or future – go to Him.

Come to the light God offers!  Study His word, the Bible.  Worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24).  Get in touch with us if you’d like to discuss these ideas further.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Copyright, 2017, Timothy D. Hall

Well, what did you expect for 20 cents?

It has been more than forty years since my family and I stopped at a little café, the location having long slipped my mind. We were on vacation, and had taken a backroad, not only to take a break from the interstate traffic, but to enjoy the ‘scenic route.’ It was getting close to lunchtime, so I was watching for some place to stop and eat. My stomach was growling, the kids were getting restless, and my wife was digging through her purse to see what we might be able to afford. Soon we came upon this sign out front of one of those privately owned restaurants that read: “5 Hamburgers For $1.” Some five years earlier, when hamburgers were 25 cents, it was not uncommon for a burger joint to run such a special; but those specials had long since gone the way of the model-T. Even hamburgers at McDonalds were a whopping 30 cents, and you could get a Big Mac, fries and drink for under $1.00. So when we came across that “special,” we jumped at it.

We got settled into our seats, placed our orders, and waited, wondering what we would do with the 5th hamburger that would be left over after each of the four of us had our fill. Then the waitress brought out the “burgers,” fries and cokes. The five burgers barely filled one small plate. They consisted of a bun about the size of a 50 cent piece, with one pickle, some ketchup, and a little mustard squeezed sparingly on the center of each of the burgers. When I asked if that was the hamburgers they had on special, she replied, “Well, what did you expect for 20 cents?”

Sometime after John was imprisoned, that great preacher become perplexed, perhaps even discouraged. He sent some of his disciples to inquire as to whether Jesus was truly the Messiah, or if perhaps they should look for another. After assuring the disciples of John that He was, indeed, the Messiah, He sent them back to John to give answer and hopefully boost John’s sagging faith. After their departure, Jesus turned to the multitude and asked an intriguing question: “What went ye out into the wilderness to behold?” (Matt. 11:7). Indeed, what had they gone out to see? Here was a man who preached in the wilderness. He had not gone to the cities as had Isaiah and Jeremiah. Nor had he gone to some great gentile city as did the prophet Jonah. He chose, instead, to dwell in the wilderness. His message was a fiery condemnation of the Jewish establishment and a call for men to repent and be baptized. So bold was John that he feared no man; not even king Herod. When the multitude went out to see John their expectation of the man must have varied widely. Some might have been curious about his raiment and his rations. Some came only to criticize, and John likened them unto vipers who had fled the wrath to come but whose lives brought forth no fruit worthy of repentance. Then there were those who were seeking the coming kingdom and who listened intently, applied the message, and became a part of that prepared people who would later be placed into the kingdom on that Pentecost when Peter unlocked the doors of the kingdom for the first time.

Fast forward to our day and age with its multitudinous denominations, self-proclaimed preachers, pastors, and priests, all vying for the affection of men and women who are seeking to fill the spiritual void in their lives. Many religious leaders attempt to market their message in such a way that it will be palatable to the tastes of men and women who long for something, but at the same time are unwilling to pay the price of being a follower of Jesus. The variety of religious institutions, all under the banner of ‘Christianity,’ astounds the imagination, numbering into the thousands. Entertainment and excitement have supplanted true worship and the Biblical demand for repentance and regeneration. The simple message in God’s word produces anger rather than acceptance. The clamor is for a comfortable Christianity; not one that calls for sacrifice, commitment, and dedication.

Why is it that men often turn to the Bible for an answer and then balk at what the Bible tells them to do? They turn the pages to see what that Book among books might suggest, and then close it with little or no intention of application. Well, I ask, “What did you expect?” A message clothed in soft raiment? Something that is not exacting, presenting no challenge, and calling for little, if any change whatsoever? If our Lord suffered and died to bring us eternal life, what makes us think that we can appropriate that life without making some kind of sacrifice? If Christianity calls us out of the world, unto a life of holiness, why are men shocked when they are confronted with demands of a Holy God. I ask you again, “What did you expect?”

What Jesus asked of the multitude on that occasion is just as applicable to those who, for whatever reason, go out to see what the Bible has to say. Indeed, “What went ye out to behold?”

By Tom Wacaster

2 articles today

What Can I Do To Make Our Bible Classes Better?

Since we are what we think, say and do, let us determine that we will think seriously and optimistically about our Bible classes. As you talk to yourself say, “I’m going to make the best effort I have ever made to make a positive, constructive contribution to strengthen and improve our Bible classes.” Having made such a commitment, we must get down to the nitty-gritty of taking the steps – doing the things conscientiously that we must do to reach that goal. Look at several practical steps to be taken:

1. I will make attendance on Sunday morning and Wednesday evening mandatory, a must (this is settled, decided, not to be debated) not optional (deciding from week to week if I feel like it and I want to work it in).

2. I am determined to be on time for services. I will break the habit of being late by planning ahead, starting sooner, making it a challenge to show the importance of this by being on time. If others in the family are helping create the problem, I will seek to solve it by discussing it with them.

3. I will show my involvement and the seriousness of my commitment to excellence in our Bible classes by working on all assignments and making daily Bible reading as much a part of my day as eating, sleeping and working. I will come to class prepared to enter into the discussions with enthusiasm and something to contribute to the class because I have taken the time to study. If I am teaching a class I will seek to be the right example to others as I reveal by my attitudes and actions how important study of the word of God is in our daily lives. I will earnestly strive to be a “workman that needeth not to be ashamed” (2 Tim. 2:15).

4. I will see our Bible classes as a means to an end. I want to truly understand the Bible better because I want to be and do what Christ wants me to be and do. I will constantly remind myself that ignorance of the Scripture is ignorance of Christ and His will for my life. As I prepare for the class, I want to see it as the means whereby I grow and grow up to a greater sense of responsibility coupled with real joy in our Lord.

5. I will use my influence to be a true and positive encouragement to teachers, the classes, and the arrangements which are in place to insure that the word of God is faithfully taught. Where I find discouragement I will seek to encourage; where I find complaints, I will show appreciation; where the seeds of doubt and discouragement are sown, I will plant faith, hope and love; where some have surrendered to apathy and indifference, I will seek to make a real difference by striving for excellence. I will seek to be like Paul when he wrote, “straining toward what is ahead, I press toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14).

– by John Clark

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Are You An Asset?

1. Are you sincerely seeking to live the life of a Christian, daily and constantly, in the light of New Testament teaching? Acts 10:34-35; Col. 3:17; 1 Cor. 10:31-32

2. Are you striving to grow and to improve spiritually – in knowledge of the truth, in spiritual wisdom, in love, in faith, in humility, in courage, in self-control, in steadfastness, etc.? 1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 1:5-12; 3:18; Col. 1:9-12; 2 Thess. 1:3

3. Are you really trying to set a proper example for, and to exert the proper influence upon others that you encounter daily? Matt. 5:13-16; 1 Tim. 4:12; 1 Pet. 2:11-12

4. Are you concerned about the lost souls around you, and are you using opportunities to teach them the truth? Mk. 6:34; Jn. 4:35-36; Mk. 16:15; 2 Tim. 2:2

5. Are you diligent in studying your Bible and in praying unto your Heavenly Father? Ps. 1:1-2; Col. 3:16; Eph. 3:3-4; Rom. 12:12; Eph. 6:18; Phil. 4:6

6. Do you attend all of the assemblies for worship and all of the classes of Bible study? Acts 2:44,46; 5:42; Heb. 10:24-25; Acts 20:7

7. Do you give as much as you are prospered by God and as often as you are prospered by God? 1 Cor. 16:2; Acts 11:29; 2 Cor. 8:12; 9:6-7; 1 Cor. 9:14; Phil. 4:15-18

8. Are you friendly? Do you meet and greet your brethren in Christ? Do you meet and welcome visitors at our services? Matt. 7:12; Phil. 2:4; Rom. 12:1 0; Jas. 2:1-5

9. Do you ever visit anyone for spiritual reasons? Do you ever call or visit those in the area who are visitors at our assemblies? Do you ever call or visit brethren who are weak or negligent or in need? Lk. 14:23; Matt. 11:28-30; Rev. 22:17; Gal. 6:1; Jas. 5:20-21; Matt. 25:34-45; Jas. 1:27

10. Are you happy and grateful that you are a Christian? Do you show it? Phil. 3:11; 4:4; Rom. 14:17; 15:13; Gal. 5:22

11. Are you really concerned about doing your part as a member of the local congregation? Do you ever volunteer for the many calls that are issued? Rom. 12:4-7; 1 Cor. 12:14-27; Eph. 4:12-16

12. Are you honestly working to make Christ, His Word, and His church first in your life? Matt. 6:33-37; 16:24-26; Lk. 9:57-62

Are you an asset to the local church? Take an inventory.

– by Bill Crews

THE WINDS THAT BLOW

     The real estate salesman said, “This house has both its good points and its bad points.  To show you I’m honest, I’m going to tell you about both.  The disadvantages are that there is a chemical plant one block south and a slaughterhouse a block north.”

      “What are the advantages?” inquired the prospective buyer.

      “The advantage is that you can always tell which way the wind is blowing.”

      It is important to know “which way the wind is blowing”.  But it is also possible to allow that knowledge to affect us more than it ought to.  I heard of a well-know hobo during the Great Depression of the 1930’s who was asked how he decided which direction he would go every morning.  He said, “It’s easy.  I find the way the wind is blowing, face away from it, and just let it blow me along.”

      And it’s easy for us all to live our lives in just that way.  Politicians are famous for doing it.  Before taking a position, they’ll take a poll and see how many people in the country believe one way or the other.  But we’re all guilty at times of allowing the “majority opinion” around us to shape who we are and what we do.  It’s so easy to look around to see which direction everybody else is headed and just turn our backs to the wind and drift along.  And rather than make an effort to change the world (which is very difficult), we follow the easier path of letting the world determine the direction we take.

      May these words serve to remind us of what our task as Christians is:

      “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”  (Romans 12:2)

 Have a great day!

 Alan Smith

The Devil Is Loose!

Mass murder on a vulgar scale – those are the words used by a law-enforcement official to describe what happened in Las Vegas, Nevada, last Sunday night (10/1/17) when a lone shooter began unloading large caliber weapons into a crowd of 22,000 people at a country music concert. For more than 10 years the slogan, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” has been one of the most quoted tag lines in tourism marketing. Vegas is indeed a major tourist attraction in the U.S. But news of the terror let loose on that city last Sunday sped around the world. The sights and sounds of the suffering and death 64 year old Stephen Paddock’s wanton violence unleashed on that huge group of people quickly spread to millions of homes via cell phones and TV news broadcasts, etc. His senseless violence set a grim new record for mass shootings in America – 58 dead and more than 500 injured.

Every time one of these kinds of mindless, murderous, violent events occur, people ask, “Why did he do it? What on earth could possibly cause anybody to do such an evil and heinous thing?” It’s a good question. We should all pray law enforcement investigators and other professionals and experts can identify factors that might trigger such murderous and miscreant behavior. If for no other reason, in hope we might know better how to prevent it or at least make it less likely to happen again. But I want to suggest an answer to the “why did he do it” question that won’t get much ink as the investigations continue. This past Monday morning, less than 12 hours after the Las Vegas incident, Alvaro Earlington, a brother in Christ and preacher for the Hispanic congregation of the church of Christ at Philippi near Smithville, Tennessee, dropped by my study for a visit. The Las Vegas violence quickly came up in our conversation. Alvaro cut to the chase and summed it up in words I have yet to hear any professional newscaster or reporter use. His analysis took all of four words – “The devil is loose.” I couldn’t argue with that when he said it. I’ve thought about it all week, and still can’t argue with it! The devil is loose. I don’t mean to over-simplify, and I’m well aware millions of people deny the devil’s reality. Be all that as it may, the Bible warns us that the devil is loose and also that he is on the prowl – “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Russian–American novelist Ayn Rand once observed, “You can avoid reality, but you cannot avoid the consequences of avoiding reality.” I would only change that to say you can deny reality but not the consequences of denying it. The world denies the devil is loose, but can’t deny devilish things happen. If a tornado sweeps through, you don’t have to be there and see it to know it was real. The proof is plain to see in a trail of twisted destruction and devastation and even death. So, too, the evidence says the devil is loose. But don’t forget – Christ is loose, too! They killed Him and buried Him and made it as sure as they knew how (Matthew 28:65). But death and the devil couldn’t win in the end. Keep faith friends – God is greater than the devil and good is greater than evil. The word of God promises someday the devil and his crowd will get their due. Meanwhile, be sober and vigilant – the devil is on the loose.

By: Dan Gulley, Smithville, TN

“Word Clouds”

Most of us have at one time or another enjoyed reading the comics.  Someone might ask, “Read them?  I thought comic strips were cartoons, drawings.  How can you read them?”  In most comic strips I’m familiar with the words of the cartoon character are written in a “balloon” above their head.  That’s how we can “read” the comics.

Real people don’t have words floating above their heads.  But the concept of word clouds shows that maybe we do.

Wikipedia refers to these as “tag clouds”, designed to show a “weighted list” of the words we most frequently use in a given message.  For example, I used one web site to create a word cloud from my most recent LightGrams article.  Not surprisingly, the largest word in that cloud was “light”, which was the theme of that article.

What word(s) did we use most in that report?  How will others see the letter I spent hours composing?  A word cloud can give insights into your writing style.

There is a sense in which all the words we speak on a given day (or lifetime) are hovering above us in a cloud.  Jesus alluded to that concept in Matthew 12:36: “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.”  Do our words matter?  We may laughingly dismiss the idea, but Jesus sure didn’t.  He warns us to be careful what we say.

Here’s another passage that helps us visualize the word cloud that follows us: “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Colossians 4:6).  Does my speech suggest to others that I am a dedicated Christian?  Or do the words that flow out of my mouth (hover above me in my word cloud) suggest otherwise?

Words are powerful.  With them we can inflict great damage on another, or we can administer comfort and peace.  We may proclaim to others that we are followers of Jesus, but do the words we regularly use in conversation back up such a claim?  Our word clouds follow us.

When Jesus was arrested and led to the house of the high priest, the eyes of many turned to Peter who was standing in the shadows.  Out of his fear he denied even knowing Jesus.  “And a little later those who stood by came up and said to Peter, ‘Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you'” (Matthew 26:73).

Yes, our speech will often reveal us for who we really are.  It takes diligence to keep the word cloud above us pure and loving.  Our speech will absolutely betray us.

Come to the light God offers!  Study His word, the Bible.  Worship Him in spirit and truth (John 4:24).  Get in touch with us if you’d like to discuss these ideas further.

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Copyright, 2017, Timothy D. Hall.