The Building Is Not The Church

It is not uncommon to hear members of various denominations refer to the physical building where their group meets as “the church.”   They might say, “I was at the church yesterday and I saw John.”  Or, “We’re so proud of our church — it’s been standing there for over 100 years.”  It is clear that they do not understand the New Testament usage of the word “church.”

In our Bibles, the word “church” is translated from the Greek word “ekklesia,” which literally means “called out.”  If you are a Christian, God  “called you unto his kingdom and glory” (1 Thess. 2:12),  “called you into the grace of Christ” (Gal. 1:6), “called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).  This “call” was not a mysterious, better-felt-than-told sort of thing.  It was accomplished through God’s simple truth revealed in the New Testament — “he called you by our gospel” (2 Thess. 2:14).

And, so, the “church” — the “called out” — is a term that applies to people, not to structures of wood, brick, and stone.  To stress this simple fact, some brethren have taken the extra precaution of altering the signs on their buildings to read, “Church of Christ meets here.”  The building is not the church, you see, but the church meets here.  That seems clear enough.  One group we know of went to the extreme measure of adding this explanation on their street side sign: “Christians comprising a New Testament church of Christ meet at this place.”  OK, we get the point!

While such specificity on signs may not be entirely necessary, it is important to remember that the building is not the church — the church is the people.  And while buildings come and go, we have the confidence that the Lord’s church is  “a kingdom which cannot be moved” (Heb. 12:28).  It is an “everlasting kingdom” (2 Per. 1:11) of which “there shall be no end” (Luke 1:33).  Thanks be to God!

– by Greg Gwin

Courage from Daniel

What Daniel Knew (Dan 6:1-10)

Intro. Many know the story of Daniel & the lions’ den, but not so many know (1) Who Daniel was or (2) Why he was thrown to the lions.

  1. Exiled in Babylon, where he rose to prominence. Had already shown great courage by refusing to eat the king’s rich (& from a Jewish perspective, “unclean”) food.
  2. 6:1-10 tells why such a powerful man was thrown to the lions. Like all powerful men, he had enemies.
  3. Verse 10 states an amazing fact: Daniel prayed although he knew fully the king’s edict & the consequences of his actions.But Daniel knew some other things as well. . . .
  4. That faithfulness that isn’t consistent isn’t faithfulness at all. Ex: A car or refrigerator that runs “most of the time.”
  5. That a relationship with God is essential to life (which is what his prayer was all about).
  6. That God rules the kingdoms of men (4:25 & 32, 5:21).
  7. That it’s better to die doing right than to live by doing wrong. Verse 5

Knowing these things gave Daniel courage to act as he did. Knowing them will do the same for us, regardless of our difficulties & fears.

Tommy South

 

Disturbing Sermons!

When was the last time a sermon disturbed you? I mean, really disturbed you? Cartoonist Lee Johnson once depicted this scene after a worship service: “Powerful sermon, Preacher. Thoughtful, well researched. I can always see myself in them. And I want you to knock it off” (Leadership magazine, Vol.10, No.3). John Gipson in a church bulletin article recalled a well-known preacher who heard a sermon marked by eloquence and soothing charm. Later in his journal he wrote, “Lord, preserve me from eloquence…let my words have a jagged edge.” Brother Gipson went on to write, “Some sermons today are missing a ‘jagged edge.’ These preachers never have to cry out, as did the apostle Paul, ‘Have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?’ “Sermons preached by inspired preachers in the book of ACTS often had a jagged edge. Not ragged; not aimless or vague; not mean, harsh, or hateful. But jagged in the sense they were direct and unafraid of exposing falsehood and calling for people to change their lives and come to Christ. Their sermons “pricked” (Acts 2:37) and penetrated the hearts of hearers, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.”

So, again when was the last time a sermon disturbed you? The apostle Paul preached disturbing sermons. As the old adage goes, what he preached left people either mad, sad, or glad, but it never left them alone or the same. If you don’t believe that, take time to read of Paul’s ministry in the ancient Asian city of Ephesus in Acts chapter 19. That huge, cosmopolitan city was a major center of trade, commerce, immorality, superstition, and false religion – an ancient version of New York City or Los Angeles or Nashville, etc., with all the good and bad that goes with them. Paul’s preaching and ministry there was so powerful and effective that “all Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus. . .fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified…. the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed” (Acts 19:10, 17, 20). But there is a fly in the ointment, for in verse 23 we read, “there arose a great commotion about the Way.” The King James Version says, “there arose no small stir about that way,” and the NIV renders it, “there arose a great disturbance about the Way.” The account relates how Paul’s preaching disturbed some who profited from superstition and false religion. Before the chapter ends Paul had to leave town or risk being killed by a confused, angry, unruly mob stirred up by those who were disturbed by what Paul was preaching. Acts 20:1 refers to the whole sad thing as an “uproar.” How about it? Has a sermon ever caused a “riot” or “uproar,” at least in your heart? Preaching what the Bible preaches will still disturb some people. The Bible addresses such controversial topics as money, sexual behavior (and misbehavior, including heterosexual adultery and homosexuality), divorce, drunkenness, greed, gossip, prejudice, etc., etc., etc. Preaching that emphasizes “one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God” (Ephesians 4:4-6) disturbs those who insist there are many (or none) of each of these. The offense of Christ’s cross has not ceased, and must not cease. Sermons that proclaim “the Way” that is God’s Way will always disturb a world that insists on having its own way. God give us more preachers and sermons that disturb us.

  By: Dan Gulley, Smithville, TN

Serving a Thankful God

    The Lord doesn’t expect anything of us that He Himself is not willing to do for us. The psalmist wrote “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry” (Psa. 34:15). God’s eyes are on those who focus upon Him; His ears are open to those who pray to Him. God practices “the golden rule” by treating us the way He wants us to treat Him.

Jesus condemned the Jews: “For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes & hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts & turn, So that I should heal them” (Matt. 13:15). If we desire for God’s eyes to be upon, us we must put forth a diligent effort to fix our spiritual eyes of faith upon Him. If we want His ears to be open to our prayers, we must open our spiritual ears of faith to His word of truth. If our hearts are “dull” & not focused upon Him, we can hardly expect Him to touch our hearts with His love, peace, joy and wisdom.

This principle applies to thanksgiving. We do not ordinarily think of God as being thankful. After all, He’s God, so why would He be thankful? The psalmist speaks of God’s thanksgiving: “His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man; the LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love” (Psa. 147:10-11).

God IS God and doesn’t need anybody or anything. No “worldly power” impresses Him. However, something does impress God; something does delight Him for which He is thankful. God is thankful for those who fear Him. He is thankful for those who put their hope in His unfailing love. God is so thankful for spiritually minded people that He seeks to reward them for: “the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him (2 Chron. 16:9).” That my God is a thankful God implies we can all do something that fills Him with the joy of thanksgiving. Just as His numerous blessings fill our hearts with thanksgiving, we can fill His heart with thanksgiving by attitudes of reverence toward Him. He doesn’t ask of us what He Himself is not willing to do toward us!

When you sit down with your family to eat your thanksgiving meal, hopefully your family will take time to reflect upon what they are thankful for. As you count your blessings, picture the Lord Jesus thinking about you in heaven and leaning over to one His angels to say: “I’m thankful for that man there and that woman over there who delights me.” Jesus declared: “I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God” (Luke 12:8).

Every time, you and I brag about Jesus; every time you and I praise His holy name Jesus gives thanks. Because we belong to Him; because we fear Him above anything in this world; because we love Him above all, we place all our hope in His unfailing love and strive to tell others about Him.

Joseph Hayden was a great church music composer of his day, but not everybody appreciated his music. When he wrote his music, some church members complained because it was “too joyful” and didn’t reflect the reverence and “stern holiness” they believed God wanted. But Hayden rightly understood that wasn’t what God wanted at all. “I cannot help it. I give forth what is in me. When I think of the Divine Being, my heart is so full of joy that the notes fly off as from a spindle. And as I have a cheerful heart, He will pardon me if I serve Him cheerfully.”

Thanksgiving is a national holiday that reminds us that Christians are a thankful and joyful people because we serve a thankful and joyful God!

Ralph Weinhold; Danville, AR

On his eightieth birthday an interviewer asked him what was his most vivid memory of that fateful day.

Dan Williams
Sermon: “Gratitude” Text: 1 Samuel 31:7-13
Aim: to emphasize the importance of gratitude.

1. Last Sunday we considered the sin of “grumbling” and what a negative habit it can be. Since that time I’ve continued to think about that passage, and how hard it is to turn that around. Maybe one of the reasons it comes so easily is that we all know instinctively how to be negative, but we don’t have as many opportunities to practice being positive. For example, I’ve known of stores and institutions that had a “Complaint Department”: but have you ever known of any place that had a “Compliment Department”? And last Sunday we saw that the opposite of grumbling is gratitude. This morning I want to offer a practical means of exercising gratitude.
(EXPLAIN CARDS)

2. TURN TO 1 SAMUEL 31 On Wednesday nights we have been studying the period of the Judges: during our Winter Quarter we will continue the story by reviewing the books of 1 & 2 Samuel. The theme of Judges has been “In those days there was no king; every man did what was right in his own eyes.” Well in 1 Samuel they finally get their long-sought king, when the prophet Samuel anoints Saul, a young man from the tribe of Benjamin.

a. Saul’s story began with such promise! But in our text this morning it ended with tragedy. Somewhere along the way Saul lost his dependence on God, engaged in disobedience to His will, eventually lost his mental stability because of an insane jealousy of the young warrior David, and in a final battle with the Philistines lost his life in a horrible defeat.

b. We have already learned in our Wednesday night class that the Philistines were both wicked AND cruel. It was not enough for them to defeat their enemies, they invariably wanted to humiliate them, even in death. READ Verses 8-10 Thus ends the reign of the first king of Israel: Deranged, deserted, defeated, dead, decapitated, displayed, disgraced.

3. But there is one note of grace is this sad spectacle that we often overlook: the response of the men of Jabesh-Gilead! READ verses 11-13.

a. The body of the man who had once been God’s anointed, had once ruled all the tribes of Israel, was now subjected to the ultimate indignity of a public humiliation.

b. To truly understand the significance of what they had done, you need to know, as Paul Harvey used to say, “the rest of the story.” You have to go back to the very beginning of Saul’s reign as king. READ 1 Sam 11:1f. “Nahash the Ammonite” [To lose the right eye would render them defenseless in combat, since the shield was carried in the left hand.]

4. Once you know the background, you can better appreciate the motivation of the men of Jabesh-Gilead: they were acting out of GRATITUDE! As we enter this season of THANKSGIVING, might be appropriate to consider its close cousin: GRATITUDE! Gratitude ought to be a mark of God’s people: we have been the recipient of so many blessings!

Deuteronomy 8:10-11 “when you are satisfied….be careful that you don’t forget the Lord”

Romans 12:10 “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves”

Colossians 2:7 “overflowing with thankfulness”

BUT: have you noticed how we often take for granted those who are closest to us? Story of little girl who came home after a stay in the hospital – she received so much attention from everyone that she asked in bewilderment, “Am I company?”

5. The action of the men of Jabesh-Gilead is so remarkable because genuine GRATITUDE is, unfortunately, so rare.

a. One of the few times when even Jesus was astonished by human nature: INGRATITUDE!

“Were not ten healed? Where are the other nine?” (Luke 17:11-19)

b. The experience of Jesus is sadly true to life: One stormy night on Lake Michigan, back in 1860, a side-wheeler steamboat collided with a lumber schooner. It was a terrible tragedy: 279 people lost their lives as the steamboat sank about a mile offshore of Winnetka, Illinois. Even more would have died, however, were it not for the heroic efforts of Edward Spencer, a student at Northwestern University. When he realized what had happened Spencer jumped into the freezing waters of Lake Michigan and swam out to the drowning passengers. He towed one to shore and then immediately went back for another. Single-handedly Edward Spencer rescued seventeen people that night. But he paid a high price for his efforts, because the strain of that experience broke his health, and he was eventually confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. On his eightieth birthday an interviewer asked him what was his most vivid memory of that fateful day. He replied, “Not one of the seventeen ever returned to thank me”.

Blow, blow, thou winter wind,
Thou art not so unkind
As man’s ingratitude.
Thy tooth is not so keen,
Because thou are not seen,
Although thy breath be rude.

Freeze, freeze, thou bitter sky,
Thou dost not bite so nigh
As benefits forgot:
Though thou the waters warp,
Thy stings is not so sharp
As friend remember’d not.
(Shakespeare, As You Like It, vii, 173)

Body:

WHY THE GRATITUDE OF THE MEN OF JABESH-GILEAD WAS SO REMARKABLE:

1. THEY DIDN’T FORGET. It had been 40 years since their deliverance by Saul, but they didn’t forget what he’d done for them. For some reason it is so easy to forget to express our thanks! Tom Peters is one of the top business consultants in the world – he has written several best-selling books, is paid many thousands of dollars by corporations to make speeches, has a newspaper column. His newest book is entitled The Pursuit of Wow! In it he has a section he calls “the most important piece of advice in this book.” What profound management insight does this highly-respected consultant give? “Don’t forget your thank-you notes!”

2. THEY HAD NOTHING TO GAIN.

Their action was totally unselfish…..a mark of genuine gratitude. Not flattery, not “buttering up,” not manipulation.

ONLY ONE CAVEAT: THEY WAITED UNTIL AFTER HE WAS DEAD!

Nancy Dickerson was a news reporter back in the early ’60’s, when Eleanor Roosevelt died. The day after the former first lady’s death, Dickerson read a letter she had written the day before. It was a letter of thanks she had intended to send Mrs. Roosevelt to express her gratitude- but Eleanor Roosevelt died before the letter reached her.

If with pleasure you are viewing,
Any work a man is doing;
If you like him or you love him, tell him now.
Don’t withhold your approbation,
Till the parson makes oration,
And he lies with snowy lilies o’er his brow.
If he earns your praise, bestow it.
If you like him, let him know it.
Let the word of true encouragement be said;
Do not wait till life is over,
And he’s underneath the clover,
For he can’t read the tombstone when he’s dead.

I don’t know if the men of Jabesh-Gilead had ever expressed their thanks to Saul while he was living: but at least they didn’t forget to be grateful!

Conclusion:

1. Most of you know that Ed Walston was a teacher for many years. Last summer he got a phone call from a man named Laverne Hill. Mr. Hill lives in Houston, and is a retired engineer for the Brown & Root Construction company. He was reading a Howard County history book, and one of the articles features Brother Ed, because he taught there for so many years. In that article it mentions that Ed is now living in El Dorado, Arkansas, and that’s how Mr. Hill had tracked him down.

At first brother Walston didn’t remember Laverne Hill, but that’s understandable, because the caller went on to explain: “When you knew me I was in the 8th grade at York’s Chapel Elementary School, back in 1934. My family left soon after that and I went on to Texas, finished my education, and became an engineer. I just wanted you to know that everywhere I went, my teachers wanted to know how I got such a good grounding in mathematics. I owe it to your teaching, and it’s something I’ve used all my life, and I just wanted to tell you thanks.”

Let us not be guilty of skipping thanksgiving!

SKIPPING THANKSGIVING

Christmas decorations began to make their appearance in some large chain stores soon after Labor Day, and in some places sooner. Halloween decorations and “Trick or Treat” candy likewise made an early appearance. But what has become of Thanksgiving?

In the mad rush to capitalize on Halloween and Christmas spending, it seems that Thanksgiving is getting overlooked. Walmart has announced that it will get a “head start” on “Black Friday” by opening at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. (Some Walmart locations are indicating that they will open at noon on Thanksgiving!) Other businesses have indicated a similar kind of schedule.

The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock on December 21, 1620. The following year was a hard one, with only about half of the original group on the Mayflower surviving the year. But in the fall of 1621, in company with the friendly Indians, they held a joyful three day festival.

In 1789, President George Washington issued a proclamation for a national day of Thanksgiving to be observed on November 26 in honor of the United States Constitution. However, it was not until the administration of Abraham Lincoln that Thanksgiving Day was set up to be observed every year, with Lincoln naming the last Thursday in November as the day for observance.

Franklin D. Roosevelt thought Thanksgiving was too close to Christmas, and in 1939 he issued a proclamation naming the third Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day. In 1941, Congress, in a joint resolution, named the fourth Thursday (which is not always the last Thursday, as is the case this year) as Thanksgiving Day.

I am glad that our nation celebrates a day of Thanksgiving, but we, our children, and our grandchildren need to understand that Thanksgiving is not a day! Thanksgiving is an attitude and an action! It is an attitude of gratitude that manifests itself overtly in the giving of thanks to the One from whom all blessings flow!

The Bible is filled with admonitions for us to be thankful. Note just a few of them:

“It is good to give thanks to the Lord, and to sing praises to Your name, O most High” (Psalm 92:1).

“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations” (Psalm 100:4-5).

“Giving thanks always for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father” (Ephesians 5:20).

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).

“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also you were called in one body, and be thankful” (Colossians 3:15).

Will Rogers (1879-1935), humorist, rodeo performer, actor, and author, said, “In the days of our founders, people were willing to give thanks for a mighty little, for mighty little was all they expected. But now neither government or nature can give enough but what we think it is too little. In the fall of the year, if the founders could gather in a few pumpkins, some potatoes, and some corn for the winter, they were in a thanking mood. But if we don’t gather in a new car, a new radio, a tuxedo, and some government relief, why we feel like the whole world is ‘a-gin’ us.”

As Christians may we never think of thanksgiving as simply a day on the calendar. Let us be thankful every day for our very life, for our parents and grandparents, for our spouse, for our children, for our grandchildren, for our food, for our clothing, for our home, for our means of transportation, for our health, and for all other physical and material blessings. Let us constantly remember that “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17). Compared to most people in the world, the very poorest person in the United States is extremely wealthy!

As God’s children let us be thankful at all times that God is our Father, that Christ is our Savior, that the Holy Spirit is the seal of our sonship and the earnest of our eternal inheritance, that the Bible is our sole and all-sufficient guide in religion, that the church is the redeemed body of people to which we have been added and of which we are members, and that heaven is our home!

Let us not be guilty of skipping thanksgiving!

Hugh Fulford

Bible study – Remember To Give Thanks

Among the greatest character traits of a Christian is a spirit of Thanksgiving. 2 Corinthians 9:15 “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” Someone with a grateful spirit has great influence. And the opposite is true as well, someone with an ungrateful heart is quite a negative influence.

One afternoon a shopper at the local mall felt the need for a coffee break. She bought herself a little bag of cookies and put them in her shopping bag. She then got in line for coffee, found a place to sit at one of the crowded tables, and then taking the lid off her coffee and taking out a magazine she began to sip her coffee and read.

Across the table from her a man sat reading a newspaper. After a minute or two she reached out and took a cookie. As she did, the man seated across the table reached out and took one too. This put her off, but she did not say anything. A few moments later she took another cookie. Once again the man did so too. Now she was getting a bit upset, but still she did not say anything.

After having a couple of sips of coffee she once again took another cookie. So did the man. She was really upset by this – especially since now only one cookie was left. Apparently the man also realized that only one cookie was left. Before she could say anything he took it, broke it in half, offered half to her, and proceeded to eat the other half himself.

Then he smiled at her and, putting the paper under his arm, rose and walked off. Was she steamed! Her coffee break ruined, already thinking ahead of how she would tell this offense to her family, she folded her magazine, opened her shopping bag, and there discovered her own unopened bag of cookies.

This story reminds us how well God treats us even when we are not treating him well or being very thankful for His blessings. Remember to give thanks….

1. Because God is the Source of All Blessings

We often forget to appreciate the source of our blessings. Moses told the Israel how they would prosper in the promised land. Deuteronomy 8:7-15

Everything we have is a gift of God! Even if you worked on it with your own hands. (Where did your hands come from?) Even if it was enhanced by your own strength. (Where did your strength come from?)

2. Remember to Give Thanks …Because Gratitude Blesses Others

Famous people were once polled by a magazine which asked: “If you could be granted one wish that will come true right now – what would that be?” Among the interesting responses, one stood out. “I wish that I could be given an even greater ability to appreciate all that I already have.” What do you think would happen if each one of us suddenly became a more thankful person? What would that mean to mothers, wives, fathers and children?

No one likes to be taken for granted – or to see someone that they love taking things for granted. All of us like to be appreciated. All of us like to be thanked. All of us, I believe, like to see those we love live thankful lives, appreciative lives. This is what we teach our children! (To say “please” and “thank you”). It helps them out in this world, and it is a great thing to be appreciated, to be thanked.

3. Remember to give thanks because it Reflects Faith During Difficult Times.

The Scriptures teach that Gratitude does not end when distressing circumstances arrive. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Ephesians 5:20“always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The NT Christians suffered much, but in their suffering they thanked God.

Giving thanks in distressing times takes faith because when we are anxious and worried we find it difficult to fulfill God’s word. Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” When things are hard, we generally prefer to feel sorry for ourselves and our troubles, rather than be moved to praise! It’s something to think about especially when you consider the power of thanksgiving and of how not only are we blessed or rewarded for it, but so is God and all those around us.

Giving thanks blesses the person who is thanked and it transforms the person who gives thanks.

God wants us to celebrate his love. God wants us to give thanks in everything. He wants it because it will bless us and because it will bless the world he has made. He wants us to remember what He has done – so that we will not be afraid when we are in need of help, and so that we will not grow arrogant or rude when we are prospering. He wants us to remember and give thanks so that our lives will be full of light and hope so our actions full of tenderness and love.

Sometimes blessings are in disguise: A ship was wrecked and the only survivor washed up on a small uninhabited island. He was exhausted. He cried out to God to save him. Every day he scanned the horizon, searching for help. Finally, he managed to build a rough hut and put his few articles in that hut. One day, coming home from hunting for food, he was stung with grief to see his little hut in flames and a cloud of smoke. The worst had happened. But early the next day, a ship drew in and rescued him. He asked the crew, “How did you know I was here?” They replied, “We saw your smoke signal.” Maybe the difficulty you have now is a smoke signal that will lead to a great blessing later.

Among the greatest character traits of a Christian is a spirit of Thanksgiving. 2 Corinthians 9:15 “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” Have you accepted God’s gift of salvation in your life? You accept that gift by faith that God can save you, by turning from the sins in your life, and by being baptized to have your sins washed away.

Cicero said, “A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues.”

Today our encouragement is to be a person who is characterized by gratitude.

Resources:
*Sermon by Richard J. Fairchild found at http://www.rockies.net/~spirit/sermons/a-than-96-2.html
*Sermon by Les Ferguson, Jr. called “For Granted or Gratitude”

John Dobbs

How to Sweeten Sour Days!

Someone observed than an alarm clock is a device that makes men and women rise and whine. Heard any whining lately? Two thousand years ago the apostle Paul predicted “perilous (difficult) times” would come (2 Timothy 3:2). He lists some awful things in that passage that would indicate times are “perilous” (verses 3-5) – “men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents . . . unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” You will notice I used an ellipsis (the “. . .”) in the quote. Open a Bible and read what I left out. There, smack dab in the middle of his list of ungodly things that indicate times are “perilous,” Paul said people would be “unthankful” (English Standard Version “ungrateful”). Read the list again and insert the word “unthankful” or “ungrateful” where the ellipsis is located. Every single thing Paul lists makes life more difficult for people. Nothing listed aids or improves or strengthens human society. Nations, communities, churches, marriages, families – nothing on Paul’s list is healthy or helpful in improving any of these. Rather, all are hurtful Including being “unthankful.”

How often do you say “thank you,” to God or to other people? It is easy to focus on what we lack, not what we have. A man told about his four-year-old daughter. She was standing on a kitchen chair staring closely at the familiar “Our Daily Bread” painting of an old man, head bowed, giving thanks over a loaf of bread. The man asked, “What are you doing, honey?” With a catch in her voice, she said, “Looking.” Noticing tears under her dark lashes, the dad probed deeper –”What are you thinking?” With a heartfelt sigh she replied, “He doesn’t have any peanut butter.” We can forgive the child – but the aim of the painting is to teach us to be grateful for what we have, not focus on what we don’t.

Scores of passages in the Bible direct Christians to sweeten our days by stuffing them with thanksgiving. Think about only one of them. Ephesians 5:20 directs us to be “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The word “always” tips us off. Gratitude is to be constant and steady and unchanging – “always.” We often thank God for health and wealth, friends and families, homes and houses, clothes and cars, etc. It is right to do so. But gratitude, if it is to be “always,” must be grounded in something more than physical things that make us happy. Good health can turn bad in a hurry, families can fracture and split up, friends can betray, and bank accounts can run dry.

The apostle Paul was in prison when he penned Ephesians 5:20 (see 3:1; 4:1; 6:20). It is unlikely he was thankful he was there. But he was thankful – in prison or out, God was still his Father and Jesus Christ was still his Lord! Thankful that even in prison he still had access to everything being in Christ made available to him! Thankful that nothing on earth is more important and constant and unchanging than God’s promises and presence. A lot of stuff in life is sour. You can sweeten the days by stuffing them with thanksgiving.

By: Dan Gulley, Smithville, TN

Three times the ultimate shark circled Jesus and aimed directly at His heart.

“Punch The Shark”

You might say that Charlie Fry is a lucky fellow.  He was surfing this past Monday in Australia when he was attacked by a shark.  But more than luck was involved; he fought back.  He aimed a punch on the nose of the shark, and that was enough to fend it off.

Fry, who is a physician, gives credit to professional surfer Mick Fanning for his escape.  Fanning survived a similar shark attack in 2015 by punching the attacker.  When Fry saw the shark aiming for him he quickly thought, “Just do what Fanning did.”  It was a good thing that the amateur surfer had studied the techniques of the pro.

There are Americans who today will attempt to land a punch on their enemy’s nose.  Today is the annual Great American Smokeout, a time for smokers to pull their last drag and free themselves from a leading cause of deaths in our nation.  It will take courage, but we wish these folks the best as they get ready to punch their sharks.

What about those of us who don’t smoke?  We each have a dangerous foe we need to fight off.  Here’s how the apostle Paul described our situation: “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16).  Sin, the apostle affirmed, is man’s greatest foe.

But how do we “punch” sin?  It often blindsides us, catching us unaware.  It also comes in the form of things we find pleasurable or exciting.  How can we fight off something we want to do?

Let’s learn a lesson from Charlie Fry: study how the Master fought off sin.  We have a vivid description of that battle in Matthew 4.  Three times the ultimate shark circled Jesus and aimed directly at His heart.  All three times Jesus fought back until finally the devil slithered away.

How exactly did Jesus land a punch on Satan?  Look at the words repeated in Matthew 4:4,7, and 10: “It is written …”  Jesus knew Scripture because He had devoted Himself to studying it (see Luke 2:49).  He put His confidence in the words of Psalm 119:11: “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.”

We live in shark-infested waters: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).  But we have help in our fight: “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21).

Study the Master.  Learn how to land a convincing punch on Satan’s nose!

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

I’ve realized why there are so many religious publishing houses in Grand Rapids

The Land of Jesus

    In high school, I took Advanced Placement English and we had to write a research paper on some piece of literature. My teacher allowed me to do a research paper on the history of the English Bible. While I was doing that research paper, I noticed that many of Dad’s religious books were printed in Grand Rapids, MI. Through my entire college career and all the research papers I did in Bible subjects, I noticed the same thing. Zondervan Publishing is in Grand Rapids. Eerdmans is in Grand Rapids. Baker Books is in Ada, MI, outside of Grand Rapids. 

    I really never asked myself why. Until we moved to Michigan. Now that I’ve lived in Michigan for 2 1/2 years, I’ve realized why there are so many religious publishing houses in Grand Rapids – #1) the lumber industry. By the end of the 19th century, Michigan was producing as much lumber as the next three states combined. These three publishing companies were started in the early 20th century. But why religious publishing?

    #2) The religious population of Michigan was strongly Catholic. Eerdmans, Baker, and Zondervan were all followers of John Calvin and the reformed church. So, they started publishing houses in order to combat the influence of the Catholic church. The Zondervans were actually nephews of the Eerdmans.

    Now, I could live the rest of my life without knowing those details and I could certainly go to heaven without knowing them. But, having some knowledge of the geography and history of Michigan does answer some interesting questions.

    When you have an opportunity, consider the land of Jesus. A study Bible like the ESV Study Bible can help enrich your study and understanding by showing you the cities, mountains, rivers, and distances. Consider one example:

    At Mt Carmel, Elijah confronted the 450 prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18). After Elijah was successful, he bowed and prayed for God to end the famine He brought on the land. Before the rain began, Elijah warned the wicked king Ahab to leave immediately before the roads got too bad to travel. The king left for Jezreel (18:45). But the Bible says, Elijah “girded up his loins and outran Ahab to Jezreel” (18:46). The distance from Mt Carmel to Jezreel, in the eastern end of the Plain of Sharon, is about 16 miles. That is a long way for Elijah to outrun the king’s chariot! That’s little over half a marathon. That suggests two things: 1.) Elijah was in better physical condition than I am! Elijah was not an overweight preacher who spent all of his free time on a golf course!

    2. It also helps us understand the physical exhaustion Elijah feels in chapter 19 which leads to his depression and him asking God to take his life. At the beginning of chapter 19, after King Ahab tells Queen Jezebel about what Elijah did, Queen Jezebel puts a price on Elijah’s head, threatening his life. So, Elijah ran further south, to Beersheba, between 90 and 150 miles.  At Beersheba, Elijah left his servant and then went another day’s journey into the wilderness. He was refreshed by an angel of God and then traveled even further another 200 miles until he came to Horeb in Sinai. Here is my point: We will not completely understand Elijah’s fear of Queen Jezebel unless we can picture on a map how far Elijah went to get away from that wicked woman. A little knowledge of Bible geography adds some texture to the story in the Bible.

    Studying the lands of Jesus can enrich our knowledge and appreciation of the events recorded in God’s word and lead to a stronger faith. In addition to a study Bible, you might want to obtain Wayne Jackson’s Background Bible Study.

–Paul Holland