Walking with Heads Held High

Posted by Stacy Lewis on February 09, 2014 @ 3:12 PM

Written by: Jeremy Prichard

Did you see the opening ceremonies of the winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia?  If not then you missed a spectacular laser light show with some of the world's best classical music, amazing dance, choreography and theatrics with world leaders gathered together to watch the show and cheer on their fellow citizens.
 
With every Olympics, the opening ceremonies seem to get bigger and bigger with each host country trying to put on a better show than the one before them.  Still yet, my favorite part of each ceremony is watching the athletes enter into the Olympic arena.  They're the world's most fit athletes, all smiling and happy, heads held high, walking with purpose, wearing their country's colors with pride, waving their country's flag with excitement and energy. 
 
It doesn't matter that they're thousands of miles away from the comforts of home.  They're strangers in a foreign land, citizens of a land far away.  There's no doubt where they're from, though.  It's unmistakable. 
 
That's quite a parallel to the Christian life, isn't it?  Our citizenship should be unmistakable too (Philippians 3:20).  We're clothed with Christ (Romans 13:14).  The lights of home shine brightly all around us (Matthew 5:16).  Our lives are in well conditioned.  We're some of the most fit in all the world (1 Corinthians 9:27).  We're ready for the challenges ahead of us and we walk with confident heads held high (Ephesians 5:15).
 
And you know what else?  The whole world is watching us too!  Like the old saying goes, "Be careful how you live.  You may be the only Bible some person ever reads." 

“AND”: What Does That Word Mean?

Posted by Stacy Lewis on January 21, 2014 @ 4:45 PM

Written by: Craig Waddell

Years ago, while dressing for school, one of my sisters could not style her hair to her liking. She ran to the barn where Mama was milking and through her tears declared that she wasn’t going to school until she could go to a beauty parlor to have her hair cut and styled. Mama told her to bring her a hair brush and “Calm it!” (In the South, this phrase is pronounced “Comet!”) My sister dried her eyes, returned to the house, and dutifully came back to the barn carrying a hair brush and a container of Comet brand powdered scrubbing cleanser. It took a while to figure out the mix-up, but the comical misunderstanding eased the tension of the moment; in her confusion, my sister didn’t know why Mama wanted both the hair brush and the cleanser and she wondered how Mama was going to use them to style her hair, but nevertheless, she also knew that when Mama said “and”, she intended for my sister to bring both items to the barn.

“And” is one of the easiest words in the English language to understand, yet when it comes to accepting Bible truths, its definition is one of the most misconstrued. The word “and” is a conjunction which equally binds or joins two or more words together so that if one condition applies, then the other equally applies, and if one goal is achieved, then the other one is equally achieved.

Jesus and the Bible writers often used the word “and” to connect two commands, or two conditions, so that each would be equally binding, and equally necessary. In John 4:24, Jesus said that those who worship God must worship Him “in spirit and in truth.” The conjunction used to connect these two conditions denotes equal necessity. In order to offer acceptable worship to God, one must worship in both spirit and truth, that is, according to truth. Yet many argue, “I don’t think it matters what I offer to God, as long as I offer it from my heart,” while others will reason, “As long as I offer scriptural worship, it really doesn’t matter whether or not I feel it.”

Another example may be found in Acts 2:36. Here Peter concludes his sermon by proclaiming, “Let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God hath made that same Jesus whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” This means God intends Jesus to be both master and savior to a Christian. Yet many will say, “It doesn’t matter how I conduct my life as long as I have accepted Jesus as my savior,” while others will proclaim “It doesn’t matter whether or not I’ve been washed in the blood of Christ, as long as I keep the basic commands of God and am a good moral person compared to others, I’ll be alright.

Still another prime example of the definition of “and” being misunderstood can be found in Mark 16:15,16. There, Jesus plainly said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Peter made a similar statement in Acts 2:38 by saying, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of your sins.” In these passages, belief and repentance are connected to baptism showing that all three acts of mankind play a vital role in a person’s salvation, yet many will argue that only belief and repentance are necessary for salvation, and baptism ought to be done, but it doesn’t have to be done in order to be saved. Still others will baptize an infant who is not capable of believing or repenting, hoping that belief and repentance will possibly come later in life.

My sister misunderstood Mama’s command, and she did not comprehend how a hairbrush and Comet cleanser were going to solve her hair problem, but she knew when Mama connected the two with the word “and”, she was to bring both to the barn. Likewise, we may not fully understand the significance of two different commands or conditions stated by God, but when He connects the two with “and”, we are expected to meet both conditions in order to receive the benefits of His promises.

What's in a Name?

Posted by Stacy Lewis on January 18, 2014 @ 12:49 PM

Written by: Jeremy Prichard

I suppose the question has been kicked around for years - what's in a name?  A lady at work (Ms. Patsy)reminds me that a sense of value is at least one of the things in a name.  Yesterday I asked her if I could use her story for a church blog and after I explained what that meant she happily obliged, stating "I don't want any glory.  Give God the glory.  I'm just here trying to do the best I can for Him."  AMEN! 
 
Ms. Patsy is one of the secretaries at work that manages the entrances to the building, the phones, and anything else that she's asked to do.  She has a remarkable ability to remember people's names, so much so, that the whole company talks about it pretty much daily.  Of course, everyone knows Ms. Patsy's name too since it's really embarrassing for someone to call you by name and then you not to know their name to respond in kind.  If Ms. Patsy meets you just once and hears your name then she's got it locked into her memory and will call you by name from that point on.  Keep in mind that there are over 1,500 people where I work and she seems to know us all by name.  Whoa!  That's some memory!  So, why does she do it?  Because she cares and wants us to know that she cares.
 
On a rare occasion she may stumble when trying to recall my name, kind of like Mom used to do when she was mad at me for something when I was a child.  She may say, "Hello Jason.....James.........Joseph.......Jeremy" or something like that but she always catches herself and correctly greets me by name, smiling as she apologizes for not getting it perfect that time.  Do you know how special it makes me feel when she calls me by name? 
 
My name is important to me, as yours is to you too.  So, its a wonderful feeling and gives me a sense of worth when Ms. Patsy knows my name because it means that she cares enough about me to know me, even if just a little bit.  Wouldn't you like it if every time you met someone they remembered your name?  Wouldn't that make you feel special, like that person really cared about you?
 
Now, let's think about some spiritual applications for a minute.  In John 10, Jesus said that He is the Good Shepherd and He calls His sheep by their names and we hear His voice calling us.  He said, "Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." (Mt. 11:28)
 
He calls by name because He loves us and cares for us.  And, He wants us to know His name too.  He wants us to know Him better so that we'll call on Him by name just as He does us.  "God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.  It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Thess. 2:13-14)
 
He knows us, calls us by name, and He has called us through the gospel unto salvation.  There will come a time when He will stop calling, though.  There will come a time when each of us will be judged according to what we have done. (Rom. 2)  So, we're told to examine our lives now to see whether we are in Christ (2 Cor. 13:5)
 
"For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?" (1 Pet. 4:17)  "He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus." (2 Thess. 1:8)
 
Obviously, obeying the gospel is of utmost importance.  So, we need to know what it means to obey the gospel.  Paul tells us plainly what the gospel is in 1 Cor. 15:3-4.  He says that the gospel is Jesus Christ's death, burial and resurrection.  But, how can we obey that?  Paul answers that for us in Rom. 6:3-5 - through baptism into Christ.  "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ." (Gal. 3:27)  It's in Christ Jesus that we are blessed (Gal. 1:3).
 
He's calling us all by name.  He wants us to call upon His name so that He can give us a new name - Christian.  How will you answer His call?

The Missing Piece

Posted by Stacy Lewis on January 13, 2014 @ 7:04 PM

Written by: Craig Waddell, Elder at the Center church of Christ

Christmas, 2012, my family started a new tradition – putting together jigsaw puzzles. This hobby has been a tradition in many families for years, and was one we enjoyed during my childhood Christmases. There’s something special about cooperating in reconstructing a picture, piece by piece, until the beautiful landscape, lighthouse, or flower garden is complete. The challenge of finding that one elusive piece which everyone is looking for draws even the most reluctant from his/her ipad, smartphone, or TV sports presentation just long enough to reap the glory. Once the project is completed, everyone basks in the joy of success and then our 4 year old grandson stops his playing long enough to ask, “Is it time to wreck it now?” It takes him about a minute to tear apart that which several adults spent multiple man-hours assembling.

This Christmas, we assembled four different puzzles of various piece counts. We enthusiastically began a fifth one on Christmas Eve (a thousand piece count one), but only succeeded in assembling the easy parts before everyone had to leave. I suggested tearing it apart, but everyone insisted that I should finish it, (Sarah doesn’t get into the hobby as much as I do); I worked on it off and on for about a week. When I finally got down to the point that I lacked about 30 pieces, the colors and shapes were so similar and difficult to distinguish that I simply began trying to fit the leftover pieces in and on every tab available. Some fit. Six pieces seemed to have no where to go. I thought that I had misplaced other pieces and had forced them to fit my idea of where they should go. However, at the end, each piece found its home and the picture was perfect. Almost. There was one piece missing. With that piece gone, there was no way that perfection could be obtained. Sarah and I both looked for it and thought it must have been swept out, but she happened to spot it hiding in plain sight in the middle of the floor, and she allowed me to complete our version of a masterpiece.

There are many spiritual lessons that one can draw from observing and participating in a family tradition, such as “jigsawing”, but there is one lesson that has stayed with me over the last few days. What happens when we get to the end of life, after we have assembled all the many moments of time which God has blessed us with, and we find ourselves missing a piece or two? What happens when we stand individually before God in judgment answering for all of the things we have or have not done in this life (2 Cor. 5:10)? What happens when we find ourselves imperfect? (Rom. 3:10-18) Each of us will long to present to God a completed life of perfect righteousness, but each of us has lost pieces of our own life; we have each sinned. (Rom. 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10)

Christians, and only Christians, have the hope of presenting a complete, perfect life to God. (John 14:6; Col. 2:9,10) They will not do so by their own efforts (Phil. 3:7-15), but by the blood of Christ. (Eph. 5:25-27; Col. 1:21-24) How does that work? Many seem to believe that the piecing together of their lives is totally in their own hands and that when the end comes, God will use the blood of Christ to gloss over the mistakes they have made and to mould new pieces in order to fill the voids of their lost moments, much the way an auto body technician uses bondo or a drywall worker uses drywall mud. Others believe that God actually does the assembling of each life, perfecting the ones He chooses and discarding those He so chooses. The Biblical truth lies in the middle. We are responsible for assembling our lives according to the truths and pattern God has given us. (Mt. 19:17; John14:15, 21) Yet God has not left us alone but helps us by making His providence (1 Cor. 10:13) and Spirit available. (Rom. 8:26) Finally, when we still fail, the blood of Jesus completely covers us, not simply fills in the gaps, so that our imperfections are no more. (Rom. 4:7; Gal.3:27) Were I to compare this to assembling a jigsaw puzzle, I suppose I would say each of us is given a blank slate of cardboard which has been cut up into many pieces. We spend our lives trying to fit those pieces together and with the help of God, we assemble it the best we can. When our feeble efforts here are done, God completely covers that basic, bland, piecemeal, cardboard life with the perfect, uncut, beautiful picture we were trying to achieve; the fibers and colors of that picture will consist of His Son’s blood. Once covered, then we become God’s masterpiece.

I Am With You Always

Posted by Stacy Lewis on January 12, 2014 @ 3:09 PM

Post by: Jeremy Prichard

Recently I had the opportunity to witness a very powerful lesson from the pulpit.  Brother Bill always does a wonderful job in presenting God's word but in this instance he merely introduced another speaker and gave way to one of the teenagers in the church, Cameron, who did an equally good job.
 
Sure, there was nervousness in the voice.  But the message and the thought was captivating and couldn't have been more challenging.  Here's what he had to say.  (By the way, I asked for a copy of his notes immediately after worship and he gave it to me so I am quoting verbatim here.)
 
"Sometimes we try to make excuses for coming to church.  People think that it is just important to come to church on Sunday mornings, and they often don't come on Wednesday and Sunday nights.  They are too tired or it's just Bible study is what they say sometimes.  Would they be here every time we meet if Jesus came to church?
 
Just imagine the invisible presence of Jesus.  Matthew 28:20 says, "And behold I am with you always, to the end of the age".  I know most of you would be, but, would you be at church the next time we met if you knew Jesus would be there?  Imagine Jesus leading the singing.  That would be wonderful, wouldn't it.  Would you sing louder?  If you don't sing, would you sing?  Would you think about the words you are singing?
 
What if He led prayer?  Can you imagine how hard you would be praying, along with Him, as you made His prayer your own?  I imagine we would all be praying as hard as we could.  If Jesus stood up there to preach you would likely join me and everyone else in listening intently and taking the best notes you could.
 
It would be wonderful if Jesus came to church wouldn't it?  Well, He is here every time we meet to study His word.  Matthew 18:20 says "For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them".  Jesus said to Himself, the He is here with us every time we meet!"
 
Wow, what a powerful lesson! 
 
Now, what will you do with that lesson?  What must I do with that lesson?   We have no choice but to "consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near" as we read in Hebrews 10:24-25.
 
Thank you Cameron for the time spent in studying God's word for your devotional.  Thank you for the courage to stand before the church and speak those words.  And, thank you for the lesson - a reminder of how special our worship to God Almighty truly is and how important our presence and fervent participation is. 

A Worthless Penny

Posted by Stacy Lewis on December 23, 2013 @ 3:29 PM

Post written by : Jeremy Prichard

A little while ago I took the kids to a nearby railroad track to show them how cool it is to place pennies on the tracks, wait for trains to run over them, and then search to find the flattened coins to discover their new shapes and looks.  They didn't seem to have near as much fun as I did, though they did have to endure hearing many lessons about how they should never do that without their daddy and how dangerous playing around trains and railroad tracks really is.  Of course we were super-safe the whole time and never even saw a train while we were on our adventure.  But we know one came by because when we came back to look for our pennies they were all flattened and all bent out of shape.
 
Seeing those beautiful, shiny new pennies get changed into distorted, smeared pieces of metal made me think.  The train-flattened pennies were no longer useful as money and were not able to be used for their intended purposes.  They were transformed into just odd looking pieces of metal shaped by their surroundings (in this case a train and a railroad track).  Still made up of the same things, but changed from what their maker had created.
 
Aren't we sometimes the same way?  As Christians, " we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Eph, 2:10).  But sometimes we let our surroundings shape us too, don't we?  We need to be reminded that God said, "Be holy, for I am holy" (Lev. 11:44).  We need to remember to "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" (Rom. 12:2).
 
Just as surely as those pennies were shaped and molded by the world around them, we too will be shaped by our surroundings.  Choose friends carefully (1 Cor. 15:33).  Use time wisely (Eph. 5:16).  Examine your life (1 Cor. 10:12).  Pray for wisdom (James  1:5).  And, above all, praise God (Psalm 150:1). 
 
No matter how bent out of shape or worthless we may think that we are, our Lord is able to restore us and make us new again.  God is able to take us in whatever shape we're in, and make us useful for Him.  Let's read Isaiah chapter 59 or Romans 12 and continually turn our lives over to God.  He wants us to.  For, "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" (2 Pet. 3:9).  

File This, Please

Posted by Stacy Lewis on December 03, 2013 @ 7:56 PM

Post written by Craig Waddell, Elder at Center Church of Christ

We are a people who pride ourselves in believing the whole Bible, in interpreting scripture based upon context and not out of context, and in studying until we know the truth about a subject. However, whether we admit it to ourselves or not, we all value some scriptures above others, and view comprehending the meaning of some passages more necessary than comprehending the meaning of others. Let me illustrate.

Imagine that in your mind, you have 3 file folders in which you can store away scriptures. File number 1 is the one in which you plan to place all the scriptures necessary for going to heaven; these are the ones proving the plan of salvation, the organization of the church, the worship of the church, and all your basic beliefs. File 2 is for the passages that deal with Christian living, but are harder to understand and on which you have not quite gotten a complete grasp; some of the teachings in the Sermon on the Mount fit in this file. File 3 is the folder in which you intend to place scriptures that you deem incomprehensible (the symbols of Revelation are a prime example), and which you do not believe you will understand until you get to heaven. Now, how full is each folder? How often do you access each file?

Retrieve the following from the files in your mind:

1) “For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth.”

2) “Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.”

3) “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

From which file did you retrieve verse 1? verse 2? verse 3? If you are like most people, the last verse would come from file 1 while the other two verses from file 3, yet all these passages were inspired by the same Holy Spirit, were penned by the same Apostle, were written to the same group of Christians concerning the same subject (Rom. 9:11, 11:18, 10:17 respectively). If these verses all deal with the same subject, why do we read and quote one more frequently than the others? Do we stand on one above the others? How do we know we properly understand the passage about faith coming by hearing the word of God if we simply insert the other two passages into folder #3 and decide to wait until we get to heaven to discover their meaning?

Let me encourage you, next time you run across a passage you do not understand, don’t just file it away in the back of your mind; study and meditate upon it; dig deep and research it. Why? It may be the key for unlocking a full understanding of one of your favorite passages; a scripture you thought you fully comprehended, but of which you have never scratched the surface.

A Word Fitly Spoken

Posted by Stacy Lewis on November 29, 2013 @ 10:47 PM

Written by: Jeremy Prichard

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver (Prov. 25:11). Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person (Col. 4:6).
 
Of course, this is much easier to say than do!  But doing is where the reward lies.  Interestingly enough, doing is saying in this instance so if we can say it then we've done it.  How's that for irony? 
 
So, what are we supposed to say?  Circumstances dictate that but here are just a few words that have made a difference in my life.
"I love you"
"I've missed you"
"I'm glad you're here"
"I appreciate you"
"I'm so proud of you"
"You did a good job"
"I'm very thankful for you"
"I have prayed for you"
 
I have prayed for you is perhaps the most powerful of all of these statements since it carries the weight of your own love and adds The Almighty God's love to it.  Did you know that Jesus prayed for his disciples?  That's right.  He even prayed for you and me.
In John 17:20-21 Jesus said, "I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.  I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me."
 
Do you see what Christ prayed for us?  He prayed that we may all be one, even as He and God are one.  Do you see why He prayed that?  So that the world will believe.  What a powerful prayer!  Like apples of gold in settings of silver.
 
Luke 6: 45 teaches us that the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.  Let's take some time to examine our hearts and make sure that our speech reflects the love of God that lives within us.  Why not practice some of those powerful phrases mentioned above and share God's love through our speech?  Let's resolve to not just think good things about each other, but to also say good things about each other.
 
May God bless you as you serve Him.

Rose Colored Glasses

Posted by Stacy Lewis on November 09, 2013 @ 9:52 PM

Written by: Jeremy Prichard

When I was a child there was a popular country musician named John Conlee.  He's a member of the Grand Old Opry now, and like many members of the Opry, he still sings those golden oldies from many years ago.  One song in particular that I also liked was his "Rose Colored Glasses".  YouTube it if you haven't heard it.  It's a great song and will help make this blog a little more meaningful.
 
Conlee sings that "these rose colored glasses, that I'm looking through, show only the beauty....".  He sings about how his rose colored glasses let him hold on to the good things and keep him from feeling defeated.  He just keeps on hoping and believing in the best, even though it's not easy. 
 
The song is not a spiritual song by any stretch of the imagination but, it does teach a powerful lesson.  The lenses that we view things through determine how we see them.  What lenses do we wear?  Do we wear rose colored glasses so we see only the beauty and hide the ugly?  How about bifocals so we that see the same thing in two different ways?  An even better question is what lenses does God see through?  And, why don't we use the same lenses? 
 
Here are some scriptures about God's lenses.  "For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Sam.16:7)  Jesus said "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 18:3)  So, Jesus wants us to be (and see) like children.  How do children see?  What are children like?  They are humble, trusting, full of faith, innocent, pure, seeking good and not evil, seeking love and not hatred, longing to be together, obedient, teachable, respectful of authority, always growing, not lazy but active, etc, etc, etc.  It's no wonder Christ commands us to become like children.
 
Why don't we try to do that and see what happens?  Why don't we try to become more like children?  We may need to change the lenses that we view things through.  We may see that other things change too.  Perhaps our hearts will change and we may become children after God's own heart just like king David was called a man after God's own heart because he did God's will. (Acts 13:22)

The Roaring Lion

Posted by Stacy Lewis on October 30, 2013 @ 3:31 PM
Written by: Jeremy Prichard

Have you ever had a nightmare?  Let's imagine that we had a terrible nightmare, one of the craziest dreams ever.  Let's imagine the dream goes something like this.

A ferocious lion was chained up so that even though we're standing face to face with him, he can't quite reach us.  We are safe.  A friend of ours (who's not a christian) comes up and talks with us.  For some reason our friend starts to tease the lion, making him angry and roar loudly by jumping at him and making startling noises.  Next, our friend moves a little closer to the lion and begins patting him on the head, jumping back out of the way when the lion snaps at him.  Of course, finally one time comes when he didn't jump back fast enough and the lion caught him in his mouth.  The lion was merciless and ripped him apart, completely devouring our friend and all we can do is stand by and watch in shock. 
The next thing we know a loved one comes up, as if to see what has just happened.  The lion snatches our loved one too.  This time, though, our loved one wasn't ravaged but was swallowed whole.  We immediately find ourselves attacking the lion and stabbing it in the stomach in an effort to save our loved one.  Somehow we seem to know that they could be saved from the lion if we put forth the effort.  After a lengthy fight, the lion is killed and our loved one is rescued.  And then..........we wake up!  Thank goodness, huh?  That's about enough of that nightmare.  Here are the spiritual lessons that we may learn from this terrible nightmare.
 
  • Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)
  • Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7)
  • You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone (James 2:24)
  • Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:17)
  • Am I my brother's keeper?  Without doubt, YES! (Genesis 4:9)

So, what are we doing to keep our brothers and sisters from the roaring lion called the devil?  Do we care enough about our family, friends, neighbors, coworkers, schoolmates, etc. to teach them the Word of God so as to arm them for their fight and warn them of the dangers of playing around with the devil?

Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls (James 1:21).  Do your best to flee the devil and whole tight to the Word of God.  The sword of the Spirit sets us free from the adversary, the roaring lion seeking to destroy us all.

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