A Time to Reflect

Another Year is upon us. And, once again, we are faced with the idea of “What shall we do with this new year?” What will we do different in 2019 than we did in 2018, or the years before that? What will this year bring? Joy and happiness, or sadness and sorrow? Some of this will depend on us and our plans for the year!

We also know that there are some things that will happen that we have no control over. But, we also know that how we respond will make a difference. We can control our attitude and response to these things, or we can allow the problems to affect our attitudes. Which will it be?

One of the ideas we find in scripture is the that we have more control over our thoughts and emotions than perhaps we think. Consider again how Paul and Silas rejoiced in prison and sing psalms and hymns to God (Acts 16:23-26; esp. v. 25). Or how Job, with all of his problems, kept his faith in God, even though he would have liked an explanation as to WHY he had to suffer.

New Year’s gives us an opportunity to engage in introspection and reflection. Can we look honestly at this last year and say that we have improved spiritually? Have we learned some new things that will help us in our jobs or in our relationships in our family? What about our relationship with Jesus? What about our relationships with our brethren at South Cobb? Is the church better today because we are better and stronger Christians? Have we helped to build, or become a tool of Satan and tear down?

What did you do wrong this year? What did you do right?

Did you start off with good intentions – such as being a daily Bible reader? Did you allow the things of the world to cause you to lose focus on eternity? Did you accomplish anything this year that brought you closer to God and His Son? What would you have done differently? What will you DO differently this year that might cause you to become a better Christian?

Paul stressed constantly that Christians should live a certain way to exemplify Christ in them. One example is in Ephesians 4:1-3, where he emphasized that that we are to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” I’m not sure about what you think, but just these verses will keep me busy this year. How about you? What are your goals this year?

WILL YOU HELP ME BE A BETTER CHRISTIAN THIS YEAR? Will you ask me how I am doing spiritually? Will I offend you if I asked you the same thing?

We live life one day at a time – we need to break down what we plan to do for the year one day at a time. We need to make a list of what we will do and then go from there! So, what will you do TOMORROW (if God grants us tomorrow) to be a better Christian? And how will you build on that the day after, and the day after, and the day after . . .

I Searched for a Man

The prophet Ezekiel is a contemporary of Jeremiah. While Jeremiah warns of coming calamity from inside Jerusalem, Ezekiel speaks similar messages among those already taken captive. Ezekiel 22 is a summary indictment of Judah and clearly displays the reason for God’s punitive actions.

* “Behold, the rulers of Israel, each according to his power, have been in you for the purpose of shedding blood” (22:6).

* “Slanderous men have been in you for the purpose of shedding blood, and in you they have eaten at the mountain shrines. In your midst they have committed acts of lewdness” (22:9).

* “In you they have uncovered their fathers’ nakedness; in you they have humbled her who was unclean in her menstrual impurity. One has committed abomination with his neighbor’s wife and another has lewdly defiled his daughter-in-law. And another in you has humbled his sister, his father’s daughter” (22:10-11).

* “In you they have taken bribes to shed blood; you have taken interest and profits, and you have injured your neighbors for gain by oppression, and you have forgotten Me” (22:12).

* “There is a conspiracy of her prophets in her midst like a roaring lion tearing the prey. They have devoured lives; they have taken treasure and precious things; they have made many widows in the midst of her” (22:25).

* “Her priests have done violence to My law and have profaned My holy things; they have made no distinction between the holy and the profane…and they hide their eyes from My sabbaths, and I am profaned among them” (22:26).

* “Her princes within her are like wolves tearing the prey, by shedding blood and destroying lives in order to get dishonest gain” (22:27).

* “Her prophets have smeared whitewash for them, seeing false visions and divining lies for them, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD,’ when the LORD has not spoken” (22:28).

* “The people of the land have practiced oppression and committed robbery, and they have wronged the poor and needy and have oppressed the sojourner without justice” (22:29).

Ezekiel 22:18-19 NAS95 18 “Son of man, the house of Israel has become dross to Me; all of them are bronze and tin and iron and lead in the furnace; they are the dross of silver…all of you have become dross, therefore, behold, I am going to gather you into the midst of Jerusalem…I will gather you and blow on you with the fire of My wrath, and you will be melted in the midst of it…” (22:18-19, 21).

This last observation reflects God’s futile attempt to avert the disaster. Isn’t there someone – anyone – who will stand for what is right, confront evil, defend the innocent and honor Jehovah’s laws? God laments: “I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one.” (22:30). Not literally no one, for Jeremiah and his assistant, Baruch, were holding steady. But that’s it?! God is saying that there is not enough righteousness in Judah to spare the nation; the leaven is too weak to make the dough rise. Therefore, God earlier noted: “Even though these three men, Noah, Daniel and Job were in its midst, by their own righteousness they could only deliver themselves” (Ezk 14:14).

Those words should make every one of us sit up and take notice because, we too, live in a decadent, treacherous and godless society. As God examines our nation, does He identity me – you – as someone with enough courage to “stand in the gap”?

One of the main threads running throughout the tapestry of Scripture is the “remnant principle.” Regardless of the covenant, regardless of the time in history, only a sliver of humanity will choose to be on God’s side. And God has chosen to preserve the world (or a nation) and act benevolently for the sake of the few that seek righteousness.

Thus, long ago when “the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen 6:5), and he sought a man to save the human race, He found only Noah.

And when God sought a man to lead His oppressed people out of Egyptian bondage, he found Moses.

And when God sought a cadre of men in a faithless age who would honor His Son, leave the comfort of their homes and careers and risk their lives to preach a despised and rejected message, He found a few unsophisticated Galileans who changed the face of the whole world.

Being recognized by God as a light in the world is an honor and being selected by Him to be a force for good is a privilege but be warned: It is also a terrible burden to bear. Noah was sentenced to 120 years of hard labor for his exemplary faith; Moses was stuck with a rebellious, ungrateful multitude for 40 years; the apostles were hungry and thirsty, poorly clothed, beaten and homeless, “reviled … persecuted … slandered … become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now” (1 Cor 4:11-13). Being part of God’s remnant is not for the fainthearted, for we are choosing to side with the minority. Noah, Moses and the apostles – and many others besides them – made such a choice.

What a legacy! Do we have the right stuff to follow in their footsteps? Can God depend on us to be true and faithful when, so few others are?

Your Mindset Determines Everything

“For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6). A Christian is to be spiritually minded which means their mindset is what it ought to be! Paul again states this concerning our mindset, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus”(Phil. 2:5). Christ had the proper mindset! In Colossians 3:2 Paul says, “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.” In order to set my mind, I must have the proper mindset and this simply means that I’m keeping God, people, and things of this world in their proper place in my mind!

Why Is This So Important?

In the Bible the words “heart” and “mind” are often used interchangeably and involve a person’s intellect, volition, and emotions — it’s much more than just our physical muscle known as the heart. Jesus stressed the importance of having our hearts (minds, intellects, emotions) in the proper place (Matt. 6:21). So according to Jesus, where my mindset is will determine where my treasure is which will in turn affect the way I live in this world. Paul stated the same thing when he told us to set our affections on things above! Paul was in essence reminding the Colossians and all who read his letter today that one’s mindset must be in the right place.

This Answers Many Questions

1. Why is it folks will dress up when going to parties, or funerals, or weddings and yet give little regard to their appearance when coming to church? THEIR MINDSET! They have unknowingly placed parties, funerals, and weddings on a higher level in their minds than they have given to almighty God!

2. Why is that children are taught to say, “Yes sir” and “No sir” and “Yes ma’am” and “No ma’am” to their elders and yet speak of God in terms of “you,” “the man upstairs,” or “him”? THEIR MINDSET! They have placed giving respect and honor to men of this world on a higher level in their minds than they have given to almighty God!

3. Why is it folks can’t make it to service but one time a week and yet they can attend a ball game and sit and watch a double header, or not miss one single meeting at school or work or even in some cases attend these functions sick? THEIR MINDSET! They have given things of this world a higher position of importance than they have given to almighty God!

4. Why is it that folks respect the laws of this land; readily accepting their responsibility to obey them, yet try to disprove the law of God and show little regard for God’s authority today? THEIR MINDSET! They have brought God down to man’s level and in their minds they no longer respect and honor and give God the important position that he deserves!

Where Is Your Mindset?

One’s mindset determines how he dresses, how he speaks, how he lives day to day, and, more importantly, where God stands in relationship to himself. For you see until I have placed God first and foremost in my mind as being the awesome supreme being that he truly is my respect and regard for what his will is will not be what it ought to be! In other words it could be said that my mindset is not right.

Can it be said that you are spiritually minded? Has your thinking become like your Savior’s? If the answer is yes then that means your affections are on things above and others will notice this because your dress, your speech, your very attitude towards God’s holy word will reflect these very things.

Where Is Your Mindset Today?

Get it right,
Put it right,
And keep it right!
Your mindset determines everything!

Truth Magazine Vol. XLIV: 20 p23 October 17, 2000 (Adapted)

Why The Church Of Christ Does Not Observe Christmas

It is the time of year when every place we look, we see Christmas trees and lights. Tis a sign of the season and a celebration of the birth of Christ (or so we are told). There are several questions which are prompted when a member of the Church of Christ says they do not believe this should be celebrated as Christ’s birthday. “Do you not believe in the Bible account of the birth of Jesus?” “Do you not believe that the birth of Jesus is an event worth remembering?” The fact is, that we do indeed believe every word of that divine record. But there are several reasons why the church of Christ does not observe Christmas, and so I wish to mention some of them.

There Is No Divine Command Or Precept

We are told we are to do all things by the authority of Jesus (Col. 3:17). Therefore, we must have a divine command or precept for all that we do in religion. With this thought in mind, we do not believe we are authorized to observe religious holidays that are not mentioned in the Bible for Christians to observe. There is no record in the Bible that any Christian ever observed a holiday in the memory of the birth of Christ. Although the Bible does tell us of the activities of the early church, it gives no hint that anyone in apostolic times thought of declaring a holiday to celebrate the birth of Christ, or that God wanted it to be celebrated. In fact, the Encyclopedia Britannica reveals that it was a good many years after the death of Jesus before a certain Pope conceived the idea of having a Mass to celebrate the birth of the Savior. To learn of the beginning of Christmas, we must go to the encyclopedia rather than the Bible, for the Bible is silent about the subject. Reading further in the encyclopedia we learn that the Pope who first inaugurated Christmas said, “We have a Mass for every saint, but there is no Mass for Christ.” He decreed that henceforth the 25th day of December each year would be observed as Christ Mass Day. For many years, in fact for many centuries, Christmas was strictly a Catholic holiday, but when various Protestant churches came into being, one by one they borrowed that holiday.

We Must Speak As The Utterances (Oracles, KJV) Of God

The church of Christ does not observe Christmas because of the apostle Peter’s statement in 1 Peter 4:11. We cannot speak as the utterances of God and speak of Christmas. Why? Because the utterances of God are silent about such a holiday. If the New Testament spoke of Christmas and we had the teaching that Christians in New Testament times observed that holiday, the church of Christ would do so now.

Is December 25th Christ’s Birth Day?

Most will readily agree it is not. But they continue to celebrate it as such. I submit to you that a fourth reason why the church of Christ does not observe and celebrate Christmas is for the very reason that no one knows when Jesus was born. That particular day and month (December 25th) was selected by the Pope (there appear to be certain pagan reasons for his choice) who inaugurated that holiday. Most Bible scholars believe that Christ was really born in the summer time, but the very fact that God was not pleased to reveal (Deut. 29:29) through His word the day or the month in which His Son was born is evidence that he did not expect us to reverence that day.

It Is A Catholic Holiday

I have already mentioned that originally Christmas was called Christ Mass Day, having been inaugurated by the Pope. Protestant churches borrowed this day from the Catholic church. The church of Christ has never borrowed it. Let me say in this connection that nearly everything that it practiced in many Protestant churches has been borrowed from the Catholic church. Instrumental music, infant baptism, sprinkling, Christmas and Easter Day observance are just a few of the inventions of Catholicism which have been borrowed by Protestants. A number of years ago a Catholic priest remarked that it was amusing to see Protestants borrow such things as Christmas and infant baptism from the Catholics and then try to prove that the Bible mentions and commands such things. He added, “We practice them because our church councils decided that we should do so. We do not believe that the Bible mentions or suggests these things.” He explained that the Catholic church differs from many other churches in that it does not believe that it is necessary to prove by the Bible all things that they do. I think this priest had a greater respect for the church of Christ after learning that we do not take this inconsistent position of being opposed to Catholicism, but at the same time imitating and borrowing from these things invented by Catholicism, of which Christmas is one.

Should Christians observe Christmas? Religiously no! As a family, perhaps, if they so desire (although there may be valid reasons to forgo even that). Regardless of your opinion on a secular holiday, I am, of the firm opinion that it should have no place in the church for which Jesus died.

—Selected