(The following article was written by Willie Hamblen, minister of the Chisholm Hills church of Christ in Florence, AL. I thought it would be appropriate as we enter the holiday season. RJ)
The holiday season from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day is a wonderful experience for individuals and families whose lives are going smoothly. But the same time period can be a dark, bottomless pit for those who have lost the one or ones who gave meaning to the holidays. Those who hurt feel alone and lonely, even in the midst of a crowd. Others around them who still have all their loved ones may not be able to appreciate the emptiness they endure in this “festive” time. The lonely find it hard to get through.
If you find yourself alone this year, what can you do to make it better? What have others done who have been in similar circumstances? The following are suggestions from some who have been there. Maybe they will help you.
Open up, don’t clam up.
When you are depressed and lonely, the tendency is to curl up in the fetal position and hope the world will go away. However, those who seem to be most successful in getting through the holidays are those that let others know they are hurting. It is okay to say, “I’m hurting! Please help me! I need you!” The person who can help the most may feel awkward unless you invite him or her into your life. Consider also a support group or individual counseling if it is available. Letting others help can be a great remedy.
Look up, not back.
The lonely sometimes have a tendency to look back at what used to be and wish it were still the same or could be the same again. That is not possible or realistic. What is realistic is letting God lead you. Look around for others that God has helped through deep valleys and know that He is able to carry you through, also. Pray your heart out and trust that He is listening. He has ways of soothing pain and introducing things and people into our lives which support us until we are able to cope…never on our own, but with the help He and others give.
One of the best things that you can do is to find someone else who also is in pain and try to help him or her through. It gives life meaning again and helps to get your mind off your own situation. The helper is helped as much as the one who is the initial target of the help. Both are blessed. Someone else who is hurting may not have your coping skills. Share. It makes things easier.
Look forward, not backward. Life does have to go on. You may not be ready to say it yet, but you know it is true. No one and no relationship has lasted forever on this earth. Others in your situation have survived and have begun to live meaningful lives again. You can, too. Talk with some of the survivors. If you need to, get a counselor who has experience in situations like yours. Plan for better days.
The events of the first day of the world’s existence are recorded in Genesis 1:1-5; the “last day” has not yet arrived --- but it will. The expression “the last day” is unique to the Gospel of John. Six times in that document the phrase is employed by Christ of the concluding day of history. Five of these are associated with the resurrection of the body (6:39-40, 44, 54; 11:24), and once the emphasis is upon judgment (14:48). Other phrases are used also of this auspicious day. Consider the following.
(1) The “last day” is also called the “day of Christ,” the “day of the Lord,” or the “day of God” (Phil. 1:10; 1 Cor. 1:8; 5:5; 2 Pet. 3:12). This designation bespeaks the appearance of Christ from heaven, and divine authority exercised on that occasion.
(2) The final day is called the “day of judgment” (Mt. 10:15), because the sacred verdict will be heralded whereby all men will acknowledge the righteous decree of God (Rom. 2:5; 14:11-12). Not a word of complaint will be heard. It must be noted in this connection that the “day of judgment” is not a day upon which one learns the nature of his eternal fate; that destiny will be realized at the moment of a person’s death (cf. Lk. 16:19ff; 2 Pet. 2:9 ASV).
(3) The last day will be a “day of visitation” (1 Pet. 2:12), at which point the Lord will hold wicked people fully and eternally accountable for their rebellion (cf. Isa. 10:3; Jer. 10:15). In phraseology of a similar nature, the “day of visitation” is termed the “day of wrath” (Rom. 2:5). The book of Revelation speaks of that time when the ungodly will “drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is prepared unmixed [i.e., undiluted – with full strength] in the cup of his anger” (Rev. 14:10). The picture of unending torment is vividly portrayed in this stirring scene.
(4) For the saints, however, there is a wonderfully thrilling representation of the last day. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul calls the final day the “day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30). There are several senses in which the final day is a “day of redemption.” (a) It will be a redemption from earth’s dangers and evils. The term “redemption” was used of the disciples’ deliverance in A.D. 70 from the crushing oppression of Rome (see Lk. 21:28). (b) The “day of redemption” is also the ultimate deliverance from the power and effect of sin. Note the promise of a future salvation for the children of God (Rom. 13:11; 2 Tim. 4:18). (c) In addition, “redemption” has to do with the resurrection of the human body from the grave. Paul wrote that we are waiting for our adoption, namely the “redemption of our body” (cf. Eph. 1:14; 1 Cor. 15; Phil. 3:21).
The “last day” of earth’s history will be a day upon which it will be “too late” to remedy one’s spiritual condition. Today is the day of opportunity. May we seize it with vigor.
Matthew chapter 24 has been described as the biggest problem in the gospel. Much confusion exists regarding this chapter because of the tendency on the part of many to refer to all the discussion within it to the Second Coming of Christ. Some have even attributed error to the statement of Jesus in verse 34, “Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass away, till all these things be accomplished.” It is the consensus of many that Christ and the apostles were mistaken. Seemingly, no thought is give to the idea that the exegesis of scholars is at fault.
An examination of this chapter in its proper context will clarify many difficulties. The larger context is found in John the Baptist’s statement regarding the eventual downfall of Israel (Matthew 3:7-10). Jesus further pointed to the conversion of the Gentiles and the cutting off of the Jewish nation because of their lack of faith (Matthew 8:10-12). In His conversation with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well Jesus related to the time when worship would not be confined to a particular geographical location (John 4:21). The Jewish nation would become like a barren fig tree and would be cut down (Luke 13:6-9). He severely denounced the empty religion of the Jewish leaders (Matthew 23:1-36) and concluded with a tender and moving lamentation over their spiritual destitution (Matthew 23:37-39).
The immediate context of the Lord’s prophecy was prompted by the disciples’ questions regarding the destruction of the beautiful temple in Jerusalem (Matthew 24:1-3). They mistakenly associated the overthrow of the temple with the end of the world and they wanted to be informed in advance of the signs that would accompany the final coming (Matthew 24:3). Jesus responded by discussing two comings and two ends of two worlds. The first judgment would fall upon Jerusalem and would mark the end of Judaism. The final judgment would mark the end of the world at which time Jesus would come again, not as a Savior but as a Judge.
Note the signs that would precede judgment upon Jerusalem (Matthew 24:4-28). There would be misleading signs (Matthew 24:4-14) such as false Messiahs (vs. 5). There would also be wars and rumors of wars, nation rising against nation (vs. 6-7), famines, earthquakes, natural calamities (vs. 7-8), and persecutions (vs. 9-13). The gospel would also be preached to the world before the temple would be destroyed (vs. 14).
Jesus said that when you see the “abomination of desolation,” identified as the Roman army in Luke 21:20, you will know the time for Jerusalem’s destruction is near (Matthew 24:15-28). Its destruction will be extremely horrible and devastating (Matthew 24:29-31). It would occur within the lifetime of those who heard Him speak on this occasion (Matthew 24:32-35). In 70 A.D. the Roman army under General Titus besieged Jerusalem just as Jesus prophesied.
However, by way of contrast the end of time would not have any specific signs that would accompany it. Life will be carried on as usual when suddenly, without advance warning, Jesus will come again (Matthew 24:36-52; cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3). Man needs to stand in readiness for that great day to come at any moment.
The definitions of words and phrases are critical to good communication. It is often the case that words translated from one language to another lose something in the translation. An example of this is the explanation an American provided a foreign news correspondent regarding the fact that he missed a plane that was hijacked after take-off. He told the reporter that he guessed the man upstairs was looking after him. The newsman recounted the story with these words in his report: “The lucky American had an accomplice stationed on top of a nearby building who was able to warn him of what was taking place so that he could avert getting on the plane.”
Some have questioned our affiliation with the organization known as the United Church of Christ. Others have inquired about our relationship with the National Council of Churches of Christ. The truth of the matter is that the Lord’s church has absolutely no affiliation with either of these organizations. Some brethren among us have used poor terminology with reference to their own identity. They have described themselves with such language as, “I’m a church of Christ-er,” or have referred to a minister of the gospel as a “Church of Christ preacher.” Even though one may do so innocently, such language places the Lord’s church in the position of being one denomination among many. The identity of the Lord’s church is discovered by properly employing biblical teaching to the research.
Consider the etymology of the term “church.” The word refers to a “called out assembly.” As such it has been used to refer to a political body (Acts 19:39), a riotous mob (Acts 19:32, 41), or a religious body (1 Corinthians 11:18). The Lord’s church is composed of those who have responded to the call of the gospel by being obedient to it (2 Thessalonians 2:14).
Reflect on the negative parameters. The Lord’s church is not a material building composed of brick and mortar (Acts 17:24-25; 1 Peter 2:5). The church is not an extension of Old Testament practices. Jesus’ death on the cross took away the old law and established the new covenant (Galatians 3:22-25; Colossians 2:14). Neither is the Lord’s church a denominational part of the whole of Christianity; that is, it is not a fragmented part of the whole. The church of our Lord IS Christianity (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). Jesus promised to build only one church (Matthew 16:18) and only one was constructed (Ephesians 4:4; 1:22-23). The various denominations that have arisen over the years are the result of man’s efforts, not God’s!
Examine the biblical comparisons that are made. The church is described as a body (Colossians 1:18). Christ is the head of the body and all members are subject to Him (Ephesians 5:23). Within the body there is diversity (1 Corinthians 12:4-6) as well as coordination (1 Corinthians 12:15-17). Likewise, members of the body have a mutual concern for each other (1 Corinthians 12:25). The church is called a family (1 Timothy 3:15). Since the church is God’s house, is it possible for one to be a child of God and not be in His church? To ask the question is but to answer it. Furthermore, the church is described as the bride of Christ (Romans 7:1-4); 2 Corinthians 11:1-2). Do you suppose Christ would be married to more than one bride? If denominationalism were true, wouldn’t He be guilty of spiritual adultery? Perish the thought! The church is also described as a kingdom. The synonymous use of the terms church and kingdom prove this (Matthew 16:18-19). Jesus said His kingdom would be established in the lifetime of the generation contemporary with Him (Mark 9:1). In the early 60’s A.D. Paul wrote that he was in the kingdom (Colossians 1:13). All who presently obey the same gospel Paul obeyed can likewise be in the same kingdom of which he was a part. Hence, the kingdom is not something yet to be established as advocated by premillennialists, but is now in existence. The church is called the flock of God (1 Peter 5:2). In his touching speech with the elders of the Ephesian congregation, Paul stated that the church (God’s flock) was purchased with the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28). Here’s a question for consideration: Can the blood of Jesus save one without being a part of the group His saving blood purchased?
It is imperative that we reject the husks of human opinion and embrace the truth of heaven’s instructions. Why not obey the gospel of Christ and become a member of the church of our Lord Jesus Christ? Please contact us if you have questions or desire further information.
A physician once stated that the secret to a long life was to drink eight glasses of water each day. There is no doubt that following this advice would greatly aid the longevity as well as the quality of one’s life. One could wish that the secret to a strong spiritual life would be so easy, but it isn’t. However, in Phillipians chapter three Paul does provide some food for thought. In this chapter, Paul reveals his spiritual biography. He points to his past in verses 1-11. There we see “Paul, the accountant.” He refers to his present in verses 12-16 where we see “Paul, the athlete.” Finally, he describes the future in verses 17-21 and pictures himself as an “alien” in the world.
We focus our attention on verses twelve through fourteen where Paul unfolds some ingredients essential for spiritual development.
Dissatisfaction (3:12-13a). Though he was a religious giant, Paul was dissatisfied with his spiritual progress. He realized his personal shortcomings and wanted to advance for the sake of the kingdom. When a person becomes satisfied with his spiritual stature he signals the end of spiritual growth. The church at Sardis was satisfied with their spiritual reputation, but Jesus described them as being dead (Rev. 3:1). Laodicea felt satisfied with their status, but, in reality, they were wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked (Rev. 3:17). Paul’s spiritual maturity was shown in the recognition of his own immaturity. So is ours.
Devotion (3:13b). “One thing” is an important phrase. The self-righteous rich young ruler lacked “one thing” in obtaining the true riches (Mk. 10:21). The man blind from his birth did not know many things, but he said, “One thing I do know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see” (Jn. 9:25). The Psalmist requested “one thing” of the Lord: that he dwell in the house of the Lord all his life (Psa. 27:4). An ingredient essential for spiritual growth is having singleness of purpose. Just as an athlete succeeds by concentrating on his goal so the Christian develops by focusing upon his eternal quest. A river that is allowed to overflow its banks becomes a swamp, whereas, one that is properly channeled becomes a power. The spiritually developing life is a focused life.
Direction (3:13c). Paul did not allow his checkered past of opposition to the church hinder his current service to the Lord. In order to grow Christians must break the power of the past by living for the future. Like Paul, we need to accept God’s offer of forgiveness and forget the past (Acts 22:16).
Determination (3:14). This verse captures the idea of intense endeavor. The picture is that of a hunter eagerly pursuing his prey. A person does not become a winning athlete by listening to lectures in his field of competition, or by watching movies, reading books, or cheering at games. He must get on the field and perform. It may be that one of the reasons why some do not grow spiritually is because the price of success is too great for them. However, the incorruptible crown awaiting the faithful is worthy of relentless pursuit.
A question of absorbing interest to every thoughtful person is, “Shall we know each other in heaven?” Whatever God has revealed on the subject of heaven, he has done so with the intent of intensifying man’s desire to go there. This article is not written to just satisfy an idle curiosity or to submit speculative ideas on this subject, but to discover what God has revealed on the matter. There are several reasons for believing that we shall know each other in heaven.
Some have argued that if we know each other in heaven, then heaven would become a sad place if it was discovered that a loved one was not there. That line of reasoning does not eliminate the difficulty, for then we would not know if anybody we love is there. Somehow, we manage to experience joy on earth in spite of the fact that we know loved ones who are in a lost condition spiritually. Even though some of our loved ones on earth will not be in heaven, surely we will experience untold joy on the other shore when God “shall wipe away every tear” (Revelation 21:4).
The doctrine of future recognition is grounded in hope, sustained by faith, and shall be realized when this life is completed.
The path of the righteous is like the light of dawn that shines brighter and brighter until the full day. The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.
These words of Solomon place before us a vivid contrast between “the path of the righteous” and “the way of the wicked.” They tell us that from God’s standpoint there are only two classes of people in the world --- the righteous and the wicked. To which class do you belong?
The righteous are in the minority; the wicked are in the majority. In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus stated that there would be many on the “broad way” that leads to destruction in contrast to the few on the “narrow way” that leads to life. Since the fall of man it has always been true that the righteous are in the minority. It was so in the days of Noah, when after 120 years of warning, only eight souls were saved (1 Peter 3:20). It was true when only a few escaped God’s judgment on wicked Sodom (Genesis 19:23-25). After almost two thousand years of Christianity, it is still true that the righteous are in the minority.
The righteous are in the light; the wicked are in a state of darkness. Christians are in the light because their source of light is Jesus (John 8:12). They have been translated out of darkness into light (Colossians 1:12-13). The spiritual condition of every man who is without Christ is extremely dark and bleak (2 Corinthians 4:4). He is following a path that will lead to eternal darkness (Jude 13).
The path of the righteous gets brighter; the way of the wicked gets darker. The experience of the Christian is that of walking in the light (1 John 1:7) which increases in brightness through the years. In contrast, the wicked stumble because they are in the darkness. They stumble through life, hoping for the best, but there is no real anchor or eternal hope (Ephesians 2:12). What a bleak experience this is! Our wonderful Guide wants to take our hand and lead us through all the intricate pathways of life until at last we enter into His presence.
The righteous have a glorious prospect; the wicked have a terrible prospect. The righteous await a home prepared for them by the carpenter of Israel (John 14:2-3). The wicked have a bleak future ahead with no hope of escaping (Matthew 8:12). On which road are you traveling --- the road that has a glorious prospect, or the road that has a terrible prospect?
There is probably no job that requires more tact, wisdom, understanding, and love than the responsibility of raising children properly. There are many ingredients that combine to make for a successful effort in child-rearing. One ingredient is the administration of proper discipline. The goal of parental discipline should be the eventual capability of self-discipline by the time a child reaches adulthood. Perhaps it is in the area of discipline that many parents feel they have failed their children the most.
I will have to admit that I possessed “wiser” insights into disciplining children before I became a parent. To exercise proper discipline is not easy for parents. My children are now grown and have families of their own, but I will probably never graduate from the “School of Fatherhood.”
The subject of discipline provokes more discussion and the greatest differences of opinion among parents than just about anything else regarding parenting. It is a subject that can create guilt problems for parents who have already raised their children. It can also create frustration for parents who are in the process of raising theirs. One thing for certain, you will not find all the answers to raising children by reading a book --- unless it is THE BOOK! Permit me to share some principles of discipline that are found in the Bible.
Discipline is a proof of parental love. “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him” (Proverbs 13:24, ESV). Dr. James Dobson wisely wrote, parents should “…identify the rules well in advance; let there be no doubt about what is and is not acceptable behavior; when the child cold-bloodedly chooses to challenge those known boundaries in a haughty manner, give him good reason to regret it; at all times, demonstrate love and affection and kindness and understanding. Discipline and love are not antithetical; one is a function of the other” (Dare To Discipline, pg. 29).
Don’t wait until it is too late before you decide to exercise discipline. “Discipline your son while there is hope” (Proverbs 19:18). Some parents wait until the child has already established a rebellious spirit before deciding that discipline needs to be implemented. By then “the twig is bent” and it is extremely difficult, though not impossible, to change the child.
Proper discipline will not hurt a child. “If you strike him with a rod, he will not die” (Proverbs 23:13). This passage is not recommending physical abuse; neither is it suggesting that physical punishment is the only method of child training. However, parents need to understand that crying is not a barometer of pain and neither are tears an indication of successful discipline.
Discipline is not a mechanism for releasing parental anger (Ephesians 6:4). What exasperates children most is not discipline, but unjust accusations, unfair punishment, nagging, sarcasm, or short-fused anger.
Parents, read God’s book and practice what it teaches. It will make you a better parent.
It is said that the apostle James had knees that were worn hard by his constant habit of kneeling in prayer. If this is true, we have the testimony of a man who had proven the power of prayer in his own life. He practiced what he preached. He wrote, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16, KJV). The inference of these words is that there is a kind of prayer that avails little or nothing and could be described as ineffective, vain, and useless. Perhaps you have felt at times that your prayers were ineffective or powerless. Could your prayers have been characterized by the following?
Prayer with a wrong motive cannot prevail. Selfish prayer is the reason why some do not receive that for which they ask (James 4:3). Maybe the reason why your prayers don’t prevail is because they are so self-centered that God is crowded out.
If sin is practiced, prayer cannot prevail. If we knowingly harbor sin in our life, God will not hear us (Psalms 66:18). Conversely, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:9).
An unforgiving spirit will hinder prayer (Mark 11:25-26). “If you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15, ESV).
An unwillingness to be reconciled to another hinders prayer (Matthew 5:23-24). Maintaining a proper relationship with a brother in Christ is a priority if we expect God to hear our prayers. We cannot be right with God and remain estranged from our brethren. The initiative in seeking reconciliation resides upon both the offender (Matthew 5:23) and the offended (Matthew 18:15). Harboring ill-will toward someone who has offended us only harms us. There is the possibility that the offender is totally unaware of their offense and calling attention to the affect their conduct has had upon you provides the opportunity for the two of you to reconcile. If you are the offender rather than the offended, being so calloused that you do not seek reconciliation is also harmful.
A wrong family relationship hinders prayer (1 Peter 3:7). If our relationship with members of our family is not all that it should be, prayer is obstructed. When a husband and wife regularly join hands in prayer, they remain joined together in life.
“The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” May we take this admonition to our hearts and be encouraged to pray effectively to God’s glory!
The Bible is unique in that it does not include a haphazard collection of writings. It is an organic whole. Anyone who reads the Bible carefully will quickly realize that there is a unified plan behind the arrangement. There is a unity about the Bible that is nothing less than marvelous. It is inspired, authoritative and entirely trustworthy. What are the grounds for believing this? Consider the following:
The Wonder of its Formation. The 66 books of the Bible were written by about forty different writers who lived in different countries, spoke different languages and came from different backgrounds. Among the writers were a king, a doctor, a herdsman, a tax gatherer, a scribe, a fisherman, etc. Their material was written over a period of 1600 years, so there was no collusion among them. Yet, when these 66 books are placed together there is perfect unity and harmony between them. What is the explanation? Only one – the Bible is God’s miracle book.
The Claim of its Writers. God is the author of the Bible, but He employed many human writers. These writers claimed to be writing down the words of the Lord when they used such phrases as, “Thus saith the Lord.” This expression occurs hundreds of times in the Bible. Paul said, “All Scripture is inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3:16; cf. 2 Peter 1:21). How can the fact that the biblical writers claimed to write under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit be explained? In this way: the Bible is God’s miracle book.
The Accuracy of its Statements. A view held by some is that the Bible is full of errors; however, what appear at first glance to be discrepancies are cleared away after careful investigation. There is not one single proven inaccuracy in the whole Bible. It is flawless historically, geographically, genealogically, scientifically, psychologically, typologically, and verbally. What is the reason for this amazing accuracy? The Bible is God’s miracle book.
The Fulfillment of its Prophecies. Biblical prophecy is not just a guess or a mere prediction based upon present knowledge, but it is history written in advance. For instance, there are over thirty Old Testament prophecies relating to Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion. Every one of them was fulfilled when he died on the cross. What is the explanation of this prophetical accuracy? It is this: the Bible is God’s miracle book.
The Insistence of its Message. There is one message that is found throughout the Bible. It is the message of God’s great love for sinful humanity as evidenced by the gift of his Son who provides salvation to all who will obey him (cf. Romans 5:8; Hebrews 5:9). How do you account for the fact that there is one basic message running through the whole book? The explanation is this: the Bible is God’s miracle book.
Thank God, the Bible is inspired and serves as an authoritative guide for man. It is absolutely trustworthy because it is God’s miracle book. Let us love it, believe it, learn it, practice it, defend it, and pass it on to others.