Fixating on What’s Important: Reading

by Bill Fix

A few days ago, I stopped by a bagel shop for breakfast and a change of scenery to finish some work. While there, I observed a group of women meeting for breakfast and a devotional/Bible study. Near the end of their meeting, I couldn’t help but here one lady express to the others how excited she was to be attending their meeting because although her family was religious, she admitted she had never read the Bible before…

I did not interrupt their meeting to inquire further, but I would assume she knows a few things about the Bible and has read several passages before. I assume what she meant is that she never read it cover to cover or perhaps never read substantial portions of it. But now, she was going to do something about that.

Unfortunately, I believe too many people are in the same situation as that lady. For whatever reason, they haven’t ever read the Bible. Maybe they are too busy. Or think it’s too difficult to understand. Or they accept whatever they were taught by a parent, preacher, or friend. After all, how many of us do the same thing with respect to the tax code, the terms & conditions for any sales contract, or the manual for our own vehicles?

Acts 17:11 commends the Bereans for their “fair-mindedness,” as compared to the Thessalonian Jews, because the Bereans “received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” These people heard something new and tested it against the Scriptures. They didn’t just take Paul’s word for it, and they didn’t immediately discount it like the Jews from Thessalonica.

Given the amount of conflicting religious doctrines being taught today, a fair-minded person who wants to learn the truth today will read the Bible, study it, meditate on its message, and discern what God’s will for mankind really is. The only way to know the truth is by searching the Scriptures—if we merely do as we see fit without actually reading the Bible, we are directing our own steps and are bound to fail (Jer. 10:23).

How strong can your faith in God really be if you haven’t read His Word?

Why “Liberal” and “Conservative” Churches of Christ?

By Robert Harkrider (Aug. 27, 2017)

During the past three decades many have asked this question. Some sincere brethren who have been caught up in one stream or another never fully understood, and many who were too young before have now grown to adulthood wondering why. It is therefore a good question worthy of repeated investigation.

Labels of “liberal” and “institutional” versus “anti” and “conservative” have been used by some as a prejudicial tool to halt further investigation. Labels used as prejudicial clubs are to be condemned; yet the terms “liberal” and “conservative” are proper when used as adjectives to describe a difference in attitude toward Bible authority, and consequently, a difference in practices. As the years go by, the attitude underlying the division becomes more apparent. We are not separated because one group believes in benevolence and the other does not, nor because of jealousy and envy. We have divided over a basic attitude toward the Bible. A liberal attitude justifies any activity that seems to be a “good work” under the concept, “We do a lot of things for which we have no Bible authority.” A conservative attitude makes a plea to have Bible authority (either generic or specific) for all we do—therefore refraining from involving the church in activities alien to that of the church in the New Testament. Briefly, the walls of innovations which have divided us are built in three areas:

WHO? Who is to do the work of the church? The church? Or a human institution? The church has a God-given work to do, and the Lord made the church sufficient to do its own work. Within the framework of elders and deacons, a local church is the only organization necessary to fulfill its mission of evangelism, edification, and benevolence (Eph. 3:10-11; 4:11-16; 1 Tim. 3:15). However, a wedge was driven when some began to reason that the church may build and maintain a separate institution—a different WHO to do the work of the church. This separate institution is human in origin and control. It is not a church nor governed by the church—yet it receives financial maintenance from the church. Human institutions so arranged (such as benevolent homes, hospitals, colleges, or missionary societies) may be doing a good work. However, when they become leeches on the church, they deny its independence and all-sufficiency and make a “fund-raising house” of God’s church.

HOW? How is the work of the church to be overseen? On a local basis with separate, autonomous congregations? Or may several local churches work as a unit through a sponsoring eldership? The organization of the New Testament church was local in nature, with elders limited to oversight of the work of the flock among them (Acts 14:23; 1 Pet. 5:2; Acts 20:28). We are divided by those who promote “brotherhood works” through a plan of inter-congregational effort with centralized oversight—an unscriptural HOW.

WHAT? What is the mission of the church? Spiritual or also social? It is in this area that the loose attitude toward the Scriptures is becoming more apparent. Though wholesome activities are needed for all, the Lord died for a higher and holier mission than food, fun, and frolic. Let the church be free to spend its energy and resources in spiritual purposes (1 Pet. 2:5; Rom. 14:17) and let the home be busy in providing social needs (1 Cor. 11:22, 34).

How Did the Termite Evolve?

By Fred Melton (Truth Magazine, Mar. 16, 1972)

If you want to see an evolutionist squirm, ask him how the termite evolved. Oh, he will have an answer all right, but you’ll have to try hard to keep a straight face when he explains it to you.

According to current evolutionary theory (it’s changed some since Darwin), “natural selection” progressing toward a higher organism is accomplished only when a chance mutation bestows upon the organism more survival ability—notwithstanding the fact that there is no such thing as a “progressive” mutation.

Now, there are to be found within God’s natural creation many partnerships that are essential to the immediate life of both plant and animal involved in this union. Typical of such interdependent systems is the lowly termite, order—Isoptera. The main problem appears to be the fact that this little creature keeps insisting on eating wood which he himself cannot digest because it contains cellulose. There is, however, a small protozoan animal which colonizes the termite’s stomach that dearly loves to digest wood.

While the Christian is ridiculed for believing in God, who is the designer and prime mover of all causes (including termites and protozoan), the evolutionists, without so much as raising an eyebrow, ask the world to believe that these little insects suffered a mutation which made them want to eat wood they cannot digest. At precisely the same time their bodies, by mutation, became adjusted to enable them to maintain numerous colonies of protozoan in their stomachs while again at that precise time, a mutation chanced to occur in the protozoan which enabled them to live in the stomach of the termite “after which both termite and protozoan lived happily ever after.”

It will not help to say that they evolved together for as typical of all such systems, they will not operate except in a perfected state.

Truly, it may be said that the evolutionist lives by faith alone.

Where Are the Sinners?

by Robert F. Turner (STUFF ABOUT THINGS, 1976)

Has anyone seen a plain, old-fashioned sinner lately? They are getting mighty hard to find.

If the prodigal son were living today (as if he were not), he wouldn’t be a sinner. A juvenile delinquent perhaps, but his parents would be to blame for that. “There are no bad boys,” you know. His wild oats are just youthful exuberance, a normal rebellion against an unjust society. He must be left free to “adjust positively.”

There are no liars today. These fine people are simply extroverts with imaginative talents that should be properly channeled. They evince creative ability; their instability is a facet of their capacity for free uninhibited thought. They may become great poets, lawyers, or preachers.

The drunkard is not really a sinner. He has an inferiority complex and makes a mechanical adjustment (albeit a liquid one) to the problems of today. Besides that, he is sick. He beats his wife, starves his children, and is a scourge to society. So, he needs our sympathetic understanding.

Adultery may be a sin in far-off slums or farm-labor camps, but not among movie stars or popular public figures. And don’t even mention the word when we get close to home. Here it is simply a case of biological maladjustment. The sex pervert was denied “free discussion” at home; his parents were old-fashioned and believed in common decency. His sin—er, I mean his “mistake,” is a fault of our modern society.

But maybe the murderer is a sinner—just maybe! On the other hand, he may be the victim of some early traumatic experience. His mother was over-protective; he was greatly inhibited. He was never allowed to push his oats off the high-chair tray, so now he pushes his wife off the Brooklyn Bridge. Poor fellow!

There may be an element of truth in all these descriptions; but one element, very necessary for correction, is lacking. We are overlooking the moral element. Successful treatment for all of these ills must include a proper dosage of “ought”—moral responsibility, to God and to man. Our generation needs psychiatry, but we must learn that Freud is no substitute for Jesus Christ. We must recognize sin for what it is—viz., sin; and then we will understand better the “Great Physician” who takes away the sins of the world.

Fixating on What’s Important: Change

by Bill Fix

What is our focus in discussing religious matters with others and teaching the gospel? Are we merely trying to get someone to switch a denominational allegiance and be “COC”? Are we focused so much on baptism that we downplay the importance of faith and true repentance? May it not be so.

Becoming a Christian should be like a caterpillar that becomes a butterfly. If one is baptized but fails to make a true metamorphosis in belief, character, and action, did he do anything more than just get wet?

Consider Paul’s words in Romans 6: “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin… You also reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:3-6, 11).

Paul certainly emphasizes the importance of baptism, but equally present here are the elements of faith and repentance. Our faith leads us to make a commitment. True repentance demands we turn from our sins, and we bury our life of sin in a watery grave of baptism as we turn to the Lord. New converts to Christ must understand this change is necessary. How silly would a butterfly look if we saw it fly over to a flower and then change back into a caterpillar. That is how pathetic we appear if, after being converted, we revive our old man of sin and resume walking according to our previous sins…

What Faith Is All About

By Robert F. Turner (Plain Talk, June 1981)

Some years back I received word that a dear friend and brother in the Lord was dying with cancer. I wrote a letter to him, which said in part:

“They say you are going to die—like the rest of us. What have “they” ever known about anything? WE say you are going to live—and we are going to live with you. And we have an empty tomb near Jerusalem that says our hope will become a reality.”

I visited my brother just before his death, and he thanked me for what he called “much needed honesty, in a time like this.” Then he added, “This is when we learn what faith is all about.” I don’t suppose I have yet learned the full meaning of that, but as the years increase, and I see other friends slipping away, it is getting through to me.

The Hebrew writer said, “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). “Substance” is from “sub” plus “stano”—that which stands under, or upholds. That theme is repeated over and over in the chapter: “things seen were not made of things which appear” —or — “Noah, warned of things not yet seen” — or — “Abraham went out, not knowing whether he went” —or — “these all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off.” Faith moves a man on, when his senses fail him.

We do not refer to self-reliance, or “faith” in oneself. That is but a weak derivative of positive thinking, irrevocably tied to our “this world” existence. Nor do we refer to a faith of despair, a blind “leap of faith” which is no faith at all. Bible faith is based on evidence (Rom. 10:13-17). God’s word has been confirmed by demonstration of its divine source, so that we have reason to believe in the reliability of the message (Mk. 16:17-20; Heb. 2:1-4; 1 Cor. 2:4-5). And our hope of life after death rests upon an empty tomb and reliable witnesses.

The Hebrew writer says, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.” But faith sees more than a physical beginning in this. Accepting a Creator not only removes the theory of a “chance” beginning, it gives creation a purpose. We are here because an all-wise God had a reason for our existence. Life is not an exercise in futility. In faith we have goals, we accomplish predetermined ends. It is faith that tells us what this life is all about.

We say we “believe”—and surely we do to some extent. That is tested in an elementary way by our willingness to obey initial commands of God. Then, when to further live by divine authority we must part with friends and earthly gain, our faith gets a more severe test. We talk and write about faith, and hope; and we quote words of comfort—to believers, who are bereaved or troubled. But the real test, the “moment of truth,” comes when we are about to turn loose of this life and the ties that have identified and made us what we are. When I am the one who steps into the unknown, and must trust in that which is not seen, I will go in despair, or I will know what faith is all about.

Excuses

by Robert F. Turner (excerpt from Stuff about Things, 1976, p. 56)

Stop making excuses

I like that Mark Twain story about not loaning his axe because he had to use it to eat his soup—or something like that. He said if he didn’t want to do a thing, one excuse was as good as another. Reminds me of some of my brethren’s reasons for not coming to worship, for not wanting to study some Bible subjects, for not wanting to be my brethren in the first place.

Some years ago, while preaching for a large and stable church in Phoenix, Arizona, I was driving down an Avenue and spotted a much-delinquent member walking in the park. I stopped to inquire about his frequent absence, and he looked at me with the greatest innocence and asked, “Are we still having church down there?”

With the current conservative/liberal struggle a hot issue, I very often talk with brethren who know the truth very well and know exactly how they ought to stand for things that have Bible authority but who are too weak spiritually to weather the criticism and name-calling a faithful Christian must endure. One brother who finally gave in to popular demand and left a sound church for one he freely acknowledged was in error, explained his move by saying, “Well, I just don’t like the songbooks we have been using.” Selah!

Then there was the lady who had attended many of our services and was well acquainted with such distinctive features as baptism, a cappella singing, weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper, etc. She seemed to like my preaching (ahem!), so I visited her and insisted that she obey the gospel to become a member of the Lord’s church. She said she would like to do this, but—(and here she became very disturbed)—there was a great problem in her life that kept her from doing so. Thinking perhaps she had shot her husband or something like that, I bravely offered my assistance in clearing up this problem. Finally she confided, “I just can’t stand grape juice.” So, back to the study!

Elders and preachers really have an unfair advantage over most excuse-makers. We have been hearing them for so many years we have most of them catalogued and classified and can even tell when one is “coming on.” I am very seldom surprised by the answers I receive to gospel solicitations except from a rare honest man who said, “I think I had rather go to Hell.” I fear he “had his druthers!”

Fixating on What’s Important: Scheduling

by Bill Fix

I saw a one-liner recently that the receptionist/scheduler at the dentist’s office will “look you dead in the eye and ask if you’re available for your next appointment in 6 months and one day from now.” Most of us aren’t scheduling a ton of things that far out so it’s easy to set a date and pencil it in. Booking the next dental cleaning as soon as we finish the current appointment helps ensure we actually make it back in and don’t forget to plan for it. Scheduling helps us stay on track for important priorities.

What things do you schedule? Lunch dates, workouts, entertainment? Do you set aside time in advance to pray or study your Bible?

Are you available next Sunday at 10 AM? If you’re not planning to join us for Bible study, why not? We’d love to have you.

Are you available next Sunday at 11? Are you planning to assemble with other Christians to worship God and take the Lord’s supper like the churches in the first century (Acts 20:7)? What could be more important?

Are you available for eternity? Most people don’t plan to fail; they just fail to plan…

A Bible App a Death Sentence?

by Max Dawson

That is the report coming out of Afghanistan—that a Bible app on your cell phone can be a death sentence. According to religionnews.com “reliable sources report that the Taliban demand people’s phones, and if they find a downloaded Bible on your device, they will kill you immediately.”

We are not surprised at this action because the Taliban are notorious for their bloodthirsty brutality. They are also notorious for their hatred of the gospel message. Wherever the Muslims get a stranglehold on any country, the religious freedom of Bible believers is quickly eliminated. There are many examples of that in Middle East Muslim countries.

Men ought to be free to study any and all religions. They ought to be able to weigh the evidence for one against the other. People ought to have the liberty to choose that which they believe to be from God. But when the Islamic faith comes into power, they immediately squelch that kind of choice. I think they have a religion that cannot stand the test and trial of examination. There is no evidence that the Islamic faith came from God. Nada. Zero. Zip. In talking with my Muslim friends, I ask them for evidence. It is something most of them have never thought about. They just tell me that to deny Mohammed as a prophet of God is a terrible sin! That’s not evidence.

The gospel alone offers evidence that it is from God. No other religion (aside from Old Testament Judaism) is confirmed by miracles, signs, and wonders. (See such passages as Jn. 20:30-31; Heb. 2:3-4; Ex. 4:1-10.)

Do you have any Bible apps on your phone? I have two. One from Olive Tree; the other from YouVersion. I use both of them regularly when I am out of my office. I am thankful for these apps. And I am thankful that I live in America where I am free to openly study the Bible—whether it is in digital format or in a traditional book form.

If you and I lived in Afghanistan this morning, we could be murdered for doing what we are openly free to do in America. Thank God for our liberty!

Are you studying your Bible regularly? Do you follow some kind of Bible reading plan? Bible reading is part of our lives as believers.

There are people in Afghanistan dying because they have a Bible on their phone. There are people in America who are dying spiritually because they have a Bible and never read it.

Fixating on What’s Important: Converts

by Bill Fix

The last six lessons I presented examined conversions from the book of Acts. Breaking down the Latin root words, vert meaning “turn” and con meaning “against,” we can understand how our English word means to change one’s religious beliefs. We studied how five individuals in Acts adapted their faith when presented with reasonable information they hadn’t heard before. Acts provides no indication that the Philippian jailer even believed in God prior to the events in chapter 16. His late-night conversion denotes a conscious change in his life from that very hour.

The other four converts, however, were already striving sincerely to please God, but this new information still elicited a change in them. Some did not know anything about Jesus while Saul (Paul) simply didn’t believe Jesus was the Christ. But upon believing and obeying, these new converts changed their lives to reflect their commitment to Christ.

Although King Agrippa believed the prophets (26:27), he did not obey or make any change. His example demonstrates the possibility that one can believe yet refuse to be converted. Luke recorded these details “that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed” (Lk. 1:4). But of what value is knowing such things if we fail to act on them and “save ourselves” (Acts 2:40)? Are you converted?