In the Bulletin
Here you are a foreigner. A sojourner. A pilgrim. Captive in a land and amongst a people not your own. All the people are gathered before the cabinet of the King of this foreign land. A herald of the king steps forward to announce a dreadful decree. Daniel 3.4. “And the herald proclaimed aloud, ‘You are commanded O peoples, nations and languages that when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe and every kind of music, you are to fall down and worship the golden image that King Nebuchdenezzar has set up. And whoever does not fall down and worship shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace.”
Imagine yourself in the shoes of the young Daniel, the young Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. The words of the holy commandment “you will serve no other gods before me” echoes in your mind as the herald makes the decree, calling for sovereign state worship. As you stand before the foreign power of darkness, what say ye then Christian? Could you stand the heat? Is the threat of being burned alive in a flaming furnace too much for your faith to stand? Could you stare into the iron bowels of a giant furnace and see the flames come licking out for your skin without losing your faith?
Only you know the answer. I for one can say, the idea doesn’t sound too pleasant—BUT, I know God is a mighty deliverer and He will not let anything undue come to His people. So would you be able to say what Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego said to the wicked King, “We have no need to answer to you on this matter…our God is able to deliver us O King. But if not, we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3.17-18.) Notice that the three gentleman do not say “God will not let us get hurt,” but they accepted whatever may come, knowing that the Lord would do right and that He was more than capable of delivering and protecting them.
The Lord will bless us through every kind of fire that comes. Public shame. Opposition to the truth. Temptation. You name the trial. No fire can burn you to ash. So, don’t fear the furnace. Step out in faith!
— Cain Atkinson
Hi church. This Friday has been pretty interesting. Immediately following our regular Friday morning Bible study at Cracker Barrel, Matt and I were confronted with what can only be properly be described as a series of unfortunate events…First, I’m driving back to the office to begin working on some studies, emails, video, bulletin articles and such like and BOOM. Not just one, but both of my wiper blades just snap right off as they are wiping the snowflakes off of my windshield. I’m thinking two things; 1. Maybe I shouldn’t have purchased a Dodge, and 2. Is this a test from the Lord? Anyway, I call Matt and he comes to help right away.
However…Matt slides off the road taking a curve because of ice on the road and takes out a road sign. Rest in peace to our Pulpit Minister’s side mirror. He shows up, understandably frustrated. We fix the wiper blades as he astutely points out, “Did you notice you had a headlight out?” While Matt’s working on his lesson, I’m on a quest to restore my Charger’s vision to 20/20. Long story short, changing the headlight on a Dodge Charger is unnecessarily difficult. Thus, this article serves the dual purpose of the venting of my deep frustration and your spiritual edification.
Okay, so where does the edification part come in? It just sounds like a lot of complaining, I know. Forgive me for that, there’s a point—it’s this. This world is totally broken. Since Genesis, we have seen man kind trying to live in a fallen and decaying world. Since God has put eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3.11) we long for things that are unbroken. In a dying world, we long for something eternal. Christ our Lord is that something. The entire creation points us back to Him. If you’re reading this article and you deal with things like what Matt and I dealt with this Friday…and let’s face it, you do. We all do. Sometimes much bigger things. I’d just like you to stop for a second and read Romans 8.18-24 and then 31-39. Puts some things in perspective.
What can separate us from the love of Christ? Shall wiper blades? Shall broken mirrors? Shall dim headlights? Shall financial stress? Shall doubts? Shall old grudges? Shall broken relationships? Shall bad habits we just can’t seem to kick? Shall anything at all? No. Faith in Christ brings victory. Trust Him.
- Cain Atkinson
Someone has said, “Of all the songs in the book of Revelation, not one is a solo...”
Strong Christians bear with the failings of the weak, choosing to place the needs of others over their own. We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves, Romans 15.1. As we walk with God, we should be committed to building the type of atmosphere where others can grow in Christ. This is much more important than our personal pleasure. We need to be careful about our lifestyle. Others are affected by the things we say and do.
Each Christian needs to be concerned with edifying their brethren and building them up in Christ. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up, Romans 15.2. It is no longer about us. Christians should always be committed to encouragers. We need to be like-minded, unified, and together. Remember, your God intends you to use your spiritual maturity for service - not status.
What does this look like in day to day living?
- We can cheer each other’s successes, Rejoice with those who rejoice, Romans 12.15a.
- We can take on the pain of the failures of others, Weep with those who weep, Romans 12.15b.
- We can move in ways that others know we are always there for them, Love one another with brotherly affection, Romans 15.10a.
This is the way that Jesus, our Lord and model, lived His life. He did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me,” Romans 15.3.
What brings us together with others? Our forgiveness in Christ. When we begin to contemplate the extreme blessings we share together in Christ, unity will be the result. Differences in matters of opinion can be coped with when we keep the supreme expectations of Christianity in mind: brotherly love.
— Matthew Allen
You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
- 2 Timothy 3.10-11, 14-15
Many regard 2 Timothy as Paul’s farewell address. In this very personal letter, Timothy was encouraged to be strong in his faith and allow his relationship with Jesus sustain him during the ups and downs of ministry. Previously, Timothy did an admirable job following Paul and his manner of life. Now it was time for him to fan into flame the gift of God and move with power, love, and self control, 2 Timothy 1.6, 7. By the power of God, Timothy had tremendous potential to impact a lost world.
So do we. Each one of us possesses great potential. God sees possibilities in us that we cannot imagine. See Ephesians 3.20. By the way you live your life, you can impact someone you know with Jesus. The words you say and the things you do matter. Christians live their life following Jesus. Is that what your life says? Does it speak of your spiritual commitments? Do others see the hope you have? Your trust in God’s forgiveness? Your thankfulness for grace?
Today’s scripture reading is from Matthew 5.14-16. It serves as the purpose statement for Christianity. You have been called to shine. By your actions, others will glorify God. Every Christian can do this, it doesn’t matter how long or short of a time they’ve been in Christ.
Our life speaks much louder than our words and intentions. What does your life say?
— Matthew Allen
In the time of the Old Testament, a wall defined a city. The outer wall of a city was the first line of defense against incoming threats. If you did not have a wall, you did not have a city. If a church is like a “city”, as Jesus describes it, then it’s important that we keep the walls up. What are those walls? Not barriers, so that we can hole up and hunker down like a physical wall. The structures that form the borders of the church are the standards of righteousness—faith in the character of God and in His precepts, and the confidence that comes from trust in His grace. All Churches of Christ are meant to be fortified with truth, faithfulness, unity, respect and above all love for God and for our fellow man.
What happens when these structures are falling apart, broken in places or left in ruin? What happens when the principles that outline the church are in disrepair? When the Jewish people were in captivity and their culture had become leavened with sin, God longed for someone to “stand in the gap.” Amidst politicizing, selfish ambition, pride, idolatry, sloth, distrust in Him and all manner of sin, the Lord desired fervently that someone would have the courage to do right. In Ezekiel 22.30 the Lord said “I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.”
Fast forward now to today. What is the manner of the world in which we now stand? Politicizing. Selfish Ambition. Pride. Idolatry. Slothfulness. Distrust in God. We can’t close our eyes, plug our ears and say “Lalalala I’m not listening.” This is real. It punches holes in our walls. How does the church respond? Well, sometimes we retreat inward and sit in the comfort of our four walls…without noticing the gaps. We see our broken walls and leave them unattended. Sometimes worse, we just run for the hills and abandon our family.
Let it no be so. The church is meant to be a haven for love and a shining light for the grace of God. Let those principles be the walls that outline this church…and when those lines are broken, where the gaps are—YOU be the one to stand. Standing in the gap means extending a hand of forgiveness, opening our hearts, praying for an enemy and showing grace to all. Remember the One that stood in the gap for you and follow Him.
- Cain Atkinson