In was July 1975, I was only five months old and had no clue what was going on in the world, but the Camden Ave. Church of Christ was having Vacation Bible School. It was a five-day V.B.S. and according to the July 27, 1975 church bulletin, the average attendance was 630 people. The attendance for each night was: Monday 619; Tuesday 647; Wednesday 674; Thursday 613; and Friday 593.
Now compare these numbers to last year’s V.B.S. (2018). We have gone from a five-day V.B.S. to a three-day V.B.S. Our average attendance in 2018 was 143. The attendance for each night was Monday 133; Tuesday 146; and Wednesday 152.
Many people will look at these numbers and say, “Well a lot has changed in 44 years.” That is true. We live in different times, we have internet, cell phones, and laptop computers. Our cars have better gas mileage, our homes are more energy efficient, and over all we have more advancements in technology than we did 44 years ago. Along with this people have changed, there is less interest in spiritual things, congregations are closing their doors, and it is getting more difficult to find a faithful gospel preacher. But with all the differences and changes today we need to ask some important questions:
- Has the Bible changed? Mt. 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
- Has the need for salvation changed? 1 Tim. 2:3-4, “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
- Does what the Bible teach about the church change? Mt. 16:18, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
- Has God changed? Jm. 1:17, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
- Has Jesus changed? Heb. 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
- Does what the Bible teach about how one becomes a Christian ever change? Act 2:38-39, “And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
- Do people still die? Heb 9:27, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment,”
Although many things have changed over the past 44 years, the essential things of God have not changed. True, it may be more of a challenge to get people interested in spiritual things and the Bible, this does not mean that God’s word is any less important, it means we must work harder.
44 years ago, we had a great VBS, let us put forth a great effort to do it again! If we did it before we can do it again, it is just going to take a lot of effort and prayer!
Let’s invite our friends and family to V.B.S. July 8,9, and 10. Each night will start at 6:30 p.m. and dismiss at 8:00 p.m. See you and your friends there!!! In Christ, Mark T. Tonkery
I remember a teacher in college telling the class about his encounter with a foreign exchange student. The student had walked up to Dr. Keller (the teacher) and told him that he didn’t think his God was worth believing in. Why is that? The student had just read Genesis 22: the account of Abraham being tested and asked to sacrifice Isaac. “Take your son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about” (Genesis 22:2). So the student confronts Dr. Keller: “no God worth believing in would ask Abraham to do that.” The teacher confessed to the class that at the time he didn’t have a very good answer, and sort of struggled through a reply. We grew up with these Bible stories and have become comfortable with them. It’s interesting to see what people think when they have no previous knowledge of the Bible and then read something like Abraham obeying the command to sacrifice his son, even to the point when the knife was only a couple of feet away! Looking at this from an outsider’s perspective I can see how this would be shocking. Why would the Creator of all life want one of His chief servants to take the life of his boy? Here is Dr. Keller’s current belief, which he shared with us: “I think God wanted Abraham to feel what the Lord God would one day feel about His Son.” Unlike the exchange student we know, and Abraham knew, that whatever happened the Lord would make it right. What Abraham didn’t know was many, many years later the Lord would be giving up His Son to be sacrificed on the cross. We can admire Abraham’s courage. I suspect there aren’t many who would be willing to give God everything – even the thing they love the most. Abraham had waited many years for the miraculous birth of Isaac so I’m sure he wasn’t thrilled at the idea of giving this gift back. But he was willing and God blesses him richly. Perhaps God’s powerful words of blessing partially come from God being so glad that now there is someone who understands what He will go through, something He knew would be necessary since the beginning of time. Indeed, this is outrageous love.
Who could love us enough that they would be willing to give their son, whom they love? It’s shocking, but that is the love of God. God took his Son Jesus, whom He loved, and placed Him on a cross for us.
- Doug Wells
Imagine for a moment your business is failing or a project you are working on is not going the way it is supposed to; what would you do? My guess is most of us would do everything we could to correct the problems. We might contact someone who has experience in the area you are working and ask them to help you. A person might even go and get more training or education to help them to improve the situation. The point is most of us would just not let our business or project fail without trying our very best to correct the problems and improve the situation.
Now what about our families? What if our family is falling apart, what are we going to do about it? I find it interesting how little thought; we often give our families and marriages today in light of scripture. Shouldn’t we put as much effort or even more than we would if it was our business or a project we might be working on?
The one thing that the Bible is clear on is that we should do what we can to help improve and strengthen our family relationships; after all family is a God designed institution as we see in Genesis 2:21-24.
In order to begin helping our families the first thing each family must do is to put God first. Matthew 6:33 teaches us to, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” No matter how bad things may be with one’s family the first step is always putting God first, start studying His Word, praying, and get involved with the worship and work of the church (Heb. 10:25).
Once God is in His proper place in our family the next thing to do is rekindle our relationship with our spouse. Again Genesis 2:21-24 reminds us that when a husband and wife come together, they are to leave their home of origin and cleave to each other. Adam in Genesis 2:23 also recognized that Eve was his lifelong love and mate. In Genesis 2:24 points out the couple become “one flesh” is only recognized in marriage and is pointing to sexual intimacy, the raising of children and the weaving together of two lives into one. All other forms of sexual intimacy, raising of children and the weaving of lives is either unlawful, ungodly, or made more difficult when God’s design is avoided or ignored. The wisdom and warning in Proverbs 5:1-23 compares the way of immorality and the way of God’s design for marriage and God’s way is always the best.
But last when God and one’s spouse are receiving the proper attention in the family, then children need to be helped. Malachi 2:15, instructs, “Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.” God desires godly offspring, and in this passage the implication is that the husband and wife play a major role in this.
Children need to be taught how to put God first in their lives, this does not come naturally. Children learn from observing, listening, and relating to their parents. Research tells us that, “parents are teaching their children about God’s plan in their lives around the clock.” If our children see us reading the Bible, praying, obeying the word of God in our daily life and wanting to be involved in the worship assemble, more than often our children will want to do these things as well.
If our families need help, will we put the effort into them to get them to be as God designed? Think about it. Written by Mark T. Tonkery
Academically motivated students all over the country work very hard in high school to have a good GPA and get good test scores. Their goal is to get into a good college with a scholarship. To get in these places they will study for hours. They will take practice tests on their computers. They may even beg their parents to pay for private tutoring. To have this good education they will make sacrifices, saying no to anything that gets in the way of this goal. And all this happens while another place of “higher learning” exists. If you get in this place you will learn much more than what you could discover in Harvard or Yale. “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).Those who are financially wise know that to get the most out of their money they need to make investments. So these people will put a part of their income aside and put into their retirement. This requires discipline and sacrifice but the rewards they will receive at retirement are worth it to them. All of this happens while much greater rewards exist. “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:20).Don’t you see? People work harder for rewards on earth than they do for MUCH greater rewards in heaven! This must be a question of confidence. People have greater faith in worldly things then in the existence of heavenly ones. If someone really believes in heaven then there is no effort or sacrifice they wouldn’t make to get there. If we really believe we would be willing to join the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11. “Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated –the world was not worthy of them” (Hebrews 11:36-38). And why were they willing to go through these terrible trials for the cause of Christ? Because they loved Jesus and believed in heaven! I pray we do as well!
- Doug Wells
In Exodus 20: 8-11 God instructed the Hebrews to take a day off. It is in this passage that one learns that the Sabbath was commanded by the Lord, because in six days He made the Heavens and the earth and on the seventh day He rested (Gen. 2:3). For centuries as seen in the Old Testament and till the time of Christ, Jews rested and observed the seventh day of the week as a Sabbath unto the Lord.
Yet today Biblical Christians meet on the Lord’s Day, the first day of the week, Sunday as they have since the beginning of the church in Acts 2. The shift in the calendar was monumental. Something catastrophic happened to effect this change in the day of worship from Jewish Sabbath, to the first day according to the Jewish calendar!
This monumental event that changed history was the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as we read in the Gospels (Matthew 28:1, Mark 16:2, 9, Luke 24:1, and John 20:1, 19) which are eyewitness accounts that Jesus Christ arose from the tomb on the first day of the week.
After his resurrection, we never find Christ meeting with his disciples on the seventh day or Sabbath day. But He specially honored the first day by manifesting Himself to the apostles and others on four separate occasions (Matt. 28:9; Luke 24:34, 18–33; John 20:19–23). Again, on the next first day of the week, Jesus appeared to his disciples (John 20:26).
Nothing but the resurrection of Jesus Christ could change the day of honoring the Lord from the Sabbath to the first day of the week.
Many centuries before Christ, some tradesmen who resented keeping the Sabbath day came to the prophet of the Lord, Amos and demanded to know, “When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the Sabbath that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances of deceit? “(Amos 8:5).
Amos responded in Amos 8:9, “"And on that day," declares the Lord GOD, "I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.”
Scripture confirms just as Amos prophesied that the Sabbath was abolished when God darkened the earth in a clear day and the sun went down at noon. This of course happened when Jesus was crucified; as a result the Sabbath day was nailed to his cross as we see in Matthew 27:51ff.
Then Col. 2:14-16 clearly states, "Having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him. Therefore let no one act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day- things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ."
These verses clearly state the weekly Sabbath was nailed to the cross and abolished. In reading the rest of the New Testament, we also find that Jesus and the inspired writers taught all the commandments of the Ten Commandments, except for the fourth commandment, the Sabbath law. There is no command in the teachings of Christ for any person to keep the Sabbath. Again, the Sabbath, along with the rest of the Old Testament were nailed to the cross. The only day given special recognition in the new covenant is the first day of the week, Sunday. (Mt. 28:1; Mk. 16:2, 9; Lk. 24:1; Jn. 20:1; 19; Acts 2:1; 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2; Rev. 1:10).
Let us not forget that the first Christians were originally Jews, as recorded in Acts 2. The beginning of the church began with Jews becoming Christians (Acts 2:38; 41; 47). The Day of Pentecost was the 50th day after the Sabbath of Passover week (Lev. 23:15-16), thus the first day of the week. So not only is the first day of the week Resurrection day it is also the day the church began, and when Christians worshiped the Lord. For these early Jewish Christians to continue to assemble on the first day of the week would be a clear distinction that they had abandoned the keeping of the Sabbath and Judaism all together.
Christians are not bound to keep the Sabbath, but they are commanded to worship the Lord together (Heb. 10:19–25). Because of the power and influence of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Christ’s fulfilling prophecy of the Old Testament, the New Testament examples of worship on the first day of the week and the teachings of the New Testament that show the early Christian abandoning the Sabbath and the Old Law; Christians are to worship the Lord on the first day of every week.
Written by Mark T. Tonkery