(The following article is written by Doug Wells, who has recently been hired to work with the congregation here. To help get to know him a little better his articles will be featured in the bulletin. Please keep Doug and his family in your prayers as they make this transition.)
As a Christian person I don’t fear many things. The One who is in me is greater than the one in the world. However, being a preacher of the Word is a responsibility I try to approach with a healthy level of respect. I fear saying something that isn’t biblically true because I didn’t study enough. I also fear saying something that turns someone away from the faith. Perhaps this is something that is true but is said in an unloving way, convincing some seeker of truth this isn’t the place to be. What a terrible thought! My Lord has made it abundantly clear to me that being the cause of someone turning away from the faith is a bad thing. "Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!" (Matthew 18:7).
It is not lost on me that the people Jesus had the strongest words for were religious leaders. God has never been fond of shepherds who drive the sheep away instead of bringing them near. "Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!" declares the Lord (Jeremiah 23:1). Instead, a shepherd is called to show the flock good pasture and to bring lost sheep back into the fold. The shepherds of Jeremiah’s day were doing the opposite of that. I don’t want to join them. I don’t want my actions or my words to drive anyone away. I do believe than an unloving conversation with someone can be one "of the things that cause people to sin." If someone is driven from the Lord sin is what fills the vacuum.
Let this be my prayer: "O Lord, help me be someone who brings people near you, not someone who drives them away." Will you join me in this goal? We are all leaders (or will be leaders) to somebody. So I encourage you to "make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way" (Romans 14:13). God’s way is already narrow. What do you think happens when you put a block in the way? A hard way becomes harder. So let us put it into our hearts that every sheep is precious. And let us pray to God that all our words and actions reflect His love.
Written by Doug Wells
Everyone knows the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:2-11). Even people who don’t know much Bible know this story, and in fact it is often used against people who do know a lot of Bible. It’s very easy to cast any religious folks who try to take a moral stand as the hypocrites with the rocks.
People use the phrase “cast the first stone” to say, “If you have ever sinned, you have no right to judge my sin.” But that is not the moral of this story at all.
Jesus is not saying we can never confront someone else’s sin, and he is not throwing out traditional values. He is not doing what so many people try to do with this story because so often they ignore the last line:
John 8:10-11 (NIV) Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
No one, sir,” she said.
Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
He doesn’t say, “Well, you know, the Old Testament stuff is really harsh and contradictory, and those narrow restrictions on our sexuality are entirely unrealistic.”
Jesus never ignored or minimized anything God said about right and wrong. He doesn’t flinch one bit when telling her the way she was living was immoral.
But he doesn’t just leave her there in her sin with no hope. That’s what the Pharisees did: they all walk away and leave her like a scrap of litter on the side of the road.
We don’t want to be like them. So I just want to pull out two simple applications for us. Here’s the first: Scriptures are not to be thrown like rocks at people we don’t like.
Nobody is going to care if a scripture is true if you are hurling it at them like a rock. I hate the videos on Facebook that promise to show an atheist or a liberal get “demolished” by someone quoting scripture. I don’t want to demolish anyone. I want to be able to share God’s word in a way that makes people at least willing to listen, to engage in a conversation.
There is a right way to tell someone they are wrong. In John 8 Jesus told both the Pharisees and the woman caught in adultery that they were wrong, and he used scripture, but he didn’t destroy anyone. He did it quietly and decently, and in a way that called everyone to be better.
And that leads to our second application: Our concern over sin should be about how that sin is damaging a real person.
What these Pharisees did to her had nothing to do with defending marriage or really even upholding scripture. This woman was not a real person to the Pharisees. The Pharisees presented this woman to Jesus like a trick question on a quiz so they could “demolish” him. She was just something to talk about.
That feels like what we do so often now. Church, I just want to remind you when you get on social media, or when you start talking about a certain person or group that you don’t like, to check your motives. The politicians on both sides of the aisle are all real people. Liberal or conservative, black or white, pagan or homosexual or protestor, they are all sons and daughters, parents and spouses to someone. We need to remember that when we talk about them. We need to ask if we’d act differently if we really did care about saving them instead of demolishing them.
This past week our hearts were broken to hear of the passing of young Eli Clark. Many in the congregation know the family very well. I was first acquainted with Eli and his family through Ohio Valley Christian Camp a few years ago.
Since hearing about Eli’s cancer diagnosis and now his passing I have been asked why did God allow this to happen? This is similar to what Solomon asked in Ecclesiastes 7:15, “In my vain life I have seen everything. There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing.” It seems that even Solomon did not understand such situations. So, I do not pretend to understand why this happened to young Eli nor do I have all the answers. But, the scriptures do provide us with some comfort.
Such as Isaiah 57:1-2 which states, “The righteous man perishes, and no one lays it to heart; devout men are taken away, while no one understands. For the righteous man is taken away from calamity; he enters into peace; they rest in their beds who walk in their uprightness.”
This passage reminds us that sometimes the devout and the righteous die and are taken away from calamity and enter God’s peace. For whatever the reason the righteous and devout are taken away from us, it may be that God is helping the individual avoid further or worse calamity, evil, or other troubles. For the Christian, death is not always a bad thing, sometimes God may allow it to protect us from more evil. Although for those who are left to continue to live upon this earth they miss and grieve for those who depart to the next life, we must take comfort that they have peace. Revelation 14:13 also reaffirms this by saying, “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”
In closing there are many questions when it comes to the death of a young person. Although God’s Word can comfort us, and we can have faith in the fact that God will take care of those who pass from this earth at an early age or any age. We still hurt and grieve the passing of our loved ones. Maybe we can relate to King David in 2 Samuel 12:22-23, He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, ‘Who knows whether the LORD will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.”
We each will go to the grave or meet Jesus Christ in the air at His second coming. Heb. 9:27 teaches, “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” There are no promises in this life that we will live to an old age, but whether we are young or old Rev. 2:10 encourages us to, “…Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” May each one of us be faithful unto death, whenever that day may come.
Written by Mark T. Tonkery
Have you ever had something like this happen to you? A while ago I was getting ready to come to the office and as I was getting ready and gathering my books and papers that I had been using at home and wanted to bring to the office I laid them on the table. I then made my lunch. I looked quickly at my belongings, to make sure I had everything and then went out the door. I came to the office and started getting right to work it was about 8:30 a.m. I never really stop until about 11:30 a.m. and thought well I better get ready to eat my lunch. So, I got up and went into the refrigerator and did not see my lunch. I thought, “oh know I left my lunch in the hot car great.” So, I ran to the car and there was nothing there. Then I start to really panic where is my lunch? So, I ran back into the building and checked the refrigerator again; it still was not there. Then I ran to my office and looked it over and my lunch was nowhere to be found. Then it dawned on me, I must have left it at the house. Sure, enough at the end of the day I found my lunch sitting on the table at home where I left it.
Have you ever forgot your lunch? Don’t you hate having that lost feeling? You know that feeling when you have lost your keys or your eyeglasses? You feel like you are in a dark room and cannot find the door. Your stomach starts to knot up, you get nervous, your voice may raise a little, and you start panicking as you're frantically looking for your lost keys? Glasses? Or lunch?
As I thought about my “lost” lunch, I wonder if God ever feels that way when He sees people He created, whom He gives food, water, clothing, and so many other blessings; lost? I wonder if God ever wrings His hands, waiting for those who are lost to come home? I wonder if God ever paces the floor and wonders when Johnny or Sarah are ever going to come to their senses and repent? I wonder if God ever looks at the lost and says I have given you my Son what more can I do to show you I love you? I do not know if God ever gets that lost feeling as we do when we lose something, but I do know that God does not want anyone lost.
Notice these verses:
- 1 Tim. 2:4, “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”
- 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
I believe these verses sum it up very well; God does not want anyone to be lost.
I do not like the way I feel when I have lost something; I wonder why we would want God to feel that way? I wonder why we would keep Him waiting?
Acts 22:16, asks a very important question, “And now why do you wait? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”
Today is the time to stop the waiting, now is the time to be found in Christ. Will you confess your belief in Christ, repent of your sin, and be baptized into Christ? God is waiting for you. What are you waiting for?
Written by Mark T. Tonkery
I first met him in 1968. I loved him from the start. He was an inspiration to all who knew him. He had a smile that never quit. His humility and sweetness were so evident. I believe it was true that he had no enemies. All who knew him loved him. We just knew him as "Hud" McGee. His likeness and image speak to me even now after all the years.
I finally asked him, "Hud, you have so many friends, how do you do that?" His answer came in an expected humble and quiet way.
"Well," he said, " through the years I have tried to make as many new friends as possible, and I've done all I could to keep all my old friends, too." Is that a profound answer? Well, maybe and maybe not. Perhaps the profundity lies in its simplicity!
Friends are such a valuable commodity. Friends, to me, are worth more than all the money and wealth in the world. My friends keep me going. I couldn't make it without them. I want to make as many new friends as possible. And I don't want to lose even one of my old friends.
Thanks "Hud," for the lesson! I hope to see you again, old friend! - Tom Butterfield