The late Clayton Pepper told the following story in the Gospel Advocate. There was a tour group visiting some of the old church buildings in Europe and England. The tour guide described one of the buildings with its stained-glass windows and the rare carving in the pulpit and talked about the great speakers and dignitaries who had once attended the church. During the description, an elderly lady kept trying to get the guide’s attention. Finally, the guide recognized her, and she asked, “Sir, has anybody been saved here lately?”
This lady asked a great question, a question we as a congregation should be asking about ourselves, “Has anybody been saved here lately?” Think about it: When was the last time we studied the Bible with a non-Christian? When was the last time we saw or heard of someone being baptized? When was the last time a Christian came forward repenting of their sins or placing membership with the congregation? Has anybody been saved here lately? If not, then what are we waiting for? If we are not saving people, then what is the church here for?
In the book of Acts, we see the church grew and was added to day by day.
·Acts 2:47, “... And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”
·Acts 11:21, “And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.”
·Acts 16:5, “So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.”
The church grew in the first century because the gospel was being preached daily, those who were being saved were being strengthened in the faith and the Lord was with them.
Conversions and spiritual restorations can still take place today if we as God’s people will only teach and preach the gospel daily. Now is the time to invite someone to study the Bible now is the time to hand someone a Bible tract or send a House to House Heart to Heart paper. Now is the time to be teaching our friends and loved ones the gospel of Jesus Christ.
But what if we do not take the time to teach the gospel? We will see fewer and fewer people in our pews and our church building will be just like those in Europe and England; empty.
When the gospel is not preached, and people are not converted we are left with not only empty church buildings but with empty and lost spiritual lives.
So, has anyone been saved here lately?
by Mark T. Tonkery
Did you know that the building which houses the U.S. Supreme Court; one can see near the top of the building a row of the world’s lawgivers and each one is facing one in the middle who is facing forward with a full-frontal view—it is Moses, and he is holding the Ten Commandments. As one enters the Supreme Court courtroom, the two huge oak doors have the Ten Commandments engraved on each lower portion of each door. As you sit inside the courtroom, you can see the wall, right above where the Supreme Court judges sit, a display of the Ten Commandments.
The Ten Commandments still today, is the most influential legislation on earth. The constitutions of forty-seven of the forty-eight continental states of the U.S.A. specifically recognize this code as the basic law of the land. For centuries, it has been inscribed upon decorative panels for courts, schools, cathedrals, and church buildings.
But this is changing; in the past few years, the Ten Commandments have received a lot of press, schools, public parks, and courtrooms have been made to take down the Ten Commandments from public view.
When I hear this, I always think it is kind of ridiculous for a country that has a high rate of murders, theft, lying, and adultery to put out of the public’s view a list like the Ten Commandments that remind people not to do evil.
After all, think about how society would be different if everyone worshipped the same true and living God in spirit and truth (Ex. 20:1-7; John 4:24)? Think about how our families would be different if children honored their parents (Ex. 20:12; Eph. 6:1-4). Think about how life would be different if people were reminded to not murder, commit adultery, steal, give false testimony, and not covet, (Ex. 20:13-17; Rom. 13:9-10).
Understand that we do live under the New Covenant and Col. 2:14 reminds us, “by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” Christ took the Old Testament out of the way, nailing it to his cross. But the Old Testament still has teaching value for us today. Rom 15:4, states, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
There is a lot we can learn from the Old Testament Scriptures. In Mat. 22:37-39, Jesus teaches us that the whole Old Testament law can be summed up with two commands which are to “Love God and love our neighbor”.
A few years ago, a police officer came and spoke to our congregation where I was preaching. His lesson was on this passage and pointed out that much of the stress of his job was due to people not loving God and not loving their neighbor.
What if today we would love God and our neighbor a little more than we did yesterday? How much would our world change? our neighborhoods? And our families? It all begins with you and I loving God and our neighbor.
Written by Mark T. Tonkery for the Camden Ave. church of Christ
Heb. 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
In the life of each congregation of the Lord’s church, it is essential that we continue to appoint men who will lead the congregation as shepherds or elders. 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 both give the qualifications of the men who are to fulfill this function of leadership in the church. As important as it is to find men who are mature Christians who meet the Biblical standards of leadership, one must keep in mind that this is only one part of what helps a congregation function as God design. Another part of having a faithful congregation is having faithful followers.
Heb. 13:17 points out that the congregation must be one that faithfully follows godly leadership. This passage teaches members of a congregation that they are to follow in such a way that they help their elders enjoy their job as shepherds. This is done in part of being good followers.
I am sure we have been in a situation at one time or another, such as at school or at work, when it seemed that there were “too many coaches and not enough players.” In situations like this, nothing can get accomplished, the same is true in the congregation. If the congregation did not have leaders to lead and followers to follow the congregation would debate every idea and situation that came along, and nothing would be accomplished.
Although it is true wise shepherds are open to suggestions, and advice, after all, Pro. 15:22 tells us, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers, they succeed.” But with all the counsel and advice elders may receive, they still need to make a decision and give direction to the congregation. Sometimes shepherds must make the hard choices, (like how to deal with the pandemic). It is during difficult decisions elders need the understanding of the congregation and “good followership”; Heb. 13:17 puts it “Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Of course, Heb. 13:17 is not talking about following an eldership that wants to deviate from God’s Word of truth, and lead people away from God but as an eldership follows Christ, the congregation should follow them.
Being good followers helps the church to function with unity, with a single mind, and helps the whole congregation to function in brotherly love (see 1 Cor. 1:10).
It is essential to have godly men shepherding the congregation, but it is also essential that we have faithful members following Christ and our elders as they strive to help each member on their journey to Heaven.
Written by Mark T. Tonkery
There once was a young boy who was playing by the seashore. While playing he came across some seashells. He started playing with the shells when to his surprise a white, smooth, round, stone fell out of one of the shells. He began playing with it when he decided to see how far he could throw this white stone. As the white stone was in midflight, the little boy realized the true identity of the stone; it was a precious pearl. At that instant he yelled for his family to come and help him find this pearl that had landed in the water. As the family searched the water, they could not find the pearl. It was gone forever (Author unknown).
This story reminds me of how many people today treat the marriage covenant between a husband and wife. Many enter marriage not realizing the value of this precious institution and end up throwing it away. Hebrews 13:4 states, “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” This verse tells us that marriage is an honorable thing before God and should be honored by human beings as well. The Bible tells us that marriage is honorable for at least six reasons. First, marriage provides companionship for man and woman, Genesis 2:18. Second, marriage helps a man and woman to be self-controlled, Hebrews 13:4. Third, marriage completes a man and woman, Genesis 2:23. Fourth, marriage between a husband and his wife is the best environment for raising children, Genesis 1:28, 9:1 and Malachi 2:15. Fifth, marriage provides protection for the family, Ephesians 5:25, Titus 2:4-5 and Malachi 2:15. Sixth, marriage is a visual object lesson of the relationship between Christ and his church, Ephesians 5:31-33 and Revelation 21:2.
Are you honoring your marriage?
Sometimes fear shows up uninvited. Perhaps that happens because it sometimes takes our hearts awhile to catch up to what our mind knows. Yes, we know God is in control. We know He is greater than the world. So why does fear show up in the presence of a lethal virus? When we hear about the world turning a little more against Christ and His followers what do we do with this uninvited sense of dread? I suggest we do the same thing the Israelites once did: act on faith despite the fear.
When the people of Israel returned from exile they set up their lives among many neighbors who did not love the Lord. Like in some places of the world today it was not safe to worship God. They knew it was important to rebuild the temple but they also knew that could get heavy objects thrown at them. So what did they do? “Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening sacrifices” (Ezra 3:3). Were they afraid? Yes. Did they let their fear stop them from publicly proclaiming God’s praise? No. They decided their faith was more important than their fear.
We find out later that they were afraid for good reason. Their idolatrous neighbors were both sneaky and mean. They did everything they could to prevent Israel from worshiping God. They sent spies, they wrote slanderous letters . . . the works. Our fear might also have a reasonable cause. Worshiping God just might get you persecuted. Getting thrown out of your house, losing relationships with family members, or getting demoted at your job are all outcomes that are not out of the question. Praying at your restaurant table might lead to your atheist waiter to spit in your food. Sure. But what is more important to you: your faith or your fear? Let us be strong and courageous! If we do become afraid I pray our fear does not cripple us.
Despite our fear of the peoples around us may we overcome and worship God.