Growing In Godliness Blog

Growing In Godliness Blog

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Attendance

Friday, May 19, 2023

ATTENDANCE

By Larry Coffey

Ed Byers, my father-in-law, was a charter member of the Douglass Hills church. He served as an elder of this church for 26 years. I know of no one who was more devoted and worked harder for this church than he did. Also, I have never known anyone who attributed more importance of attending our worship periods than he did.

Of course, he knew and taught there was more to being a Christian than attending the worship services. His view was like that of long-time preacher, Roy E. Cogdill, who wrote in the Expressway church bulletin in 1977 the following: “Attendance at the services of the church is the best index of interest in one’s own spiritual growth, and is a certain indication of one’s own interest in the Lord’s church.”

When encouraging members to attend our worship periods we often quote Hebrews 10:24-25 which reads: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Bobby Graham does a Q. A. column in Truth Magazine each month and in the April, 2022 edition, writes the following regarding Hebrews 10: 24-25: “In my judgment, the Holy Spirit was appealing to the Hebrew Christians to rescue them from drifting away from Christ in their disastrous return to the Law of Moses. One should get the point here: their assembling with each other, and the beneficial effects noted in verses 24 and 25, was one divine provision for their spiritual strength/stamina, so that they remain faithful to Christ. They needed such assemblies for their spiritual survival.”

Here is a story that appeared in church bulletins several years ago relating to the importance of attendance: “Paul Harvey once reported news of a 73-year-old man who was pinned beneath his farm tractor for four days and nights in rain and a terrible storm. Concerned friends went to see about him just in time. He lived after his ordeal but lost a leg. Several newspapers picked up on the story and centered upon the amazing fact that a 73-year-old man could live after being pinned beneath a tractor for four days. That is amazing, but what is more amazing is what caused his friends to go see about him. One friend said the reason was that he missed prayer meeting on Wednesday night. That’s all? He just missed one service and his friends went to check on him. This man was so faithful and regular in his church attendance that everyone knew if he was not there, something had to be seriously wrong. A question. What if you had been the one pinned under the tractor? Would your absence have been noticed? Or would you have died under the wheel?”

Brother Ed knew there were times when members could not attend services, such as sickness, disabled, etc. But he also knew people gave all kinds of excuses for not attending when they were perfectly capable of doing so. People claim they can’t come to the worship periods, but they can go lots of other places, such as restaurants, shopping, vacations, doctor check-ups, etc.

He was concerned for the souls of his brethren and did not hesitate to try to encourage them often to demonstrate their love for the Lord by attending every worship period available. He knew their spiritual health was far more important than their physical health.

I agree with my father-in-law. I love and miss you brother Ed.

The Desperate Need for Love

Friday, May 12, 2023

The Desperate Need for Love

By Mark McCrary

The world is in desperate need of love. A lack of love and compassion is at the very heart of most of the problems plaguing us today—war, racism, mass shootings… the list goes on and on. In a time where there seems to be so much division, hatred, and fear, it is more important than ever to embrace love as the answer to our problems. The Bible tells us that love is not only important, but it is also essential to our well-being as individuals, as a church, and as a society.

In 1 John 4:8, the Bible tells us that "God is love." Love is not just something God does; it is who He is. It is the very essence of His nature. The Bible also tells us we are made in His image (Genesis 1:26). That entails many things, but certainly that we need to reflect Him to the world around us.  Therefore, if He is love, we must be love as well; we need to love as He loves. Jesus reminds us that the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and to love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22:36-40). In John 13:34-35, He tells us, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Love has the power to overcome hate, to heal wounds, and to bring people together. When we love others, we are showing them the same grace and mercy that God has shown us. We are breaking down the barriers that divide us and building bridges of understanding and compassion. Love allows us to see people for who they are, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, or background.

In 1 Corinthians 13, often referred to as the "love chapter," the Bible describes what love looks like in action. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).

This kind of love is what we need more of in our world today.  And beloved, it is our duty as Christians to model it.  Our families, friends, and coworkers need to see this love alive in us.

Am I showing this kind of love? To people who make me angry? To sinners? Let’s ask God to help us accept the words of the apostle John while examining our hearts: “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 John 3:18).

The world needs love right now because love has the power to transform lives and bring about positive change. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to love others as He loves us. We need to be agents of love, showing kindness, compassion, and understanding to those around us. If we all choose to love one another, we can make a difference in our world and bring hope to those who need it most.

Attendance Attitudes

Friday, May 05, 2023

Attendance Attitudes

By Gary Watson

Hebrews 10:24-25: "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."

Note from this passage that we have a command to meet together as the saints.  The reasons given for meeting are to stir one another to love and good works and to encourage one another.  Also, other passages of scripture show that we are to meet to remember the Lord’s death and to worship God.

Some have lax attitudes toward meeting with the saints.  They may believe that elders view those with consistent attendance at assemblies of the saints as better than those who do not assemble consistently.  They may view attendance as a check-off requirement.

This writing does not address those who are home-bound due to illness or other medical or ambulatory limitations.  This writing addresses those who do not see meeting with fellow Christians as essential to pleasing God.  Some might say work schedules keep them from regular attendance.  This writing does not address those who work and desire to be at assemblies.  THIS WRITING ADDRESSES THE BELIEF THAT ATTENDANCE IS NOT ESSENTIAL TO A CHRISTIAN’S LIFE.

Let’s look at how the very first Christians viewed their assembling together: Acts 2:42-47: "And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God…”

A facebook piece pokes fun at lax attendance attitudes:

Borrowed and OUCH!!!!

What would it look like if the disciples valued worship and community like many believers do their church gatherings?

Peter - "My mother-in-law came in for the weekend."

Andrew - "I was up kinda late last night."

James (the son of Zebedee) - "Really needed some 'me' time."

John - "I was there last week. Besides, I'm not really being fed."

Philip - "Finally had a sunny day to hit the lake."

Bartholomew - "Had brunch scheduled with my Uncle Zed."

Thomas - "I doubt it would have been any good today."

Matthew - "I had to get my taxes done."

James (the son of Alphaeus) - "My dad (Alphaeus) wanted to fish today."

Thaddaeus - "The kids needed a rest day."

Simon - "I didn't hear my alarm. Because I didn't set it. Because I don't have one."

Judas - "Getting tired of hearing the same old message."

Going to church is not about checking a religious box off your "make God happy" list. It's about being invested in the lives of others; participating in the mission of the gospel; loving and being loved. Following Jesus was never meant to be a solo experience. Pull up a seat at the table. It is a level table and there is room for all of us.

Why Bolts Fail (Part 2)

Friday, April 28, 2023

Why Bolts Fail (Part 2)

By Norman Pence

In addition to the two causes of failure mentioned in the first article, STRESS and FATIGUE, we will now look at two other causes, CORROSION and EMBRITTLEMENT.  If you haven’t read the first article, I encourage you to do so.

CORROSION

Corrosion in Christians, like corrosion in a bolt, usually begins very slowly and subtly goes to the very center of our being. The vicious environment of the world and the hostile forces of Satan launch their attack quite unexpectedly. They usually begin to eat away at the way we think and act. They go to the very heart of our soul and begin to slowly alter our attitudes toward life, our family, the church, our spouse and eventually God Himself. Our heart becomes consumed by anger, bitterness, strife, and dissatisfaction. Suddenly everything is wrong with our life. Unhappiness and discontent are the order of the day.  Finally, we are eaten up with self-pity, isolate ourselves and begin the final phase of complete failure -- departure from God.

Such is a very horrible picture, but it happens all too frequently. We often fail because we allow "the cares and riches and pleasures of this life" (Lk. 8:14) to gnaw away at our spiritual life and place our emphasis on things that "rust doeth corrupt" (Matt. 6:19-20).

Corrosion can occur in metals when they are placed in an environment or exposed to chemicals and other agents that gradually eat away at the material and eventually cause failure.

As Christians we must be careful about the environment in which we live as well as the conditions and circumstances we subject ourselves to. It's easy to be influenced by evil forces. The effect that they have on our lives can be more dangerous than seems evident. Paul speaks in 2 Tim. 2:14-17 of some whose "wrangling about words" would "lead to the ruin of the hearers" and whose "worldly and empty chatter" would "lead to further ungodliness and their talk will spread like gangrene." Gangrene is a disease by which any part of the body suffering from it becomes so corrupted that, unless a remedy is soon applied, the evil continually spreads, attacks other parts, and at last eats away the bones. So it is with useless, godless teaching and sinful conduct. They are sure to spread and increase. They should be attacked and destroyed as soon as they are discovered. We must not allow them to corrode our minds and destroy the life we have in Christ Jesus. Sometimes we place ourselves in the wrong environment by associating with those of the world. We may say, "Well it don't bother me, just because they curse and drink and lead immoral lives doesn't mean I have to!" Paul warns us, "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12). James says, "...do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (Jas. 4:4).

And Paul warns us to "not be deceived: bad company corrupts good morals" (1 Cor. 15:33). Taking this verse in context, Paul is telling the Corinthians to cease association with those who denied the resurrection. It would tend to corrupt the simplicity of their faith, pervert their view of the truth, and thus corrupt their lives. It is always true that such an association has a damaging effect on our heart and mind. At first, it seems harmless. "I don't have to believe it just because I associate with them", we are heard to say. But the silent influence of their words, conversation, and example begins to have their effect. We become less watchful and cautious, we look with less alarm at the error they are teaching and the lifestyle they are living.  As we become more familiar with this lifestyle eventually we ask, "Why can't I engage in all this fleshly pleasure the same as they?" We lose our spirituality, love of prayer, the desire for a holy life and devotion to God. And the devil looks around at us and says -- gotcha!

We must "rust proof" and guard our hearts and minds against the deteriorating influence of the world and prevent the corrosive effect of sin by keeping ourselves separate from worldly influences and immersing ourselves in Christ Jesus.

EMBRITTLEMENT

Failure occurs when the bolt becomes brittle, due to the stress of the load, chemical changes within the bolt and the processes it has been subjected to.  Embrittlement occurs in us when certain conditions and attitudes exist that make us easily offended or overthrown. The Christian (bolt) becomes fragile (sensitive) and is easily cracked, broken, snapped, or shattered.

My wife tells of a time when their neighbor was coming down the lane to get her father to give him a haircut, as he had done for many years. As the neighbor approached the house, suddenly the lights went out (they had gone to bed). After this, they wondered why their neighbor had become cold and would not even speak to them -- and never came back to perform another haircut. It was not until many years later they found out he had told others, "they saw me comin' and turned the lights out!"

Many relationships have been destroyed because of sensitive, suspicious feelings. Our feelings become fragile, we are easily upset and offended. We become unable to take things in stride.  We take things too personal and begin to think that everything is directed toward us. As those who have been "chosen of God" we are to be patient with one another, "bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you" (Col. 3:12-13). Paul admonishes us to be forbearing to one another in love (Eph 4:2). He spends most of the books of 1 & 2 Corinthians teaching brethren how to stay together and worship together. He instructs them to work out their differences with mutual respect, to be spiritually minded, to be mature fellow-workers. Instead of being "carnal men" he wanted them to be "spiritual men" who were being transformed into the image of Christ Jesus.

Hurt feelings, an offense or wrong suffered can be very difficult to overcome. None of us like to admit we are immature enough to have our feelings hurt. We can avoid this failure by being content with the load and function the Lord has placed upon each of us and develop a loving, confident relationship and an attitude of openness and trust with one another.

PREVENTION

A proper load is critical to the prevention of failure. An "underload" can cause failure the same as an "overload". Each "joint" in the kingdom has a function and responsibility to perform. Each of us has a load to bear -- just the right amount as the Lord has given. He did not intend for us to be free from work, trials, temptations, and responsibility (Gal. 6:5; Lk. 9:23). Thank God for an adequate amount of pressure, for stress, for our workload, because they not only keep us working properly here, they also are "...producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen..." (2 Cor. 4:17-18).

Just as a good engineer would attempt to properly diagnose the cause of bolt failure, we each must examine ourselves. Paul said, "Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you--unless indeed you fail the test" (2 Cor. 13:5)?

What Happens on Sunday

Friday, April 21, 2023

What Happens on Sunday

By Victor A. Osorio

I chuckled as I read the article. The author was describing sitting in his Bible class. While, best I can tell, the writer wasn’t a member of the church, his description was familiar.

In the scenario, the Bible class teacher was discussing a passage, dissecting it, adding historical facts, and providing interpretation. Participants were periodically interjecting with their interpretations and thoughts. Frequently, the class would go down rabbit trails, seemingly unrelated. Through all the exegesis, something was missing.

Finally, “Josh” spoke up. He, probably too provocatively, asked, “How is what we are talking about on Sunday going to help us on Monday?” There was silence.

The participant’s delivery could have been better. But he made a valid point. We naturally want to enhance our biblical knowledge and interpretation. Biblical discussion is important, but so is discussion on application. We should always ask, how do we apply what we are studying to our lives – today.

Don’t misunderstand. Lack of biblical knowledge is a path to destruction. Hosea 4:6 says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” But the rest of the verse says, “because you have rejected knowledge.”

So do we focus on “real-world” application enough? Consider the great commission in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them all that I commanded you; and, I am with you always even to the end of the age.”

Did you read it? Does it sound familiar? Is that what Jesus actually said or is something missing? That may be how we often interpret the Great Commission, but look again…

“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I commanded you; and, I am with you always even to the end of the age.”

Did you catch the difference? We need to teach to obey (apply) God’s commands. Often, our approach to Bible study is like the first quote.

We teach the Bible, but do we take the next step and make application? If not, this is detrimental, especially for our children.

Jesus was God on earth. When He spoke, He was making Scripture. I understand that. But have you ever wondered why He taught so often in human-relatable, real-world stories (“parables”). Why didn’t He just quote the Old Testament Scriptures, explain they were about Him, tell what changes needed to be made in the kingdom, and then sacrifice Himself? He did that sometimes (e.g., Luke 24:27, 44-45). However, Jesus knew people needed examples to aid in their application of Scripture. Certainly we need to teach the Scripture, but sometimes people need more guidance and explanation to understand and apply it (Acts 8:30-35).

Why does this matter so much? Again, we absolutely need biblical knowledge and interpretation. And we excel at that in the Lord’s church. So why do we still lose our children at alarming rates?

Some say it’s the devil’s world that is just too appealing. Others think it’s all the social programs, entertainment, music, and watered-down gospel of denominations.

There’s merit to those positions. But those “outside-focused” causes miss a key point that we can take action on. We can lose our children if they don’t see how their faith is helping them navigate the challenges of life when they go out into the world.

We need to show them how God, the Bible, and the church help them navigate the trials of life like temptation, mental health, finances, discouragement, marriage, the daily grind, etc.

Yes, we need Bible knowledge and interpretation! But how are we “teaching them to obey all that [Jesus] commanded” without discussion on application? Perhaps we follow the example of the way Jesus taught even more in our peaching and teaching to all ages. 

Eventually, “Josh” made his point. The Bible class teacher self-corrected by cutting off rabbit trails and trying his best to make application. That’s good. The church isn’t meant to be like Las Vegas. What happens in the church on Sunday is not meant to stay “in the church” on Monday.

Let’s equip our kids for the world before they face it. Then, when they do, they will find a faith worth hanging on to.

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