We sophisticated moderns are accustomed to occasional solar and lunar eclipses, watching the sky as either the sun or moon become obscured by the other. It is still an amazing spectacle, but scientifically we know that it is only temporary and the star or satellite will quickly return to normal. There was one day, however, when the sun was obscured, not by a coincidental positioning in the heavens, but as a divine signal of God’s anguish. What followed those three hours of darkness were three days of mystery and suspense, in which our own fates hung in the balance, though we were yet to be born.
The outlines are very fully-developed, making them ideal for personal study, young preachers, or men doing occasional fill-in appointments. Audio recordings are added to each posting after the outlines are preached.
We can imagine dressing for action to exercise, putting on sweats and sneakers to prepare to work out; or we might dress for action to play football, putting on pads and cleats to prepare for battle; or a soldier might put on his uniform, gather his weapons and ammunition, before heading out to fight. Each of those people have a shot at success, but what if it was God calling on a man to dress for action? What chance would he have? There are many times in the Bible in which God questions certain men — the circumstances and replies teach us a lot about his expectations and how success can be attained.
We all find ourselves from time to time in circumstances that are discouraging and depressing–sometimes involving people close to us, but at other times focused upon our own challenges or disappointments. We know that prayer is the recommended prescription for such hardships, but sometimes, even prayer seems confounding, for we do not know what to pray for. Sometimes, despite our best efforts at figuring things out and doing and hoping what is right, we come up short and feel confused and directionless. The loneliness we feel, however, should be softened by the renewed certainty that God is with us, that his Holy Spirit will help us.
Updated on Sunday, September 16, 2012 at 7:14PM by Jeff Smith
Clearly, gospel meetings are not what they used to be. Reading about revivals and tent meetings of the nineteenth century, or about extended efforts in theaters and auditoriums in the first half of the twentieth century, it becomes obvious that Americans were much more open to the concept of spending a couple hours each night of a week or two in praise and study than they are in today’s hasty, shallow culture. It is not that gospel meetings are the exclusive or divinely mandated means by which church’s reach out to their communities, but that any extension of its teaching should extol the gospel message in the most effective, yet authorized manner. As we prepare for another gospel meeting effort, regardless of past experience and in spite of burgeoning pessimism, we should do everything we can to make this effort succeed.
Updated on Sunday, October 21, 2012 at 12:51PM by Jeff Smith
There could be little argument that our dialogue in the modern world has become much more casual, and that the use of words which were formerly considered profane has become acceptable and celebrated. Where dirty words and profane language were once reserved for certain kinds of people, certain places, or certain situations, there is no limit anymore to who will cuss, when, or where. Political leaders of both parties have been caught on unexpectedly live microphones using vile language and the Supreme Court has tamed the Federal Communications Commission’s pursuit of broadcasters who permit entertainers and athletes to spew profanity on the airwaves. Social media are filled with everyday people employing the ugliest four-letter words, and it is not shocking to find that many otherwise religious people have lost any scruples about profaning sexuality, excretion, and the eternal fate of their fellow men.
Updated on Sunday, October 14, 2012 at 1:30PM by Jeff Smith
God not only loves, but he is the epitome of what it means to love, with gentleness and toughness, with perseverance and patience. The Bible begins with an explanation of man's mastery over the earth, ascribing it to the love of God in delegating stewardship to his highest creation. The Bible ends with a reminder that God created all things and that by his will they continue to exist (see Genesis 1:26-27, Revelation 4:9-11). Every day of our lives, from birth, through conversion, until the last, is an extension of God's lovingkindness, and reason enough to return to him gratitude and faithfulness. This is not a lesson about what's wrong with us, but about what is so right with God that we should be sent immediately to our knees in subjection.
Updated on Sunday, October 7, 2012 at 4:18PM by Jeff Smith
We speak glowingly about those of like, precious faith -- fellow Christians with whom we share deep convictions and eternal hope. Our relationship with others, including those who flagrantly reject Jesus and those whose faith is corrupted by tradition, is more complicated. We are compelled to acknowledge a certain clear separation from them, but if we have any hope of influencing them for good, we cannot simply cloister ourselves away from all contact. Those who are outside the body of Christ are sometimes a source of conflict and temptation, but if we are moved with compassion over their spiritual state, we will have to try to relate to them in a way that expresses concern and love, without falling prey to their doubts or indulgences in the process.
Updated on Sunday, August 26, 2012 at 7:46PM by Jeff Smith
Updated on Sunday, August 26, 2012 at 7:46PM by Jeff Smith
Updated on Sunday, August 26, 2012 at 7:46PM by Jeff Smith
This is a lesson for little children, a group that is represented well here today, and which is not at all unlike one that approached Jesus a long time ago. Little children are also people that the apostle John wrote to, although he probably enlarged his group to include older "children."
Updated on Sunday, October 28, 2012 at 4:49PM by Jeff Smith
The Hebrew letter was designed to dissuade its readers, Jewish Christians, from recanting their faith in Jesus because of the intense pressure and ostracism that resulted among their friends and families. They were persecuted and isolated, their belongings confiscated without due process and their characters maligned. Like they, we are increasingly being swept into a situation where our faith is out of step with a world that idolizes scientism and a religious establishment that favors ecumenism and compromise. The success of our Christian race depends upon the same virtue of endurance that theirs did.
Updated on Sunday, September 2, 2012 at 2:06PM by Jeff Smith
Serving God is sometimes very hard work, but it is always a work. While every Christian is called to employment in ministering to Christ, those who are appointed to specific works and offices become engaged in labors of love that emphasize the value of their effort, regardless of material repayment.
Updated on Sunday, September 30, 2012 at 12:57PM by Jeff Smith
We live in such a noisy world. Many of us, when confronted with an empty, silent house, will instinctively turn on the television just to fill the void, even if we ignore the program. There are very few truly quiet moments in our days anymore, but quietness has value in allowing us to hear God better and to adopt a manner that exudes gentleness and meekness.
Updated on Sunday, June 3, 2012 at 1:28PM by Jeff Smith
People have long had the tendency to grade sins on a sliding scale, often with murder and a few other heinous behaviors at the sinister end of the continuum, and a litany of transgressions randomly placed along the way. Perceptions of heinousness tend to vary from person to person, from culture to culture, and era to era. There is nothing standard or particularly objective about them. To some degree, the Law of Moses, as a combined moral and civil code contributed to this understanding by making certain offenses capital ones and rendering others subject only to fines or chastening. Do we, under the New Testament, labor under the same kind of sliding scale?
Updated on Sunday, August 12, 2012 at 7:42PM by Jeff Smith
Slavery was something with which first century Christians were very familiar. It was not necessarily the same kind of slavery that mars American history, but a form that defied race and often resulted from severe economic hardship. Still, from Jews' knowledge of the Law of Moses and the Gentiles' experience in their own economy, compulsory servitude and the forfeiture of personal freedoms were circumstances that were all too common. Christ's doctrine spelled the end of such enslavement, but the devil's goal has always been to bend people's will to his own, making them servants of their own doom.
Updated on Sunday, August 5, 2012 at 1:55PM by Jeff Smith
Except for the very proud, most of us probably feel rather unworthy of the gospel and a savior who not only lived perfectly, but also went to the cross for us. When we consider our own sinfulness, and even our meager attempts at righteous living since our conversion, it is probably easy to feel unworthy. To a certain degree, that overpowering humility is both logical and productive, but it is not the purpose of God that we should feel like failures and as if our doom is practically assured because we cannot manage to live sinlessly. There is another sense throughout the New Testament in which a worthy lifestyle is recommended to the believer, certainly making it at least a possibility.
Updated on Sunday, July 29, 2012 at 7:53PM by Jeff Smith
The old saying about ignorance being bliss has been proven and disproven many times in different arenas. Sometimes, when there is no physical or spiritual harm, it is good to be ignorant, even as harmless and innocent as a dove. At other times, however, being ignorant of vital and essential, life-saving or soul-redeeming information is surely fatal. What of those times that seem to be a bit in between, the times when someone should have been aware of something, or really was but chose to feign ignorance to avoid accountability? There is no bliss there, either.
Updated on Tuesday, July 24, 2012 at 9:24AM by Jeff Smith
It is not often that we refer to the book of Deuteronomy, the second giving of the Law of Moses before the great man's death. Moses warned the people of God that if they disobeyed the Law, they were going to be punished with, among other things, invasion and re-enslavement to a nation from afar. It is the character of this hypothetical, prophetic nation that interests us today.
Updated on Sunday, August 19, 2012 at 1:52PM by Jeff Smith
Someone has observed that confidence is ninety percent preparation. There is much truth to that – whether you are stepping in to bat against a fireballing left-hander, climbing into the pulpit to preach, or sitting down to take the test of your life. Confidence in achieving success is built on many things, but they all diminish in comparison to pure preparation – hitting the batting cage, reading until your eyes ache, studying until your brain is full. In another sense, however, confidence, even when constructed on preparation, is ultimately futile if it belongs to the flesh rather than faith in God. The essence of our confidence about life’s greatest challenge is entirely attached to a trusting relationship with the one who made us, saves us, and will judge us.
Updated on Sunday, July 8, 2012 at 1:45PM by Jeff Smith
One of the themes of the Old Testament, including the Psalms, was the goal of believers to give glory to God. Immediately, our minds probably think about a worship service, perhaps especially a hymn or spiritual song. While that is definitely part of giving glory to the one who deserves it, there is more to it – many more and practical opportunities to shift glory away from self and onto the Lord.
Updated on Sunday, April 15, 2012 at 8:08PM by Jeff Smith
What was Jesus trying to teach his disciples on this occasion? He had just told one that he would have to forsake all others and follow after him and now he uses the opportunity afforded by this storm on the lake to teach others about a trusting faith, even when a tempest puts that faith in peril.
Updated on Sunday, July 1, 2012 at 12:54PM by Jeff Smith
One of the most distinctive things about churches of Christ is the music. When made by spirit-filled worshipers, its a Cappella quality resonates with meaning unimpeded by innovation and instrumentation. We must always be careful that the focus of our musical worship is not wholly shifted to the mechanics of eschewing the instrument, but is concentrated upon the words of the hymns and the work of giving our best to a worthy God.