17 January 2019

OPEN OR CLOSED COMMUNION?

When visitors attend our periods of worship on the Lord’s Day, they quickly observe that we partake of the Lord’s Supper as a part of our worship to God. Some ask, “How often do you partake of the Lord’s Supper?” The answer is that we partake of it on the first day of every week” (Acts 20:7). Another question is, “Do you practice open or closed communion?” That is an interesting question. The fact is the Bible does not use such terms. It becomes necessary therefore to inquire from the Word of God who may and who may not participate in the Lord’s Supper. The apostle Paul, in addressing this particular subject in his first epistle to the church in Corinth wrote, “So let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (11:28). Thus, the participation in the communion of the Lord is a very personal matter. In the churches of Christ, there are no brethren standing by to inform people who may or who may not eat the bread and drink the fruit of the vine. That responsibility is not in the realm of decision making by the church leaders. It is an individual matter. In this sense, the church of the Lord does not practice ‘open or closed communion’. Each person must decide for himself. However, we must not construe this answer to mean that all commune with the Lord when they partake of the bread and of the fruit of the vine. To eat of the supper and commune with the Lord can and may be two different matters. Merely because an individual goes through the physical act of eating and drinking the elements does not necessarily mean he has actually communed with the Lord. The apostle Paul stated that the man who does not discern the Lord’s body “eats and drinks judgment to himself” (11:29). He also said, “Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord” (11:27). For example, one may be a hypocrite during the week, eat the Lord’s Supper on Sunday and never commune with his Lord. An individual may harbor hatred in his heart or have his mind centered on carnal matters while eating the supper and never commune with the Lord. Instead, this individual brings guilt and judgment upon his very soul. Furthermore, a person who has never been “born of water and the Spirit” (John 3:5) cannot truly commune with the Lord in the supper though he may eat the bread and drink of the cup. When Jesus instituted the supper, he mentioned that he would “not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29). The “church of God” that was in Corinth was instructed as to how they should partake of the supper in an acceptable manner (I Corinthians 11:23-29). Therefore, he that is not in the kingdom/church cannot possibly commune with the Lord even though he may eat the bread and drink of the cup. This avenue of worship is a spiritual one. This wonderful privilege is for the Christian, the child of God, the member of the body of Christ, a citizen of the kingdom of God. It must be understood that the person who is not in the right spiritual relationship with God cannot truly commune with the Lord even though he may physically partake of the supper.

23 December 2018

"HE HUMBLED HIMSELF...EVEN TO DEATH"

“HE HUMBLED HIMSELF…EVEN TO DEATH Jesus: The Epitome of Humility * Humble Birth "And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger..." (Lk. 2:7) * Humble Family "'is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James, and Joses, and Judas, and Simon? Are not his sisters here with us?' And they took offense at Him." (Mk. 6:3) • Humble Upbringing "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" (cf. Jn. 1:46) • Humble Wealth "...'The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."' (Matt. 8:20) * Humble Scholarship "The Jews therefore were marveling, saying 'How has this man become learned, having never been educated?"' (Jn. 7:15) * Humble Appearance "...He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him." (Isa. 53:2b) • Humble Status "But made Himself of no reputation..." (Phil. 2:7, KJV) • Humble Occupation "...the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." (Matt. 20:28) • Humble Ability "I can do nothing on My own initiative... (J n. 5:30) • Humble Self Determination "...let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt." (Matt. 26:39)"... I am gentle and humble in heart..." (Matt. 11:29) Author Unknown

10 December 2018

"FOR THE LIVING KNOW THAT THEY WILL DIE"

This is a profound statement made by the inspired writer as found in Ecclesiastes 9:5. We know that death is inevitable. In Hebrews 9:27, we read, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” No doubt, millions viewed the funeral services of the late George H. W. Bush, our 41st President; and, many were moved emotionally, especially with the eulogy given by his son, George W. Bush, the former 43rd President. While the average lifespan of the Presidents of the United States has been approximately 71 years, President Bush lived to be 94 years old. He lived a ‘full life’ of service for his country. But he had one thing in common with all of mankind, he died. In this life, men are often separated from each other due to such factors as race, economics, social and educational status, but, there is a common denominator that unites all men and that is the grim reaper called death. Death is no respecter of persons. It matters not whether one is young or old, rich or poor, a king or a peasant, popular or unpopular; death eventually comes to every man and woman. Moses, in referring to the rebellious Israelites, stated, “if these men die naturally like all men, or if they are visited by the common fate of all, then the Lord has not sent me.” In this verse Moses alluded to that which is common to all me, death. Even men who lived in the infancy of the human race and who lived long upon the earth had one thing in common, they died. It is said of Methuselah, “So all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred and sixty-nine years; and he died” (Genesis 5:27). The Psalmist asked, “What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his life from the power of the grave?” (Psalms 89:48). It was David who said to his dear friend Jonathan, “...But truly, as the Lord lives and as your soul lives, there is but a step between me and death” (I Samuel 20:3). Life is so precious, frail and uncertain. Death on the other hand is ever present. In death it is immaterial whether one is buried in a coffin of gold or wood; whether there is much pomp and ceremony, or just a few words uttered by a friend. The most important thing to be considered is whether or not the deceased person was a child of God. In fact, that is all that really matters - for eternity! Therefore, not knowing the day nor the hour when Christ shall return again nor when death shall come, it behooves each one of us to set our house in order; that is, to give our lives completely to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is in Christ Jesus that we have salvation and eternal life (2 Timothy 2:10; I John 5:11, 12). God “desires that all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). He gave His only begotten Son to die for the world so that we could be saved (John 3:16,17). As a penitent believer a person should be baptized into Jesus Christ for remission of sins (Acts 2:36-38; Galatians 3:26, 27). As a disciple of the Lord, living faithfully the Christian life, heaven will be our eternal home (Matthew 25:34; 2 Timothy 4:7,8). By God’s infinite grace, the sting of death will be removed and victory over the grave will be experienced by the children of God (I Corinthians 15:54-58).

20 November 2018

MY THOUGHTS ON THANKSGIVING

“I thought about my ways, And turned my feet to Your Testimonies” (Psalm 119:59). A thoughtful person is a thankful person. Blessed is the person who meditates on God’s testimonies. To think on the blessings of God, is to thank Him for His infinite grace. Thankfulness to our Heavenly Father produces ‘thanksliving’. We cry out, “Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits…” (Psalm 103:1,2). Therefore, we are to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). As a late night television personality was often heard to say, “I hark” back to the days of my youth. I have memories of some small communities having ‘Thanksgiving dinner’ together in a school building. One of the songs we used to sing was, “We Gather Together”. It was a religious song, one that is seldom sung today. But, the lyrics are so meaningful: “We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing, He chastens and hastens His will to make known; The wicked oppressing cease them from distressing, Sing praises to His name, He forgets not His own. Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining, Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine; So from the beginning the fight we were winning, Thou, Lord, wast at our side, - the glory be Thine!” Almost every year there would be a ‘Thanksgiving Play” in the schools. The song usually sung was, “Over The River And Through The Woods.” Here are a few of the lyrics: “Over the river and through the woods, To grandmother's house we go; The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh, Through (the) white and drifted snow! Over the river and through the woods, Oh, how the wind does blow! It stings the toes and bites the nose, As over the ground we go. Over the river and through the woods, To have a first-rate play; Oh, hear the bells ring, "Ting-a-ling-ling!" Hurrah for Thanksgiving Day!” How fortunate you are, and how grateful you should be, if you have your family together on this, our national holiday, “Thanksgiving”! “Praise God from whom all blessings flow; Praise Him, all creatures here below; Praise him above, ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!”