The opening verses of the tenth chapter of Acts give a rather glowing description of a man named Cornelius. The first verse notes that Cornelius was a ranking officer, a centurion, in the Roman army at Caesarea. The second verse describes him as, “A devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always.” The next four verses depict Cornelius seeing an angel in a vision in answer to his prayers. The angel gave Cornelius instructions to send to the city of Joppa for Simon Peter in order that Peter could come to Cornelius’ home and teach him and his household the gospel. The rest of the chapter deals with God preparing Peter for the mission, the messengers from Cornelius traveling to Joppa, Peter entering the home of Cornelius, Cornelius recounting his vision for Peter, Peter teaching the gospel to those of Cornelius’ household, and their obedient reaction to that teaching, culminating in their being baptized. Now, back to verse two..
Is there right and wrong in religion? If there is, can being mistaken, that is thinking you’re right when you’re actually wrong, jeopardize your eternal salvation? This is a tough question. Not so much because it’s all that difficult to figure out the correct answer, but because it’s often very difficult to properly apply the correct answer. In today’s culture it is perhaps even more difficult, because we rely heavily on subjective feelings to guide us as to what is right and wrong.
It’s a common theme in many congregations to talk about how to make worship more meaningful, more encouraging, even more exciting. Suggestions might include: change the time of worship, drop the announcements, begin with a period of silence, change the order of the service, cut down the sermons, have more prayers, pray shorter prayers, sing more songs, sing fewer songs, sing more songs with a quicker tempo, start on time, et al. The list goes on... When carefully considered, most all of the suggestions have something in common. They’re almost always suggestions for what other people can do to help make my worship more meaningful.
The Wednesday night auditorium class has been using a study guide titled, “The Love Of Christ,” written by Richard Rogers and Bill Yasko for the Sunset International Bible Institute. The fourteen lessons cover basic Christian doctrines, particularly focusing on the worship, work and structure of the church. One lesson dealt with The Organizational Structure Of The Church. That lesson included the work of elders, and within that section church discipline was discussed.
In the last edition of this publication I wrote an article titled, “Pray For A Soul.” The theme came from an encouragement and challenge that I put before the congregation a number of weeks ago. As we finished a year long study on evangelism, I encouraged and challenged each member of the class to pray that God would send someone into their life to whom they could reach out with the gospel. I have continued to encourage the class and the congregation to pray that prayer. A number of individuals have shared with me that they have, indeed, been praying that prayer.
Prayer is one of the greatest blessings with which God has blessed us as Christians. The apostle Paul exhorted, “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit…” (Eph. 6:18), and “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). Prayer should be a continual feature of our daily lives.
Truth is an elusive quality today. Everybody talks about the truth. Everybody claims to want the truth and to place a high value upon the truth. The truth is, though, we are great abusers of truth. We really want truth to conform to our desires as to what we want the truth to be, and we have become quite skillful at reshaping and redefining truth in order that it will conform. With many people truth is no longer a set of observable, rational, objective facts. Rather, it has become “the truth according to me...” In many cases we are no longer left with the real truth, but instead a distortion thereof. What is even worse is that many people accept distorted truth as the real thing, if the case has been made persuasively enough.
Mother’s day! We love our mothers, and rightfully so. Much has been written about the special, nurturing love of a mother. It’s not that a mother’s love is better or more important than that of a father. It’s just different, unique. I believe we can see God’s handiwork when we observe how He designed the family. A child needs both the special love of a mother and the different but equally special love of a father. Both are needed for the full nurturing, molding and development of a child in the home.
“Can I trust you?” is not a casual question. It’s a credit to a person’s trustworthiness to not even have to have the question asked of him. It’s simply known that he can be trusted. Trust is a precious thing, not something to take lightly. Marriages stand or fall on the ability of spouses to trust one another. Careers are made or broken, depending upon how trustworthy a person is. A person’s word is taken or rejected according to how much trust can be placed in what he says. Sometimes, lives are placed in the trust of one person or another.
Is the United States a “Christian” nation? A few years ago our President declared that we are no longer a “Christian” nation. His comment generated a rather spirited discussion in the media, with many commentators taking exception to his assessment. A survey was subsequently published indicating the percentage of people in this nation who claim to be “Christian” has dropped significantly, though they are still in the majority. The same survey also showed a significant increase in people who claim no belief in God.
Gary L. Hutchens