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Elijah’s Temptation to Drop Out by William C. Sexton

If the phrase “a prophet of God” is spoken, the Bible student would likely think of Elijah. He was a powerful prophet in the Old Testament; when Jesus was transfigured before certain of the apostles (Mt. 17:1-5). He appeared with Elijah to represent the prophets Jesus referred to his acts (Lk. 4:24-26); James mentioned him as evidence of the powerful effect of a righteous man’s prayer (Jas. 5:16-18); Paul pointed to him as one being mistaken about his lonely state because many faithful peoples were serving God (Rom. 11:2-5).

Elijah was a great prophet, who achieved much, giving evidence that he was serving God and that God is powerful (1 Kings 18:21-46). He spoke out against evil, opposed the prophets of Baal, as a spokesman for God. Yet, Elijah was a human, with the weaknesses which characterize mankind. He was, like most of us are at some time, tempted to drop out and give up (1 Kings 19:1-21).

The character of this man and the occasion in his life (just after achieving a great victory) make us unprepared for what he does in this respect! Yet, I suspect that here is just one case of the many in the word of God which point each of us to self-examination, to discover our humanness, We sometimes miscalculate reality! If Elijah, a prophet of God could and did so misperceive things, then certainly we ought to recognize that we, too, may do the same and be in need of assistance!

His Character

He manifested his courage and determination in (1) announcing to wicked Ahab that there was going to be neither “dew nor rain” (1 Kings 17: 1) due to the evil behavior of the king, (2) challenging the people to make a choice to decide whether the Jehovah is God or Baal and to follow the real one (1 Kings 18:21ff). He had manifested his kindness and relationship to God in dealing with the widow and her child (1 Kings 17:17-24).

Depression After Having Gained A Decisive Victory

Elijah called the people together and asked for the prophets of Baal to call on their god to manifest himself to show that he was alive, able, and willing to respond to their needs. this allowed all to witness the complete failure of Baal. After the failure of Baal and his prophets, Elijah called on the Lord God and He responded, burning the sacrifice and drying up the water. This was a powerful demonstration of God’s power and Elijah’s relationship to Him. It would seem reasonable to expect all observers and knowledgeable people to recognize the power manifested and submit to it. One would expect Elijah to be elated, walking on cloud nine!

Yet when his work was conveyed to the king’s wicked wife, Jezebel, she promised to continue her opposition and resistence to him (1 Kings 19:2-3). With his experience and recent victory over Baal’s four hundred prophets, we would expect him to face up to the threat, pointing to the fact that God had manifested Himself in such a powerful way that it would be foolish and fatal to oppose Him in the manner she was threatening. However, we are surprised again! He runs for his life!

His Action Of Requesting To Die

It is hard to understand that this character at this time would run away from such a one as Jezebel and sit down under a tree requesting “for himself that he might die. . . ” (19:4). Even with such behavior, the Lord did not let him have his request. He sent an angel who “touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat.” He was strengthened and traveled for forty days and nights to Horeb, the mount of God (19:8).

Yet, Elijah was not ready and prepared to face reality. Rather, he went into a cave. The Lord, as He had done before, challenged him as to what he was doing there. The answer was not really a response: “I have been jealous for the Lord of Host: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and 1, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away” (19:10, 14).

Truly, Elijah had been jealous for the Lord and such was both good and correct. It was sad that the people of Israel had forsaken the covenant, thrown down the altars built to God and slain the prophets. However, the question addressed to Elijah was: “What doeth thou here?” Why are you here and what are you doing here? Now, not yesterday or days gone by, is the period of time in question.

This is a rather common problem or response, I’m afraid, for any or all of us! We become obsessed with a response that is not really pertinent. When asked a question, we repeat that response!

Lessons To Be Learned From Elijah’s Action

I believe that we all can learn some valuable lessons from this account of his behavior on this occasion; perhaps that is the reason that it is recorded and preserved for us.

1. Like Elijah, all of usfail at times to live up to what we should do based on our knowledge and experience. Quite often, the unreasoned behavior occurs shortly after a victory! Man is more vulnerable right after a battle, even one which he has won! He is exhausted, with his guard down!

Many people have dropped out after great achievements! We expect an inexperienced person to become discouraged and give up and/or in; but the man who has been on the firing line and gained many battles of significance, too, can be overcome! Each of us need to be challenged: “What doeth thou here?” We need to be challenged, repeatedly till we get off that obsession! We need,to have the significance of that challenge to penetrate our conscience!

2. Christians, like Elijah, need to see that there is and will remain temptations, but there is no justification for dropping out, till God calls us home!

We need, therefore, to allow the double challenge to sink in: Just what are we doing where we are? It does not matter how much we have done; rather, it’s what are we doing now? There is never a time when we can stop and rely on the past record – till our time alloted here expires, and God is the judge and determiner of that.

3. Like Elijah, we need to climb a mountain, get a different view!

And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord, And behold the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountain, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice …. And the Lord said unto him, Go, return on the way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou cometh, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: and Jehu the son of Nimshi shall thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-me-holah shall thou anoint to be prophet in thy room. And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay. Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him (19:11-12, 15-18).

It is evidence that Elijah has miscalculated: he was not the only one left faithfully serving God! Seven thousand others were alive and serving. We, too, when we get so discouraged, thinking that we are the only one left, need to look again! Somewhere, out of our sight, there are others!

At times we need to climb a mountain and get a view from a different prospective! Hear the Lord say, “Go!” Get back into the stream of activity! Go about doing your job, and see that you can still do something for the Lord’s cause! We can assist others. We can still tell the story of Jesus (Mt. 28:19-20; Mk. 16:15-16).


Every person who has served God, will at times feel as Elijah, feel like dropping out! I’m no better than the others who have gone before me, they suffered and died, I might as well die now! But the Lord is the, only one who can decide that accurately. So, let us keep on being faithful as long as we are allowed to live and serve. Let us ask ourselves: are we doing what we can now according to His word and directions?

Guardian of Truth XXVII: 20, pp. 622-623
October 20, 1983
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Sabastian, What Am I Going to Do With You?

by Teresa L. Sexton

Dedicated to Randy Sexton and Sabastian

Sabastian, what am I going to do with you? Just keep loving you, I guess, and putting up with your ornery, silly ways.

You came into my life at the perfect time. Of course, I couldn’t have known that. Linda had posted your picture to help you find your forever home. I was smitten. My husband had, only recently, said, “No more pets. They’re too much trouble, they tie us down. When these two are gone, that’s it, no more.” He was talking about Fancy and Savannah, our two little toy poodles who were spoiled rotten, mostly by Aaron. But, then you showed up. Your picture pulled at my heartstrings like there was already a rope connecting you to me.

Oh, look, Aaron! He looks so sweet and he is black and white! To me, there couldn’t have been a more beautiful color combination for a standard poodle. Aaron looked at the photos on my phone, then looked at me and said “Get him, if you want him.” He couldn’t resist wanting you either, you were a gorgeous little boy. …and those eyes.

We made a quick weekend trip to Wichita, Kansas, to get you. It was a great trip. Not only did we get to see Josh and Sasha, but, also, it didn’t hurt a bit that you were owned by dear friends,Tom and Linda. I had known and been friends with Tom since I was just three years old and Tom, four. Our families were good friends. Our dads worked together.

Aaron, Josh, Sasha and I brainstormed for the perfect name, one that sounded like you looked, if that makes any sense. I had thought of “Sabastian,” then Josh said  “Sabastian,” so that was it! I don’t know why, but it fit. So, you became our little boy, and we brought you home to Arkansas.

Fancy took right to you, she has always been a loving little soul, well, if dogs have souls. Savannah was not happy with your appearance into our home. She would growl and bare her teeth, trying to intimidate you into keeping your distance, all six pounds of her.

You settled in well, and we adored you. Aaron, the man who didn’t want any more pets, treated you like canine royalty. You were showered with treats, back and belly scratches and hugs.

You came to us in the middle of summer. We would play with you in the backyard. You loved to, and still do, run the length of the deck and at the end leap completely over the three steps to the ground. You would shadow Aaron as he would work on his projects in his backyard shop. He loved your presence, the way you followed and watched him.

Winter came, and with it, the bitter cold, and so much snow. February was cruel. Aaron left us. He didn’t mean to, but God said, “It’s time, son.” Gone. A man who could smile like the sunshine, smiled no more. Well, not here on earth, anyway. No more laughter. No more “I love yous.” You didn’t understand why Dad wasn’t with us anymore but you changed, immediately. Sabastian, you became the man of the house. You weren’t even a year old, yet, but you stepped up.

When the doorbell rang the next day, you became my guard dog, my protector. You barked big boy barks and made sure who ever entered the house knew you were in charge. By that time, you were a big boy, big enough to be given respect for your attitude. Your presence was such a comfort.

You became my rock, my constant companion. Of course, my faith in Jesus is my true Rock and Foundation. I came to realize, again, how God’s loving hand is ever present, ever orchestrating our lives. His timing is impeccable.

Romans 8:28 NIV

 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Sabastian, you try my patience sorely, but I can never stay mad at you. I know God put you in my life. You, for some odd doggy reason, revel on getting your mouth on almost any small thing I own, and have, absent mindedly, left in harm’s way. You aggressively chew, and try to devour. How have you tried my patience? Let me count the ways. 1. My new fitbit, nothing but tiny pieces of electronics, 2. Four bible markers, 3. Three tubes of my favorite lip gloss, and two tubes of lipstick (no, they weren’t “your color”), 4. Three mechanical pencils, 5. Unknown number of plastic flossing toothpicks, 6. Socks, yes, my socks, for Pete’s sake, 7.  …and the list goes on.

Have I mentioned that you have auditioned and been accepted into the Hackett City Canine Choir? “Go tell it on the Mountain,” seems to be the theme song to which you and your friends subscribe. Your favorite spot to participate from is the deck by the above ground pool. From there, you can see over the privacy fence and into our fair city. You are a very vocal member of the choir and the Town Crier Club.

Thinking I had found the ideal solution to your excessive vocalizations, I gifted you with an anti-bark collar. It doesn’t shock you when you bark. It is supposed to. Why doesn’t it? The connected phone app says it is functioning properly. What? Initially, when you barked, the collar vibrated and the recording of my voice telling you to “Be quiet!” got your attention. Now, I have come to the conclusion you will bark, just so you can hear my voice, when I am not with you.

Christmas Lights! I closed off the stairs to the swim deck with a wall of beautiful, cheerful lights. The excessive barking has ceased. Awww…sweet peace and quiet. Silent Night. Who needs high tech anti-bark collars? Truth be told, nights are peaceful because you are comfortably sleeping in your humongous pet taxi, your safe place.

My bodacious Sabastian, it is through your eyes you speak. You tell me you love and adore me, you need me. You can’t get enough hugs, back scratches and having me talk to you. You want to be with me, near me, follow me. Sharing my recliner, in my lap is a place you love to be. I love for you to be there, too.


Thank you, Lord, for bringing Randy into our lives. I love him, and so does Sabastian. He is an answer to my prayers. Thank you, Lord, for never giving up on those of us who love you. You are the God of second, third, fourth…chances. We are human, we are imperfect, but you know that, you created us. Thank you for giving us hearts where there is always room for one more. You wrap us in grace and mercy that we don’t deserve. You love us and hear each of us. We stand on your promises.

The Light. Know it. Show it.

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What Is Celebrate Recovery and Why Did It Get Started

By Randy Sexton

As I related in my last article, “This Is My Story,” I fell into secret sin in 2009. I was firmly enmeshed in pornography and sexual addiction, when I began seeking counseling to battle these sinful defects of character. I began seeing a Counselor in November 20, 2018. This Counselor had 12 years’ experience as a counselor, was gifted in working with families and couples, had a heart for working with men’s issues, and had been trained at the Institute of Sexual Wholeness. He was certified as an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) and as an LMFT (Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist). During our very first session, he told me about this Christ-centered recovery program called Celebrate Recovery. He recommended that I check it out. He said there were several churches in the area that offered Celebrate Recovery ministries. Following his advice, I attended my first Celebrate Recovery meeting at West-Ark Church of Christ in Fort Smith, Arkansas on January 7, 2019. On that same night I asked someone to be my Sponsor and I signed up for a Step Study. I had been reading several books that my Therapist had recommended and I was more than ready for the help that the CR Program offered.

In that first meeting, I attended what was called a “Newcomers Meeting” and was given a little paperback book, Your First Step to Celebrate Recovery by John Baker. That book helped me to understand the history and the benefit of attending Celebrate Recovery meetings. In this article, I would like to share thoughts from the Introduction: What Is Celebrate Recovery written by Rick Warren and from Chapter 1: Why Did Celebrate Recovery Get Started written by John Baker. I would also like to invite you to check out the website to find a local Celebrate Recovery program in your area

I have now been a part of the West-Ark Celebrate Recovery ministry for almost four years and have found healing. In Celebrate Recovery I have found a safe place to work on my hurts, habits and hang-ups. If you are struggling to find healing, I offer the following words as a first step in your recovery journey. God Bless you!

What Is Celebrate Recovery?



Celebrate Recovery started in 1991 at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. At that time, the church was meeting at a high school gymnasium. John Baker wrote Pastor Rick Warren the “now-famous, concise, 13-page, single-spaced” letter outlining the vision God had given John for Celebrate Recovery. After reading John’s letter, Pastor Rick said, “Great, John — go do it!”

As Rick Warren points out, the Bible makes it clear “all have sinned.” Because of that sin, we hurt ourselves as well as others. “This means each of us needs recovery in order to live our lives the way God intended.” Because time doesn’t heal all wounds, we need something more to address hurts because “wounds that are left untended fester and spread infection throughout your entire body. Time only extends the pain if the problem isn’t dealt with.”

“Celebrate Recovery is a biblical and balanced program that helps us overcome our hurts, hang-ups, and habits. It is based on the actual words of Jesus rather than psychological theory. Celebrate Recovery is more effective in helping us change than anything else I’ve seen or heard of.” While there are many 12-step programs around, most of those programs are very vague about the nature of God, the saving power of Jesus Christ, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Rick Warren describes how he began an intense study of the Scriptures to discover what God had to say about recovery, “My study resulted in a ten-week series of messages called, ‘The Road to Recovery.’ During that series, Pastor John Baker developed the participant’s guides which became the heart of our Celebrate Recovery program. I believe that this program is unlike any recover program you may have seen. There are six features that make it unique.

  1. Celebrate Recovery is based on God’s Word, the Bible….
  2. Celebrate Recovery is forward-looking….
  3. Celebrate Recover emphasizes personal responsibility….
  4. Celebrate Recover emphasizes spiritual commitment to Jesus Christ….
  5. Celebrate Recovery utilizes the biblical truth that we need each other in order to grow spiritually and emotionally….
  6. Celebrate Recovery addresses all types of hurts, hang-ups, and habits….”

Why Did Celebrate Recovery Get Started?

The short answer to this question is that CR got started because John and Cheryl Baker realized they needed something more than, what then existed, to help them heal from the hurts that they had experienced in their lives. As Cheryl tells their story in the opening chapter of this book, we see two people who experienced the negative effects of alcohol in their lives, but who also suffered from deeper underlying issues of low self-esteem, insecurity, co-dependency, and need to control.

John and Cheryl met at a fraternity-sorority football game at the University of Missouri where they were both going to school. John was president of his fraternity and Cheryl was president of her sorority.  Cheryl and John were married in John’s senior year.  Little did Cheryl know what the next 19 years would have in store for her.

After graduation John joined the Air Force and was chosen to be a pilot.  He attended Officers Training School and, in 90 days, learned to act like an officer and drink like a gentleman!  He continued to abuse alcohol and viewed it as cure for his pain, certainly not a sin!  In the service he quickly found the proper use for 100% oxygen – to cure hangovers!  You know, the service is gifted in discovering one’s talents.  John was selected as his squadron’s social officer.  Perfect!  A job that required a lot of hours planning functions at the officers club’s bar.

After the service he joined Scott Paper Co., got his MBA degree at night school and God gave he and Cheryl their first child, a daughter, Laura.  And two years later they were blessed with their son, John Jr.  John was promoted eight times in the first eleven years of his business career.  He was the vice president of sales and marketing for two very large consumer food manufacturers. All of this by the time he was 30 years old.

With all the business success came several relocations.  Attending church became less and less important to John as his drinking increased.  He believed that if he died he was saved; however, he also was beginning to be uncomfortable with his lifestyle, business practices, and priorities.  To the outside world everything with his family seemed normal, but in his heart he knew something was very wrong. As John’s drinking continued to increase, he turned his back completely on God.

John was known as a functioning alcoholic.  He knew he had a problem, but he never lost a job or never got arrested for drunk driving.  Up to this point his secret was still safe.  Cheryl was in denial, or so he thought.  She just couldn’t label him as an “alcoholic” until she noticed his new breakfast drink – beer!  One evening, in her anger, she asked him to go to counseling with her or to just leave.  Much to her surprise, he left!  And their separation began.

John’s life was out of control.  It was an October morning, and he was in Salt Lake City on a business trip.  He woke up and knew he couldn’t take another drink.  But, he also knew that he couldn’t live without one!  He had finally hit his bottom.  He made it back to Orange County and went to his first AA meeting.  He started going to AA meetings daily.  He went to over 90 meetings in 90 days.  As the days passed, he came to “earnestly believe that God exists, that I matter to him, and that he has the power to help me recover.”

Cheryl was completely unaware that John was beginning to deal with his alcoholism. She tells of how her dysfunctions began to surface. She had never told anyone about the breakup of their marriage. She had wanted to tell her close Christian friends at the church pre-school where she worked but she just didn’t feel safe. She wondered if there were others who were also struggling with pain that they were too afraid to share and feeling so different and alone. She says, “Thinking that if we switched churches we would find a safe place to tell others about our pain, the kids and I began attending Saddleback Church. But we didn’t want to feel different or alone, so we didn’t tell anyone there about the separation either.”

Meanwhile, as John was continuing to work the 12-Steps of the AA program, he came to Step 8: We made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all and Step 9: We made direct amends to such people whenever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

He had quite a long list of names on his amends list.  They ranged from former employers, former employees, friends, and neighbors.  But his most special amends he owed were to his family – especially to Cheryl.  When he got to step nine they were still separated.

On February 14, 1991, after being separated for a year, John left a note on Cheryl’s table asking her to meet him for lunch.  On Valentine’s Day!  She thought it was a little strange to be meeting her separated husband on Valentine’s Day!  During that lunch, John told her that he had been attending Alcoholics Anonymous and that he went to meetings several times a week and had a sponsor.  He told her that AA was founded on the principles of the 12 steps, and he needed to share the ninth step with her.  He simply told her that he was truly sorry for the pain he caused in her life, that he still loved her, and that if he could ever do anything for her – anything – just ask.  Now this is where it really gets interesting.

One Saturday night he was visiting the kids and they asked him to go to church with them on Sunday morning.  Much to their surprise he said yes!  He hadn’t been in a church for five years! John describes what happened, “That Sunday morning, I heard the music and Pastor Rick’s message, and I knew I was home.  Cheryl and I began in earnest to work on our issues that had torn our relationship apart.  And five months later God opened our hearts and we renewed our marriage vows.  As a family, we were baptized and took all the church’s classes – Class 101 (Membership) – Class 201 (Maturity), and Class 301 (Ministry) which is the class that I now teach.  Folks, that can only be the power and grace of God!”

As John attended his AA meetings he was mocked when he talked about his Higher Power – the only true Higher Power – Jesus Christ.  And at church he couldn’t find a place where individuals could openly relate to his struggle with alcoholism. He knew they were there because in a church of then 6000, he couldn’t be the only one struggling with a hurt, hang up, or addictive habit.  So John wrote Pastor Rick a concise 13 page single-spaced letter outlining the vision that God gave him – the vision of Celebrate Recovery a Christ-centered 12 step recovery program.  And he said, “Great…do it!”

John was finally able to accept God’s call, and he entered Golden Gate Baptist Seminary.  He committed his life to God to serve him wherever and whenever he chose. The first meeting for Celebrate Recovery started on November 21, 1991 with four open share groups: women’s chemical addictions, women’s codependent, men’s chemical addiction, and men’s codependent. Forty-three people attended that first meeting with volunteers leading their worship and lessons were taught in a large group format. John was asked to join the Saddleback Church Staff in 1992. In 1993, Rick Warren preached “The Road to Recovery” sermon series that became the basis for the 8 Principle of Celebrate Recovery. In 1994 and 1995 John wrote the 4 Participant Guides that now serve as the basis of the Celebrate Recovery Step Study.

Read Cheryl’s words as she describes the growth that resulted, “As we began to use the participant guides, we had a huge growth spurt. Leaders began to emerge from those step study groups and wanted us to start new groups. Gradually groups for newcomers, anger, eating disorders, food addictions, love and relationship addiction, sexual addiction, codependents in a relationship with a with a sexually addicted man, gambling, sexual/physical/emotional abuse, and adult children of the chemically addicted were added to the original four small groups.”

“Celebrate Recovery has helped more than 17,000 people at Saddleback, attracting over 70% of its members from outside the church. Eighty-five percent of the people who go through the program stay with the church and nearly half serve as church volunteers. Celebrate Recovery is now in over 37,000 churches worldwide!” (

If this sounds like a program that you would benefit from, I would invite you to begin your Celebrate Recovery journey by visiting a local Celebrate Recovery ministry near you.

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Dear Sad Lady by Teresa L. Sexton

Dear Sad Lady standing by the street sign, on the corner, in the cold, and in the rain. I see you. I really do…see…you. You’re thin and gaunt. Your clothing is dirty and doesn’t fit. You are wearing 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or maybe even 5th , hand clothing.

You wear an expression that is hard to read. Is it bitterness? Defiance? Hopelessness? Loneliness? How old are you? It’s hard to tell, 35? 40? 50? Yet, the look in your eyes tells me your mind may be far, far away. Does your mind go to a place of comfort for protection from the looks of scorn cast your direction by the many sets of eyes that see you but don’t really see you?

What has brought you to this place? You look so empty, so hurt, so very forlorn.

What happened that put you in such a place of humiliating despair? Perhaps you suffer from mental issues that hold you captive to a lifestyle that is far less than it should be.

A real physical reaction leaps through my chest. There is a combination of emotions running through me, sadness, anger, sympathy, frustration.

Why you? Why not me in your place? I’m dressed in nice clothes, driving a nice car, I just left a warm comfortable home. Soon, I‘ll be joining my friends, who will be wearing nice clothes and beautiful smiles. We’ll meet for breakfast, in a nice restaurant, where I can easily pay my bill. Has there been a time in your life when you were able to do the same? Or, has your life always been a struggle and one of mental and physical pain?

You are not the only woman hoping for help by hanging out at the stop signs and traffic lights. Every Sunday morning, on the way to church, we see the same elderly woman sitting on a small stool, on the same corner. She has, with her, a broken down, badly repaired grocery cart. The cart appears to contain her earthly belongings and treasures. One treasure is a dirty, worn stuffed clown doll. That makes me think of my “treasures,” some of the things I hold dear. Why have I been so blessed? By the way, the third time I saw this “elderly” woman, I paid more attention to her. Her skin is lined and deeply tanned from the many hours of sitting at her post. Her sunken face tells me she has no teeth. I looked into her eyes and realized she was probably about ten years younger than I am. Life has been cruel to her.

I have wondered what she would say if we invited to her to go to church with us. I should grow bolder and ask instead of just wondering! Why do the women, who are panhandling, look like they are so much more in dire need than the men? Let’s be honest. Women are far too frequently victims of abuse and falling between the cracks. They are weaker and more vulnerable. It truly hurts my heart. I pray for them but I know that is not enough. After all, are we not the branches? We reach out.

I’ve grown accustomed to the regulars, the panhandlers who choose to put themselves out there with their cardboard signs. So many! Most are professionals. I know this. I have seen them park their nice car in a lot not very far away from where they stand with their signs. I’ve seen them dropped off from vans in the same manner a city bus drops riders who are heading to their places of employment. I’ve read the stories where the beggars openly, yet anonymously, shared their stories of their large income, nice cars and homes, received by panhandling, suckering in the tender-hearted. That makes me angry. Angry, mostly because they harden our hearts to those who may truly need a generous handout, a smile, some food, some kindness.

Have I grown callous? There is a multitude of cardboard sign carriers, some in real need, some absolutely not. How do I know who truly needs help, who is really down and out? Lord, what do I do? If I give the person, pleading for a handout, some cash, am I helping or hurting? Am I adding fuel to the flame? Will she/he buy food, shelter, life’s necessities, clothing? Or, will the money buy another fix, another bottle, another pill, another spin on a casino slot machine? Do I give and not worry about what will be done with the money, letting that be between them and God?

Teresa L. Sexton

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“This Is My Story” by Randy Sexton

Note: I delivered the following message as part of an “invitation talk” on December 18, 2019.

The Psalmist wrote, “Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,

Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree

Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper” (Psalm 1:1-3). This passage not only describes the favored position of the godly man but it describes the progressive nature of sin in the sinner.

We sometimes sing a song in our worship services (#541 “Blessed Assurance”) that contains these words in the chorus, “This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long…” That song speaks to the assurance that we have in Jesus. When we sing that song we are celebrating the fact that we are “heirs of salvation, purchase of God, Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.”

Today I am going to share my heart with you …This is my story. Well actually it’s not MY story. It’s the story of Jesus working in my life! What I have to say may alarm some of you; I hope not. Some would call this my testimony. And some of us don’t like testimonies. My purpose in sharing my story with you is to remind us all that we must bear the consequences of our sin. My prayer and my hope is that my openness and vulnerability my help others who struggle. In part, my decision to use this as an invitation message, was stirred by the discussion that ensued in a class I recently attended on “The Sin of Gossiping.” In that class, the question was asked, “What would you do if someone came up to you and said, ‘I need to tell you something, but you must promise me that you won’t tell anyone else.” My observation (though I did not offer a comment in class) was that many of us in the church DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE CONCEPTS  OF  ANYNYMOTY AND CONFIDENTIALITY.  That is why it is often not a SAFE PLACE for those who are hurting and seek to find healing. And as the brother who was teaching the class pointed out, there are many “out there” who are hurting!

Today I want to tell you Who I Was, Who I Became, and Who I Am Today.

Who I Was

I was raised by godly parents. My father preached the gospel for more than 40 years and my mother supported him as he moved from place to place to proclaim the gospel. Many of you may have known my parents. At the time of his death in 2006, my father had served as an elder and a preacher at the Van Buren Church of Christ in Van Buren, Arkansas, but had resigned the eldership because he was going to be gone on Sunday mornings. He saw a great need to preach the gospel and began traveling to Waveland to preach on Sunday morning and then to Bethel to preach on Sunday afternoon and then he was back at Van Buren for Sunday evening service.

With that as a foundation I “grew up in the church” as we often say. I obeyed the gospel when I was 13 years old and I tried to live the life of a good Christian. I became a Bible class teacher. I did quite a bit of what the old-timers used to call “appointment preaching.” I served as a deacon, a treasurer, and an elder in the local church where I was a member.

But something happened not long after my dad passed away. In fact, someone who is still very important to me recently said, “You kind of lost your way when he passed away.” And she was right. I wasn’t ready for Dad to leave me. He was a wise counselor that I turned to when I was troubled by something. Like the time I was laid off after 15 years with Union Carbide, he helped me work through that.

In about 2009 secret sin entered my life. I was good at hiding it from everyone but God. The progressive nature of the sin that I found myself embroiled in led me deeper and deeper.

Who I Became

I became a hypocrite. I looked at things that a Christian has no business looking at. I knew what I was doing was wrong. I was hurting but I did not know where to turn. I felt the pain that Paul talks about in Romans 7:15 when he says, “I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” I found myself involved in a struggle between the flesh and the spirit. Paul again says in Galatians 5:16-17, I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” 

I sought recovery on my own, reaching out occasionally for help but not really knowing where to turn. I did not really feel safe admitting my problems to my brethren. As it always does, sin will find you out (Numbers 32:23). It found me out in 2018 and I tried, like I had for 9 years to tackle it by myself. I tried but I relapsed and eventually my wife of 23 years. Divorced me and I became a broken man. A young man, wiser than his young years said to me recently, “I’m confused how, for 4 whole years, you could be unfaithful to a woman who was not only a great mother and Christian, but a great and caring wife towards you for over 20 years.”

Eventually, I found a safe place, it is called Celebrate Recovery. It is a Christ-Centered 12 Step program designed to help people find healing from their hurts, habits and hang ups. The power of the program is that it directs people to Jesus Christ. The 8 principles of CR, that are based upon the Beatitudes, and the anonymity and confidentiality that is part of the DNA of the program, helps to guarantee it as a safe place!

Who I Am

I am not a perfect man but neither am I the man that I became because of the sin that I allowed to remain in my life. I was broken, I am now healed. I was controlled by secret sin; I am now open and transparent. I was a man struggling to find healing alone, I now am a man who is working the 8 Principles and the 12 Steps of recovery. I am now a man forgiven but still suffering the consequences of my sins.


There is no sin so great that it cannot be forgiven when repented of. The consequences of those sins, however, may be severe and affect us the rest of our lives. This is where I now stand: I have repented and asked forgiveness from those I have harmed but I still suffer the alienation of family; my wife of 23 years refused to reconcile, and one of my two sons, whom I love, will not speak to me!   As I share my story, so that others who suffer from similar struggles might find hope, it is my prayer that my focus will always be upon Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith! Just as true now as it was in the first century, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

If you are reading these words right now, and you have not obeyed the gospel of Jesus Christ, please know that only in Him can you find forgiveness for your sins and healing from those things that trouble you. He promises, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. (Mt. 7:7-8). And again, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Mt. 11:28-30). The simple plan of salvation calls for you to believe in Him (Acts 2:38), repent and follow him (Acts 3:19), confess Him as King of your life (Rom. 10:9-10), be baptized into His precious blood (Acts 2:38), and live faithfully to him until your last breath is taken (Rev. 2:10). If you have done these things but then you have stumbled and fallen, pick yourself back up, repent and pray (Acts 8:22). As you move forward in your faith and recovery journey always look to Jesus, living life one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time. May Bod bless you!

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Remembering My Creator Volume 4, Number 1, August 31, 2018 Theme: Thoughts From Hebrews

In This Issue


  • “Jesus is Superior to Angelic Beings (1:1–2:18)” by Randy Sexton
  • “Warning a Rest for the People of God (3:7-4:13)” by David Bushnaq
  • “The High Priesthood of Jesus (4:14-10:18)” by Dillon Jarrett
  • “The Full Assurance of Faith (10:19-39)” by Hannah Clark
  • “Sacrifices Pleasing to God (13:1-19)” by John Crawford
  • “Thoughts on Hebrews 13″  by William C. Sexton (Reprint)



Jesus is Superior to Angelic Beings (Hebrews 1:1 – 2:18)


Randy Sexton


Roger Shouse states, in his excellent class material on the book of Hebrews, “Hebrews is considered by many to rank with Romans and Revelation as difficult to understand. Certainly the writer himself believed what he was writing was for the spiritually mature (Hebrews 5:11-6:3). The book contains what is probably the most sustained argument in Scripture. The author makes extensive use of Old Testament quotations and an understanding of the Jewish Scriptures is essential to understanding the book.”


The Hebrew epistle does not tell us who wrote it and various commentators and writers have differing opinions as to authorship. Some believe it was authored by Paul, others Apollos, and still others Clement, or Luke, or Barnabas. Neither does the author of this epistle clearly designate his audience. But he does seem “to be targeting a group of Jewish converts who are facing the temptation of returning to Judaism. The author seeks to show the superiority of the new convenant over the old. The author knows the recipients (Hebrews 5:11f; 10:24f; 1317f), who are clearly a certain group of Hebrew Christians rather than Hebrews in general” (Shouse).


The theme of this entire epistle is that the New Covenant is better than the Old. A Key Verse is Hebrews 8:6: “But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises.”


“Jews who became Christians faced many hardships. Think about it. Just leaving behind all of the rituals of Old Testament worship would have been hard. They had been doing these things their entire lives. Some were treated as outcasts by their friends and family. Others were persecuted. Because of all these hardships, some considered turning away from Jesus and going back to the Old Law.” (David Banning, A Quick Look at Each New Testament Letter, p. 18)


The primary thoughts in this section of the epistle could be captured under the headings: the supremacy of God’s Son, Warning Against Neglecting Salvation, and the Founder of Salvation. Let us examine these thoughts as presented by the writer of the Hebrew letter.


The Supremacy of God’s Son (1:1-14)

Although God has spoken to His people throughout the ages, the instrumentality He has chosen has varied. And in our case, He has saved the best until last. In these last days He speaks to us through His Son. We may sometimes lose sight of how blessed we are to sit where we do in the “stream of time” and to benefit from those who have lived before us and from the things that “have been written for our learning” (Rom. 15:4).


Warning Against Neglecting Salvation (2:1-4)

To avoid drifting away from our salvation, “we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard.” Because we are prone, as humans, to act from what our hearts and minds dwell on, we cannot NEGLECT what we have learned, and still remain steadfast.


The Founder of Salvation (2:5-18)

The writer of this epistle shows the tremendous things that Jesus has done for us in order to demonstrate the value of remaining faithful. Nothing else can compart to Him. The fact that Jesus left heaven to become a man should make us so very grateful for the benefits that accrued to us.



Warning a Rest for the People of God (3:7-4:13)


David Bushnaq


Hebrews 3 shows us that there are two types of people, those who will enter God’s rest and those who will not. We also find just how those who failed to enter God’s

rest earned that state. Starting in verse 7…


Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, In the day of trial in the wilderness, Where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, And saw My works forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, And said, ‘They

always go astray in their heart, And they have not known My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’ ”


We as children of God know that we too, as those who were lead out by Moses can rebel against God if we wish, however as hindsight is 20/20 we also know what awaits us.


Could you believe the nerve of those following Moses? They saw the plagues, they saw the sea separating right and left so they could walk on dry land, but as soon as things got tough, they wished to return to the Egyptians, undoing all the good God and Moses did for them.


“Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of

our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”


This passage warns, and rightly so, that we can depart from the Living God. In doing so, we lose our salvation, or rest, when this life is over. Not only must we watch out for ourselves, but those in the household of God as well.


We do not have Moses, as they did, but we do have something better. We have God’s holy word and the best defense against deceit is, as Jesus said “it is written.” We must realize where our salvation comes from, and live lives accordingly- steadfast until the end.


Now there is a command for us, we must “hear his voice” and remain open, receptive to it. After all, starting in verse 16 we find that just hearing isn’t enough.


“For who, having heard, rebelled? Indeed, was it not all who came out of Egypt, led by Moses? Now with whom was He angry forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose corpses fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who

did not obey? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.”


This is the finality of life. All will cease- from this life that is. I guess in that regard all will rest, physically, but that’s not the end of it. If we rebel, as those did, our state would be like those who fell in the wilderness. Worse than that, we incur God’s wrath. A wrath there will be no rest from

once we die.


So once again, there are two types of people, those who will obey and those who will not. I ask you then, which will you be? We learn that not all died in those 40 years, those who remained faithful did enter the promised rest, everyone else, however, as Matthew 7 states


“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”



Call to Faith and Endurance – The Full Assurance of Faith (Heb. 10:19-39)

Thoughts by Hannah Clark


For the passage listed in the title, my Bible contains two division titles, “Hold Fast Your Confession” and “The Just Live by Faith.” I have separated my thoughts to coincide with these headings and hope they will make it easier as you follow along in your Bible.


Hold Fast Your Confession

We are to emulate Christ and one of the characteristics of our Father is that He Himself is faithful. One of the promises made to Abraham was that “all of the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:3) Throughout the Old Testament we can see prophecies that foretell the coming of Christ in whom we have salvation. The Hebrew writer even states in chapter 10 verse 23 that “He who promised is faithful.” What a comfort to know that the living God we serve will not forsake us despite how imperfect we are. In this, we can have assurance that our trust in Him will not be misplaced but lead to everlasting life.


The Just Live by Faith

“Therefore do not cast away your confidence which has great reward.” (Heb. 10:35) Our faith will be tested and tried in various ways but in turning to the scriptures, we are warned not to give in. The Hebrew writer includes a warning for those that would turn away in that there is no salvation from sin outside of Christ.


Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Heb. 10:29)


It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Heb. 10:31)


Joshua stated in the Old Testament “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15) The first century Christians felt a sense of urgency that has been lost over time. They were awaiting the coming of Christ again and preparing His coming. They knew that their earthly possessions were of little value compared to their home in heaven (Heb. 10:34). The Hebrew writer says that they “…see the Day approaching” and that “for yet a little while, and He who is coming will come and will not tarry.” (Heb. 10:25, 37)  Our lives on this earth may seem long and full of years but that is nothing compared to the expanse of eternity. With the assurance of faith we have in the Lord, we ought to be preparing ourselves for Christ to come again and be waiting to “see the Day approaching.


Therefore, we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)



“Thoughts on Hebrews 13”


William C. Sexton (Reprint)


Introduction: This last chapter of the book to the Hebrews begins with the directions to let brotherly love continue, looking back and remembering, not forgetting some who entertained strangers.


Remembering faithful Christians in “bonds,” is a commendable thing to do. Marriage is described as be “honorable in all,” while the violators of God’s rules in this matter shall be “judged.”(Heb. 13:1-4)


Covetousness is to be avoided, as we are to be “content” with such things as we have. This can be done, if we remember that God has promised that He’ll not leave nor forsake us. Whit that promise, we can know by faith the Lord is our helper, so we’ll not fear what men can do to us (Heb. 13:5-6).


Remember, in the sense that we respect them who have the rule over us. Each of us ought to appreciate the people God has set forth in His church to rule in the sense they are concerned for our souls and are willing to guide us in that which has been revealed, knowing that God knows best and is interested in our well-being! These people have spoken the message from heaven and provide example worthy of imitating, following. We need to look at the results of such living (Heb. 13:7)


We need to recognize the unchangeableness of Jesus, and thus be not carried away with doctrines that are not what God has revealed. The heart needs to be established on the grace of God, rather than being obsessed with carnal matters. In contrast with those who are trying to hold on to the Old Covenant, we have an altar on which they have no right to partake. Those animal sacrifices are no longer doing what they once signified, for Jesus has come and fulfilled His mission. He has accomplished what those offerings of Old could only point to. The appeal is made then for us to go forth committed to Jesus, and humbly carry any and all reproaches that result from our behavior and commitment to Christ. (Heb. 13:8-13).


Christians here are not looking for an earthly city; rather, we are looking for that heavenly place. The “sacrifice” we offer is “Praise to God,” the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. Doing good is to ever be before us. That included understanding what respect we need to give to the elders who watch for our souls. We need to pray for all the servants of God. (Heb. 13:14-19).


Now the God of peace who brought Jesus forth from the dead can make us “perfect in every good work,” as we do His will. The writer appeals to them to accept the word of exhortation, and to “know” brethren who have been “set at liberty.” Salute all them who rule. Grace be with us all. (Heb. 13:20-25)




  1. What are we told to continue and remember (Heb. 13:1-2)?


2 How is marriage described, contrasted with violations of the marriage vowel (Heb. 13:4)?


  1. What is said about covetousness and contentment and why (Heb. 13:5-6)?


  1. What is said relative to them who have the rule over us (Heb. 13:7, 17)?


  1. What is said about Jesus and being carried away with strange doctrine (Heb. 13:8-9))?


  1. What is said about the “altar” we have contrasted with the Old one (Heb. 13:10-13))?


  1. What is said about a city, as distinct to what we are looking for and doing (Heb. 13:14-16)?


  1. What is said about prayer, conscience, and honestly (Heb. 13:18-19)?


  1. What has the “God of peace” done and can and will make you (Heb. 13:20-21)


  1. What is said about exhortation, knowing certain brethren, and saluting (Heb. 13:22-25)
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Van Buren Instructor – April 18, 2004

       “Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; keep her, for she is your life.” Prov. 4:13
  The Van Buren                         Instructor                                          A Publication of the Van Buren church of Christ Meeting at 711 Access Road in Van Buren, AR. 72956; Service times Sun: 9:30 and 10:20 AM; 6:00 PM; Wed. 7:00 PM Study    471-5801……                                                   Visitors Welcome ….Members Expected!

    Volume 6                                                       April 18, 2004                                  Number 16

                                                                                                                                               Bitterness: A Bullet of Brutality!

 Acts 8:23: “For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.”

    Ephesians 4:31: “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.

  Each of us is likely to be treated in a way that we perceive to be unfair along life’s pilgrimage, perhaps a number of times. How we react to such action determines to a great extent the amount of happiness, pleasure and satisfaction we experience in this journey as well as how we nurture others.

  Bitterness can easily “spring up” in the heart of the person who en counters unfair and or harsh treatment.  Bitterness will affect us greatly and practically every other person who crosses our path.  The Bible points to bitterness as something to be weeded out of our lives  at the earliest stages and not allowed to develop, because the consequences are so great. Read carefully the inspired writer’s words:

  Hebrews 12:15: “looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;”

  Its development is from the very small “root” to the destructive poisonous plant fully developed ‑‑ causing much trouble and defiling many.

  1. In many of our streets today, bullets are piercing the hearts and life support systems of many, much before their time.  We read of people having bullets enter houses and even taking their lives while they lie in bed or play in their yards, even while being held in the arms of their grandmother on their steps.  A great deal is being said and resources spent on trying to restrict the purchase of guns, which I have no objection to, but feel that it is foolish to think that such restrictions will make a dent in the crime committed by guns.  It’s what is  being fed into the minds of children  and a failure to help them learn how  to deal successfully with unpleasant  experience, that’s producing the bullets of brutality.

  2. Bitterness is not only a critical destructive mind set for the person who has it, but it is a bullet that pierces the lives of all  who touch that person.  His/her behavior affects many others.

                How to avoid bitterness:

  1. See the destructive forces and consequences of it.  Look first of all in the Bible and read of its danger and consequences of a spiritual nature.

  2. Look around you and see others who have developed this in their minds and see how miserable they are and how they affect others.

  3. Determine to look at the positive aspects of adversity ‑‑ Job,  Peter, Paul and others.  Yes, one will suffer some at the hands of the wicked. At times well meaning people will say things and do things that cut us to the heart.  But remember that we are not the first to so suffer ‑‑ see Abel, Jeremiah, Christ and His apostles and early disciples. The righteous always wins the battle, however, in the long run. Read 2 Cor. 4:17; Rom.8:16‑18. Ponder their message seriously.

  Remember what James says: “But if you have bitter envy and self‑seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above,..” (Jas. 3:14‑15).  ‑‑William C. Sexton


    Those to Serve Today Announcements: Les Davis

Song Leader: Sean Cavander

Prayer: Don Douglas

Lords Supper Talk: Ottie Talkington

Scripture Reading: Keith Hernandez

Lesson: Burl Young

Closing Prayer: Ellis Westbrooks

                 Lord’s Supper Table

Bread:  James Stein Fruit of the Vine: Jeff Bryant

Assisting:Derek Goodin and Ellis Westbrooks


    Welcome to all visitors with us today. We are so happy you came to worship the God of heaven. Please fill out a visitor’s card and place it in the collection plate. Please come back any anytime. If we can be of help, in studying the Bible, please let us know. We’ll gladly study any Bible subject with you, and try to do it at your convenience and place of your choosing.

Bible Reading for Today:

Sunday morning: See Burl Young   

Those who are sick, Prayer List:

  Brother Hugh Jeffery discovered last week he has COPD, and must take daily treatments. Keep him in you prayers, please

Jeff Bryant’s father, is still in  Saint Edwards, Room 5414, taking Therapy. I’m told the last two days had shown improvement. Let us keep him and the family in our prayers.

Barry Jones, It was so good to have brother Barry Jones home and able to attend services last Sunday. Let us keep him in our prayers, that the healing will be complete, and his life will be greatly improved.

     Geneva Sexton, had to miss her 6th chemo. treatment Friday due to a low blood count. She had been feeling very weak and could hardly stay awake. She said the first part of the week, she slept about 19 hours a day. Therefore, she still needs your prayers. Lois and I greatly appreciate your concern and prayer in her behalf.­

VERY GOOD NEWS:  we have a new sister in the Lord Jesus Christ. Haley Herandez was baptized last Sunday night. We know that angels in heaven rejoiced (Lk. 15:7, 10). We all rejoice with her, also! We know her mother and father are thrilled by her good action! 


Yours  truly says THANS for your prayers. The meeting in Saint Joseph MO, April 11-16 went well. Lois and I enjoyed being able to worship with people we had not seen for awhile, as well as meet some new people. We preached the truth, and it seemed to be received well. We had a safe trip home.                    

Our Meeting with Pat Farish, April 25-30

     Next Sunday is the starting date for the spring series of lesson . Let us make this a week of prayerful efforts to contact out neighbors, friends, relatives to attend. The following topics will be explored, examined in light of the Bible.

   Sunday morning, The Solution, Psalm 119:11

   Sunday evening, “What Doth Hinder?”

  Monday, “Words, Whereby Thou Shalt Be


  Tuesday, Joseph, In The House Of Potiph­ar

  Wednesday, The Thief On The Cross ‑‑

                        And You

  Thursday, “Then Cometh The Devil”

   Friday, Why Do You Wait?

Those out-of-town:

     Randy Cavender plans to be preaching in Tahlequah, OK today, both services.  Remember him in your prayers, also.

            I’ll be preaching at Waveland this morning and at Bethel at 4:30, and try to be here at 6:00 PM. Lois plans to be with me.

            Talkingtons, Ottie and Sue, are to be out of town today, I’m told.

            Les and Stephanie Davis and the children are to be visiting out of town today I understand.

      There was a work day at the building yesterday. I understand that 5 men and two women showed and did some work. I trust that we all are grateful for their efforts.

      Wednesday night study:  Let us all remember the Wednesday study at 7:”30 PM. Classes for all. __________________________________

The Van Buren Church of Christ

711 Access Road

Van Buren, AR 72956

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The Disciplines of Life: Lesson #19 – Doubt


As we continue our series on the disciplines that the Christian should incorporate into his character, we would like to take a look at The Discipline of Doubt. As we have pointed out in previous articles in this series, these are called “disciplines” because they are not acquired without deliberate effort. Discipline is “training that corrects molds or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 360).

We have been using, as an anchor for this series, a book by V. Raymond Edman published in 1948 titled The Disciplines of Life. Although Mr. Edman was associated with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and I don’t agree with everything he wrote, many of the things he has written resonate with me.

As he begins the chapter on Doubt, Edman says, “Doubt, like dismal, dank darkness, settles down upon our spirit; and benumbed with bewilderment, we know no what to do nor what road to take. Doubt, like deep seated disease, gnaws ceaselessly, remorselessly at the vitals of our convictions and conscience; and dizzy with dismay, we falter and faint. We doubt ourselves and our friends, our background, and our future, our experience and the facts thereof, our faith in the Bible and the God it presents. Doubt defeats, discourages, destroys. ” (p. 229).

Edman compares doubt with faith saying, “By way of sharp contrast, faith builds, lifts. Lightens, strengthens. ‘The just shall live by faith’ (Hebrews 10:38; Romans 1:17). Faith brings lilt of laughter for sighing of sorrow, light of life for darkness of despair, strength of spirit for faltering of fear, balm of blessing for hunger of heart. They who believe are blessed: happy, joyous, steady, strong, whose resources are from unfailing springs of refreshing.” (IBID).

Edman illustrates this discipline from the life of John the Baptist that caused him to ask Jesus, “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3). Edman questions what it was that caused John to ask this question, despite having other evidences that indicate that “John knew beyond shadow of doubt that Jesus was the Christ, the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world…” (John 1:29-34). The commentator Adam Clarke offers this comment on the passage, “A third opinion takes a middle course between the two former, and states that, though John was at first perfectly convinced that Jesus was the Christ, yet, entertaining some hopes that he would erect a secular kingdom in Judea, wished to know whether this was likely to take place speedily. It is very probable that John now began, through the length of his confinement, to entertain doubts, relative to his kingdom, which perplexed and harassed his mind; and he took the most reasonable way to get rid of them at once, viz. by applying to Christ himself” (Adam Clarkes Bible Commentary, p. 6578). To add some perspective, it may be worth noting that John had been in prison for about twelve months when he sent his disciples to Jesus with this inquiry.

As we think about the discipline of doubt, let us consider some factors that might cause us to begin to doubt things that we have previously held onto as bedrock truth. Let us also consider the steps that would bring us back from this doubt to faith.

What May Cause Doubt to Rise Up in Us

The Loss of Health

When we can no longer do the things we once did with ease, because of age or disease, our faith can be tried and we may begin to doubt God’s provision for us. I love this quote from Angela Perritt, “Your doubts do not trouble God. He is not surprised by them nor do they make Him pull away from you. When you find yourself struggling with doubt, you find yourself among some of the “Greats” in the Bible like Job, Abraham, Sarah, Gideon, and Thomas, just to name a few. Job doubted God’s goodness when his children died and his livelihood was gone. Abraham and Sarah doubted God’s promise as they grew older and found themselves still without a child of their own. Gideon doubted God could use a man like him to fight his upcoming battle. And of course, our beloved Thomas, he doubted Jesus rose from the dead…” (

Psalm 77 is a community lament describing an earnest prayer coming from a troubled heart. It acknowledges that the reason for the trouble may be some fault of the people. David laments to the Lord, “In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; My hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing; My soul refused to be comforted. 3 I remembered God, and was troubled;

I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah 4 You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. 5 I have considered the days of old, The years of ancient times. 6 I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart, And my spirit makes diligent search. 7 Will the Lord cast off forever? And will He be favorable no more? 8 Has His mercy ceased forever? Has His promise failed forevermore? 9 Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has He in anger shut up His tender mercies? Selah” (Psalms 77:2-9)

And here is an article by Kathryn Butler that I thought so good that I have quoted it in its entirety.

If God Doesn’t Heal You

“Weeks of chemotherapy eroded the lining of her mouth, mangled her immune system, and culminated in an hours-long surgery to carve out a tumor the size of a grapefruit.

Throughout, friends and loved ones lifted up a heartfelt but singular prayer: Heal her, Lord. She wrapped herself in their words as if girding herself in armor. Afterward, she pointed to a line on the pathology report that described dead cells at the center of the tumor, and she praised God for his mercy. She reasoned that the chemotherapy had killed the tumor before her surgeon ever put knife to skin, and the healing for which she prayed was at hand.

But those dead cells didn’t promise cure. Rather, they indicated a cancer so aggressive that blood vessels could not tunnel to its center. The tumor was growing so rapidly that it could not support its own middle. Months later, the cancer not only returned, but spread, clogging her lungs and dotting her brain.

Reeling in Grief

As the delicate balance of her organ systems teetered and collapsed, prayers for a cure became more ardent, from her church as well as from her own lips. Her doctors recommended home hospice, but she clung to her conviction that God must melt away her disease, and insisted upon last-ditch chemotherapy instead. Still, the cancer continued its deadly march. Fluid ballooned her limbs and saturated her lungs. One awful night, with ICU alarms sounding her elegy, her heart quivered and lurched to a stop.

“Although God can heal us, we must never presume that he must.”

Wholly unprepared to lose her, her family reeled in grief. They agonized over how to endure without her, and struggled to reconcile this flickering out of a beloved, faithful life, against their continual appeals to God for cure. How had this happened? They lamented. Had God noticed their prayers? Had he even listened? Did they not pray enough? Was their faith too meager? How could God ignore her, when she was so faithful to him?

God made heaven and earth, catapulted the planets into motion, and assembled the scaffolding of our cytoplasm. Surely, he could also eradicate our cancer, realign our bones, or restore blood flow to areas that mottle.

A Thorn for Now

God can and does heal. In my own clinical practice, he used a patient’s improbable recovery to draw me to himself. Throughout Jesus’s ministry, he performed miraculous healings that glorified God and deepened faith (Matthew 4:23; Luke 4:40). The Bible encourages us to pray in earnest (Luke 18:1–8; Philippians 4:4–6). If the Spirit moves us to pray for healing, whether for ourselves or our neighbors, we should do so with fervor.

Yet while we pray, we must attend to a critical distinction: although God can heal us, we must never presume that he must. Death is the consequence of the fall (Romans 6:23). It overtakes us all, and most commonly recruits illness as its vehicle. When Christ returns, no disease will blot God’s creation (Revelation 21:4), but for now, we wait and groan as our bodies wither. We may perceive our healing to be the greatest good, but God’s wisdom surpasses even the most impressive reaches of our understanding (Isaiah 55:8). We cannot bend his will to resemble our own.

Time and again the Bible depicts instances when God does not immediately eradicate suffering, but rather engages with it for good (Genesis 50:20; John 11:3–4; Romans 5:3–5). “A thorn was given me in the flesh,” the apostle Paul writes of his own physical affliction. “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’” (2 Corinthians 12:7–9). God responded to Paul’s prayers for healing not by curing him, but rather by working through Paul’s suffering to draw him nearer to his glory. In the most exquisite example, through his suffering and death, Christ redeems us from our sins and pours grace out upon us (Romans 3:23–25; Ephesians 1:7).

A Heartbeat to Heaven

When we ignore God’s work in suffering, and cleave breathlessly only to our hope for a cure, we forsake opportunities for closure, fellowship, and spiritual preparation at the end of life. Research warns that those of us within a religious community are more likely to pursue aggressive measures at the end of life, and more likely to die in an ICU.

If we set our eyes only on a cure, rather than on the reality of our physical mortality, we may chase after treatments that not only fail to save us, but which also rob us of our capacities to think, communicate, and pray in our final days. We forget that if our healing is not within God’s will, we will need fortitude, peace, and discernment to endure. And if cure does not come, a single-minded focus on healing strands ourselves and those we love with unsettling doubts about the validity of our faith.

The gospel offers a hope that exceeds the reparation of our bodies. This side of the cross, even as our vision darkens and the world closes in, we need not fear death. Christ has overcome, and through his resurrection death has lost its sting (1 Corinthians 15:55–57). Death is but a momentary breath, a transition, a heartbeat before we reunite with our risen Lord (2 Corinthians 4:17–18). In the wake of the cross, death is not the end. Through Christ’s sacrifice for us, through God’s overflowing and sufficient grace, we have spiritual healing to sustain us through eternity, even while our current bodies warp and break.

Pray for More

When life-threatening illness strikes, by all means pray for healing if the Spirit so moves you. But also pray that, if cure is not according to God’s will, he might equip you and your loved ones with strength, clarity, and discernment. Pray he might grant us all peace to endure — through the pain, through the infirmity, with eyes cast heavenward even as fear drives us to our knees. Pray that as the shadows encroach, and the light within us dwindles, that the light of the world might illuminate our minds and hearts, drawing us toward himself in our final moments on this earth. Pray we would know in our hearts that our end on this earth is by no means the end.

However dark death seems, it is fleeting and transient, a mere breath before the eternal life to come.”


Note: Kathryn Butler is a trauma and critical care surgeon turned writer and homeschooling mom. She is author of Glimmers of Grace: A Doctor’s Reflections on Faith, Suffering, and the Goodness of God. She and her family live north of Boston.

The Loss of Happiness

“The loss of happiness can dig deep into the human spirit. Like John we have known the sweetness of human fellowship, the strength of human love, the satisfaction of service rendered unto the Saviour and our fellow men, yet for beauty of bountiful blessing we have ashes of anguish and absence, for strength through oil of His joy we have weakness through multiplied mourning, for praise caused by His providence and protection we have heaviness and hopelessness and helplessness. Our soul has entered into iron; lover and friend are far from us; and we seek to fathom the fearful shadows by crying, ‘Art thou he, or look we for another?’”(Edman, pp. 231-232).

The Loss of Hope

The loss of hope can cause one to despair. We may encounter people and events in our lives “whose incessant blows leave us bruised, bloody, beaten. We stagger to rise and shake off our doubts and fears, but to what end, and by what means? There is no hope, we say to ourselves; rather, we concur with the poet: ‘Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne’ (Edman. P. 232).

The Loss of Holiness

“The loss of holiness can also bring us into the darkness of despair and doubt…. Often … in human experience we find that unbelief does have a moral cause. We know the will of God, yet we desire our own way. We sense the conviction of the Spirit because of our wrong, but we love our sin. We are dark of mind because we are hard of heart. We doubt because we disobey. We run through red lights of warning – moral, physical, spiritual; and find ourselves doubting the mercy of the Most High because of our own willfulness and waywardness. We stumble because we sin, even though we know, ‘He that covereth his sins shall not prosper; but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy’ (Prov. 28:13) (Edman, pp. 232-233).

What Steps Will Bring Us Back from Doubt to Faith

Step 1: Bring Our Plight to Jesus

We must turn from self, from sin, from weakness and from weariness to Him. We sometimes sing about the importance of bringing everything to Jesus and keeping our eyes on him as we go through trials in this life. The words of the beautiful song, Open Our Eyes, written by Robert Cull and copyrighted by Maranatha Music! says:

Open our eyes, Lord,

we want to see Jesus,

To reach out and touch Him,

and say that we love Him.

Open our ears, Lord,

and help us to listen.

Open our eyes, Lord,

we want to see Jesus.

Open our hearts Lord,

We want to know Jesus,

To follow and trust Him,

And show that we love Him.

Open our minds, Lord,

To think of His goodness,

Open our eyes Lord,

We want to see Jesus.

Step 2: Believe the Evidence He Presents

“To John He sent word of His deeds and words; to Thomas He stated, ‘Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands … be not faithless, but believing’ (John 20:27). Believe what He has done for you and for others down through the ages. His Word has stood the test of the centuries, and will stand the caustic criticism others may now be casting at it. God’s mercy is new each morning, and is everlasting; His grace is sufficient, His faithfulness will not fail. He tries His children but does not tempt them to despair; He burns the dross from their life as does a refiner of silver, but He does not abandon them. Believe His power to strengthen you, His presence to help you, His peace to keep you, His providence to care for you” (Edman, p. 234)

Step 3: Believe His Word

“Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). The Lord Jesus answered the thrusts of doubt from the Tempter, ‘If thou be the Son of God … ‘with ringing, ‘Thus saith the Lord, It is written … it is written’ (Matthew 4:3-11). To take one’s stand on the Word of God, to believe what He has promised, all appearance to the contrary notwithstanding, to be steadfast, unmovable, unafraid, to ignore the insinuations that cast clever and calculated criticisms against the God character of the God of all grace, is to find oneself strong in the Lord. Believe your beliefs that are founded upon the Word, and doubt your doubts that come from disease, despair, disappointment, or disobedience” (Edman, pp. 234-235).


As Edman closes this chapter on the discipline of doubt, he says, “Doubt paralyzes; faith vitalizes. Doubt defeats, faith triumphs. Doubt destroys; faith makes alive. To the evidences that will come to your tested and trusting soul there will be the response of Thomas, ‘My Lord and my God’; and you will be partaker of the blessing to the unoffended, who ‘have not seen, and yet believed.”(John 20:28-29). Honest doubt, faced by the Word of God and faith, will discipline your heart and mind to bring you into deeper devotion and assurance” (p. 235).

Thanks for reading.


(Source: The Disciplines of Life by V. Raymond Edman, pp. 229 – 235)

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The Disciplines of Life: Lesson #18 – Domination


As we continue our series on the disciplines that the Christian should incorporate into his character, we would like to take a look at The Discipline of Domination. As we have pointed out in previous articles in this series, these are called “disciplines” because they are not acquired without deliberate effort. Discipline is “training that corrects molds or perfects the mental faculties or moral character” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, p. 360).

We have been using, as an anchor for this series, a book by V. Raymond Edman published in 1948 titled The Disciplines of Life. Although Mr. Edman was associated with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and I don’t agree with everything he wrote, many of the things he has written resonate with me.

As he begins the chapter on Domination, Edman says, “Most of us are followers, and rightly so, but it is the responsibility of some to assume leadership for the welfare of the many in the school or church, the farm or the factory, the community or the nation. Of the followers it is required to be diligent and cheerful in the performance of our duties; for the leaders there is the discipline of domination that analyzes the attitudes and measures the motives of those who are called to places of authority, lest they lead or rule for self-interest. Do we lead with love for others and with loyalty to the lowly Christ, or do we lord it over them? With true and searching insight into the human spirit, the Lord Jesus Christ said to His disciples and through them to us, ‘You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.’” (p. 219).

As Edman points out, there is no modern fiction or biography that equals that of David in illustrating this Discipline of Domination. “Taken from the humble calling of caring for sheep to becoming king of his country…. A peasant lad became a prince, a singer saved his people with a slingshot, a poet performed deeds of valor, a country boy became a king, a shepherd boy became a sovereign. What was the secret of such startling success, that we might learn therefrom?” (p. 220).

Let us consider these factors …

David’s Courage

One might think that it was David’s courage that was the cause of his great achievements. He guarded his father’s sheep from vicious wild animals. He demonstrated courage as he led Israel as their king. But David does not point to any of his own abilities to account for his rise to authority. He spoke to the Lord the words of this song on the day that the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. “…Your gentleness has made me great…. (Psalm 18:35)

As Edman says, “Who would have guessed that gentleness, meekness, docility, mildness of spirit gave true meaning to David’s life? He appears to be a carefree, courageous keeper of sheep, a fearless soldier and magnificent leader of men, a man of war rather than a maker of peace; in brief, a man whose military prowess make him master of his people; nevertheless, these qualities were not the true secret of his greatness. Meekness made him a monarch, kindness made him a king, gentleness made him a great man in the earth” (pp. 220-221).

David’s Gentleness Toward His Own

One incident that illustrates this is found in 1 Chronicles 11. Scripture says that David was at the cave of Adullam, while the army of the Philistines was camping in the valley of Rephaim when he became very thirsty and said, “Oh that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate!” The text proceeds to describe how three of David’s Mighty Men “broke through the camp of the Philistines and drew water from the well of Bethlehem which was by the gate, and took it and brought it to David.” But David would not drink it, but rather poured it out as an offering to the Lord and said, “Be it far from me before my God that I should do this. Shall I drink the blood of these men who went at the risk of their lives? For at the risk of their lives they brought it.” Therefore he would not drink it” (1 Chronicles 11:17-19).

Edman tells of an incident similar to the account above, that occurred during World War I. General Frank Parker, who was a tough West-Pointer, is said to have been observed with tears coursing down his cheeks as his tired men passed before him as he reviewed them as they returned to the trenches. Edman describes the scene, “As the weary and battle-worn doughboys returned through a destroyed French village, the Stars and Stripes were flung into the breeze, the Regimental Band was drawn up amid the debris of the market place…. tears of tenderness for his tired men…. within he had tenderness of a woman’s heart” (p. 222).

David’s Gentleness Toward His Enemies

King Saul, out of sheer jealousy, sought to destroy David again and again. He hunted David like a wild animal in the wilderness. When David had the opportunity to take vengeance against Saul he refused to do it. More than once Saul was at David’s mercy. David’s companions encouraged him to avenge himself or, at least to allow them to, but David would not. “So he said to his men, “Far be it from me because of the Lord that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, since he is the Lord’s anointed” (1Samuel 24:6). “But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him, for who can stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed and be without guilt?” (1Samuel 26:9)

Do we possess this same kind of attitude toward our enemies and those who ridicule and abuse us for our faith? Are we disciplined in domination, rulers of our own spirit before we are rulers of others? “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city” (Proverbs 16:32). “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. ‘But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head’” (Romans 12:19-20)

David’s Gentleness Toward God

“He recognized that it was not his hand nor his strength that saved him from the bear and the lion, even from Goliath, rather it was of the Lord: for “the battle is the Lord’s” (1Samuel 17:47). From experience he could say, “My soul, wait in silence for God only, For my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be shaken. On God my salvation and my glory rest; The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; Pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us” (Psalms 62:5-8).


As Edman closes this chapter on the discipline of domination, he says, “Gentleness of spirit toward those who are close to us, gentleness toward those that wrongfully abuse us or are our enemies, gentleness toward the Spirit of God, through whatever means He may speak to us, this is the discipline of domination.

Thanks for reading.


(Source: The Disciplines of Life by V. Raymond Edman, pp. 211 – 218)

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