The Gospel Observer (October 29, 2017)

Contents:

1) The Prophecy About Josiah (Tom Edwards)
2) “Let Patience Have Its Perfect Work” (R.J. Evans)
3) How to Answer When You Don’t Know the Answer (Greg Gwin)
4) News & Notes
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1Kings13_2

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The Prophecy About Josiah
Tom Edwards

“Now behold, there came a man of God from Judah to Bethel by the word of the LORD, while Jeroboam was standing by the altar to burn incense.  He cried against the altar by the word of the LORD, and said, ‘O altar, altar, thus says the LORD, “Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name; and on you he shall sacrifice the priests of the high places who burn incense on you, and human bones shall be burned on you”’” (1 Kings 13:1-2).

Jeroboam, the first king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, during the Divided Kingdom, had just set up “two golden calves,” which he referred to as “your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt” (1 Kings 12:28).  One of these was set up in Bethel, while the other was placed in Dan (v. 29). For these two locations were at the southern and northern extremities, respectively, of the northern kingdom; and Jeroboam placed them there as a matter of convenience for his people and so that they would not return to Jerusalem to worship and end up leaving Israel to side with Judah and even bring death to Jeroboam (vv. 26-27).  It was also at that time in which Jeroboam made “houses on high places, and made priests from among all the people who were not of the sons of Levi” (v. 31).  He even instituted his own feast for Israel and went up himself “to the altar which he had made in Bethel” to observe it “on the fifteenth day in the eighth month…to burn incense” (v. 33).

So it was at that same time when the man of God had also come to cry out against the altar and give the prophecy he did concerning it, which was mentioned above.  And to confirm the truthfulness of that prophecy, the man of God also “gave a sign the same day, saying, ‘This is the sign which the LORD has spoken, “Behold, the altar shall be split apart and the ashes which are on it shall be poured out”’” (1 Kings 13:3)  — and this came to pass that same day (v. 5)!

Though the work of a prophet was primarily declaring God’s message rather than predicting future events (consider the “prophet” Moses, for example, Acts 3:22), yet here in 1 Kings 13:2 is a foretelling of that which would come to pass about 352 years later.   The prophecy is certainly not a mere generalization of what some anonymous person would do.  Rather, it specifically mentions the fulfiller by name, along with the lineage he was of, and exactly what he would do.

The fulfillment of this prophecy is seen in 2 Kings 23: “…that altar that was at Bethel and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel sin, had made, even that altar and the high place he broke down.  Then he demolished its stones, ground them to dust, and burned the Asherah.  Now when Josiah turned, he saw the graves that were there on the mountain, and he sent and took the stones from the graves and burned them on the altar and defiled it according to the word of the LORD which the man of God proclaimed, who proclaimed these things. Then he said, ‘what is this monument that I see?’ And the men of the city told him, ‘It is the grave of the man of God who came from Judah and proclaimed these things which you have done against the altar of Bethel.’ He said, ‘Let him alone; let no one disturb his bones.’ So they left his bones undisturbed with the bones of the prophet who came from Samaria. Josiah also removed all the houses of the high places which were in the cities of Samaria, which the kings of Israel had made provoking the LORD; and he did to them just as he had done in Bethel. All the priests of the high places who were there he slaughtered on the altars and burned human bones on them; then he return to Jerusalem” (vv. 15-20).

The previous verses in 2 Kings 23 also speak of more of the idolatrous practices that Josiah brought to an end.

Josiah was born about 648 B.C.  He not only became Judah’s 16th king, but also reigned for 31 years as one of its best.

Isn’t it something how God has the ability to know in advance of even the specific details of future events — and has proven that through prophecies and their fulfillments!  In this case of Josiah, the prophecy was made about three and a half centuries before it came to pass – but it did so, just as the Lord said it would!

(All Scripture from the NASB.)
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Hebrews12_1b

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“Let Patience Have Its Perfect Work”
R.J. Evans

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.  But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1:2-4).

Patience, a fruit of the Spirit, has been described as love and endurance under pressure.  Patience is a characteristic that is longsuffering and does not retaliate; a willingness to wait; to expect; to hope for.

We are not born with patience.  We need only to hear a baby cry for their immediate needs or hear a child selfishly say, “No!” or “Mine!”  However, it doesn’t take much insight to see that maturity and strength under pressure is much more difficult than it is to return evil for evil and be swift to strike back.  It takes courage, strength, and love not to return injury and insult to others.  An old Chinese proverb says: “Patience is power.  With time and patience the mulberry leaf becomes a silk gown.”  Patience is the ability to endure to the end.

Patience is a fruit of the Spirit that is to be demonstrated in our relationships with one another.  Love suffers (endures) long, and we are called upon to be patient and forbearing with one another (1 Cor. 13:4; Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:12).  Love, with patience, hopes all things.  Patience is not passive–it is consecrated active faith and strength.

The Hebrew writer tells us to run the race set before us with patience (Heb. 12:1).  Truly, life is much like a race, and patience keeps doing God’s will regardless of the difficulties or the discouragements.  The New Testament word for patience means “to abide under.”  We are reminded of the great patience of the prophets and Job in James 5:10-11.  It does not suggest giving up, compromising, or becoming complacent.  Patience is keeping the course in spite of our circumstances.

Patience has a calm anticipation of hope.  The New Testament speaks of the patience of hope (Rom. 5:4; 8:25).  Hope produces patience.  When we love and have hope in God, we are inclined to be more patient.  If we believe in the promises of God, we can patiently wait for them.  The hope, power, and blessings of the gospel fill us with patience.

Pessimism is often due to a lack of patience.  We look around and see awful conditions and think God is too slow (read the book of Habakkuk as an example of this).  Some lose their faith and hope, but true patience can wait, endure, and persevere.  Let us not be like the one who prayed in this manner–”Lord, give me patience, and give it to me right now!” Therefore, LET PATIENCE HAVE ITS PERFECT WORK.

— via bulletin of the Southside church of Christ,  10/15/17
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question mark

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How to Answer When You Don’t Know the Answer
Greg Gwin

No one likes to be ‘put on the spot.’  We dread the possibility of being asked questions that we can’t answer.  This is especially true when the questions are about religion.

Perhaps one of the biggest hindrances to spreading the gospel is this fear of being asked questions.  If you feel uneasy about your level of Bible knowledge, you may try to avoid potentially embarrassing situations — sidestepping any discussion that might turn to religious themes. Unfortunately this keeps us from many ‘open doors’ for personal evangelism.

Since no one has ALL of the answers, it is important for us to know what to do when questions arise that ‘stump’ us. Here are some suggestions:

1) Realize — and be ready to explain — that there are simply some pieces of information that we do not have because God has not supplied them. “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God” (Deut. 29:29).  But, we have “all truth” (John 16:12-13), and “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3).  So, every piece of essential information has been supplied.

2) When you do not know the answer, it is best to simply admit it.  This is much better than trying to ‘bluff’ your way through.  Humbly say, “I don’t know.”  But do not fail to add: “I’ll find out and get back to you on that.”  Following this procedure will actually provide additional opportunities to teach.  It keeps the door open to further discussions.

3) Study, study, study!  You will feel less intimidated and more willing to engage in biblical discussions if you build your confidence level by increasing your Bible knowledge.  Pay special attention to areas where you presently feel ‘weak’ in knowledge and understanding.  Be well prepared to deal with popular denominational errors.  Be ready to explain ‘issues’ that divide brethren.

4) Never shy away from a chance to talk about God and His Word.  The more you do this, the easier it will become.  Every such conversation serves as an opportunity for you to ‘sharpen your sword.’

— Via the bulletin of the Collegevue church of Christ
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News & Notes

Here is the latest update on James “Buddy” Gornto (October 31, 12:31 p.m.): All of Buddy’s vital signs are looking good!  He no longer has the fever; and, later today, they will be taking him off the ventilator for a few hours and giving him dialysis (which they have been doing 3 times a week).  He has been having some good nights resting, and the nurses who tend to him have been pleased with his progress.  Let  us continue to keep him in our prayers!

Others with physical ailments, healing from surgery, or other health issues: Myrna Jordan, Shirley Davis, Anita Abbott, Mary Kicklighter, Charles Crosby, Judy Daugherty, Pat Joyner, Misty Thornton, Michelle Rittenhouse, Rachael Gerbing, Jarvis Williams, Cedell Fletcher.  And Mary Vandevander in the nursing home.
——————–

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe
in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent
of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith
in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized
in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith,
living for the Lord; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
——————–

Tebeau Street
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA  31501
Sunday services: 9:00 a.m. (Bible class); 10 a.m. & 5 p.m. (worship)
Tuesday:
7 p.m. (Ladies’ Bible class)
Wednesday: 7 p.m. (Bible class)
evangelist/editor:
Tom Edwards (912) 614-8593
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
https://thegospelobserver.wordpress.com (Gospel Observer website with pictures in WordPress)
http://thomastedwards.com/go (Older version of Gospel Observer website without pictures, but back to March 1990)
http://tebeaustreetchurchofchrist.org/
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)

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The Gospel Observer (October 22, 2017)

Contents:

1) Barnabas (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes
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Gal2_9

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Barnabas
Tom Edwards

His name is actually Joseph when first mentioned in the Bible, but he was given the name “Barnabas” by the apostles because names often had descriptive meanings that matched the one so named.  And for Joseph, they selected a name that well described him.  For the name “Barnabas” means “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36, NASB), “Son of exhortation” (ASV), and “Son of Comfort” (YLT).

It is also in that context that we are made aware of his generous nature. For he “owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:37). The previous verses show why he did this: “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.  And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all.  For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need” (vv. 32-35).

Many Jews, “from every nation under heaven,” had been in Jerusalem for the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:5).  For during the Mosaical Period, which lasted about 1,500 years, God’s word had instructed all Jewish males to observe Pentecost in the place where He would make His name to dwell – and for most of that period, it was in Jerusalem (Exod. 23:14-19).  It had only been less than two months prior when Jesus had “nailed” that Old Law “to the cross” (Col. 2:14); but Pentecost was still being observed.

Little, however, did many of these visiting Jews know, prior to that day, that they would end up staying longer in Jerusalem than they had originally planned.  For on that day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit had fallen upon the apostles (Acts 2:1-4); and they began declaring, in languages they did not know, “of the mighty deeds of God” (v. 11) and preached of Jesus Christ (vv. 21-39).  As a result, 3,000 souls responded to the gospel message and became Christians (vv. 36-41).  Soon thereafter, others were converted so that “the number of men came to be about five thousand” (Acts 4:4) – and it did not stop there.  For “all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number” (Acts 5:14); “…and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many priests were becoming obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7).

Due to all these conversions, there were probably many recent converts that prolonged their stay in Jerusalem in order to learn more of the gospel message before making their long journeys home.  As a result, the funds of some would become depleted from this long extended stay that they had not initially planned for.

Nowhere, however, does the Bible say that the brethren were to sell their property and houses to help the needy; but this was what some were choosing to do.  As Peter had said to Ananias in Acts 5:4, concerning his property and what he sold it for, “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own?  And after it was sold, was it not under your control?”  In other words, God had not commanded that His people were to live in a communal society in which all things were common and mutually shared without anyone having any private ownership of anything.  The apostle Peter shows that Ananias’ property had been his own and of which he had the right to do with as he pleased.  So in most cases, one who would sell property or houses to help another was showing a great act of love, such as Barnabas who truly was a “Son of Comfort” to others.

In thinking of Barnabas as being that “Son of Encouragement,” perhaps you are reminded of the time when he put that good word in for the apostle Paul.  For when Paul had come to Jerusalem for the first time as a Christian, “…he was trying to associate with the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple” (Acts 9:26).  And why would they have such trouble in receiving Paul?  Why were they afraid of him?  Apparently, they knew how he had been an intense persecutor toward Christians – and they had doubts about his conversion.  For he was one who had been “ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women” whom “he would put…in prison” (Acts 8:3).  After having been “in hearty agreement with putting him [Stephen] to death” (Acts 8:1), Paul continued “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1).  He had acknowledged after his conversion that, prior, “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons” (Acts 22:4). He also testified elsewhere, saying, “…not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them.  And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them to even foreign cities” (Acts 26:10-11).  Is there any wonder why those Christians initially had trouble in receiving Paul?  Were they thinking it might be just a scheme he had going to entrap them?  Was he waiting for more of their number to show up?

We, of course, know that Paul was genuinely converted and became a great servant of the Lord.  We have the benefit of looking back over wonderful portions of his life to see of his dedication to God and willingness to continue in serving Him regardless of the persecutions and other difficulties that it had led to.  But the Christians in Jerusalem, in their first meeting of Paul, could only think of how he had been – and “they were all afraid of him.”

But who was it who helped allay their fears?  Who was it who put a good word in for the apostle Paul to verify that he had been genuinely converted?  Who had those encouraging words for the brethren that led to their acceptance of Paul as one of their own?  It was that “Son of Encouragement” — Barnabas.  As Acts 9:27 goes on to say, “But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that he had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus.”  After they heard this, Paul was then able to be “with them, moving about freely in Jerusalem” (v. 28).  And while he was there, he was “speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord” (v. 28).  But when the brethren learned that some Hellenistic Jews “were attempting to put him to death” (v. 29), “the brethren…brought him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus” (v. 30).  So now they were truly concerned for Paul, as one of their own; and it was Barnabas who helped toward their doing so, which also exemplifies another meaning of his name — and that is, “conciliatory” (Thayer on the word “Encouragement” in Acts 4:36).

In regard to Barnabas’ name also meaning “Son of exhortation,” consider what he and Paul were doing in their preaching in various cities.  They were “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God’” (Acts 14:22).  Or as the KJV translates that one part: they were “exhorting them to continue in the faith” (emphasis mine).  So, again, Barnabas was living up to his name!

Barnabas was “a Levite of Cyprian birth” (Acts 4:36).  So he was from the island of Cyprus, which is the third largest in the eastern basin of the Mediterranean Sea.   It is approximately 150 miles long and 50 to 60 miles wide at its farthest points, with its two main cities of Salamis on the east side and Paphos on the western edge.

Salamis was Paul’s first stop on his first missionary journey after boarding a vessel in Seleucia, and Barnabas was the one who had accompanied him (Acts 13:4-5).  In the Old Testament, Cyprus is sometimes referred as “Kittim” or Chittim.”  Notice, too, whose idea it was for them to go together on this: “…the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them’” (v. 2).

John Mark had also started out with Paul and Barnabas on that first missionary journey, but “had deserted them in Pamphylia” (Acts 15:38), which would have been after they had left the island of Cyprus, having set sail at Paphos (Acts 13:13).

Some time after completing that first missionary journey, Paul wanted Barnabas to return with him to all the cities they had proclaimed God’s word to on that first trip.  But since Barnabas wanted to take along with him his cousin John Mark (Col. 4:10), it led to a “sharp disagreement” and the splitting up of Paul and Barnabas.  So Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus, while Paul took Silas and headed overland through Syria and Cilicia (Acts 15:36-41).

Even prior to that first missionary journey, there had been some Christians on the island of Cyprus.  For some had gone there during the persecution in connection with Stephen and preached to the Jews alone. But some of them who were of Cyprus and Cyrene came to Antioch and preached Jesus to the Greeks also; and a large number became Christians (Acts 11:19-21).  When the church in Jerusalem heard about that, they sent Barnabas to Antioch (v. 22).  And what did he do there? When “he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord” (v. 23). The KJV uses the term “exhorted” instead of “encourage,” so here again we see that matching up with the meaning of his name.  And notice, too, what else we learn about Barnabas in this passage: “for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.  And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord” (v. 24).  What a great worker Barnabas must have been for Jesus!

Barnabas then went in search of Paul at Tarsus (v. 25); and after finding him, brought him to Antioch where they met with the church for an entire year “and taught considerable numbers” (v. 26).  It was also from Antioch that Barnabas went with Paul in taking the contribution to the needy saints in Jerusalem, which they gave to the elders there (v. 30); and where they also returned again sometime later when dealing with the matter of those who were wrongfully teaching the need for circumcision and keeping the Law of Moses (Acts 15:5,36). Some from Judea had first come to Antioch of Syria about this matter; “And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue” (vv. 1-2).  So they did so.  There also had been “much debate” there in Jerusalem (v. 7).  But the account then goes on to say, “All the people kept silent, and they were listening to Barnabas and Paul as they were relating what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles” (v. 12).  We can also see in this another meaning of the name “Barnabas” that he was living up to — and that is, “persuasive discourse” (Thayer).  For after hearing him and the others, the Jerusalem brethren were in total agreement and determined to carry out the right course of action.

Barnabas is listed among the gifted prophets and teachers of Acts 13:1.  He was a great worker in declaring God’s message.

When going on that first missionary journey with Paul, Barnabas and he went to these following places that are mentioned in connection with their preaching: Salamis and Paphos (on the island of Cyprus);  Antioch of Pisidia; Iconium; Lystra and Derbe (the cities of Lycaonia), and the surrounding area (cf. Acts 13:4-14:20). On their return, they again went to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch of Pisidia, “strengthening the souls of the disciples” (Acts 14:21-22).  They also preached the word in Perga on their way back to Antioch of Syria (v. 25).

It was in Lystra, where after healing a man who had been lame from birth, the crowds cried out, “…’The gods have become like men and have come down to us.’  And they began calling Barnabas Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker” (Acts 14:11-12).  The priest of Zeus had also come with sacrifices to offer with the crowds (v. 13), but this all led to Barnabas and Paul tearing their robes and saying to the crowds, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, WHO MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM” (vv. 14-15).

Though a good follower of Jesus Christ, Barnabas, like all of us, was not perfect.  Though it did not typify his life, we do find him falling into the same temporary hypocrisy that Peter had been leading others into.  For Paul says when Peter came to Antioch, “I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.  For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision.  The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy” (Gal. 2:11-13).

Mentioning in the Bible the faults of some of its great followers of God has been cited as another indication of its inspiration.  For the Bible doesn’t whitewash these individuals to make them look perfect: Noah got drunk (Gen. 9:21), Moses’ treated God as unholy by striking the rock and was not allowed to enter the Promised Land as a result (Num. 20:7-12), David committed adultery and deceitfully schemed the death of Bathsheba’s husband Uriah (2 Kings 11:2-15), Peter had also denied the Lord 3 times (Matt. 26:69-75).  But these wrongful acts are not what exemplified or summed up the lives of these men. And how soon Barnabas probably also turned from his momentary hypocrisy after hearing the rebuke of the apostle Paul to Peter, which was made before all who were present (cf. Gal. 2:14).

We can be thankful for God’s conditions of pardon that when met can bring His grace, mercy, and forgiveness.  And from what we read of Barnabas, he surely must have been one who would have immediately turned to the Lord, after having fallen — that he might arise and continue in his service to God.

We are not told in the Bible of where and when Barnabas passed away; but according to tradition, he was martyred in A.D. 61 at Salamis on the island of Cyprus of which he was from. Though it cannot be said with the assurance of the Bible, the Acts of Barnabas (which is an apocryphal writing that claims John Mark, Barnabas’ cousin, as its author) speaks of Barnabas being put to death at Salamis by a mob of Jews who had been roused by a person called Barjesus.

(All verses are from the NASB unless otherwise indicated.)
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News & Notes

Folks to be praying for:

The family & friends of Khyla Dennis who passed away at just 13 years of age.

James “Buddy” Gornto who went into ICU last Tuesday with some fluid in the lungs.

Jarvis Williams, the 2-year old who had been hospitalized for 2nd degree burns, but is now also back home to continue healing.

Cedell Fletcher who was also released from the hospital, but is still not doing well.

Michelle Rittenhouse who was in the hospital last week for a spur on her spine (in the neck area) that was causing complications.

Rex Hadley whose health has been not up to par, and his son Rex Hadley Jr who has heart trouble.

Others with physical ailments, healing from surgery, or other health issues: Myrna Jordan, Shirley Davis, Anita Abbott, Mary Kicklighter, Charles Crosby, Judy Daugherty, Pat Joyner, Misty Thornton, Rachael Gerbing.  And Mary Vandevander in the nursing home.

Gospel Meetings: North Valdosta church of Christ (4313 N Valdosta Rd, Valdosta, GA), Oct. 22-27, week nights 7:30, speaker: Emerson BrownHoboken church of Christ (5101 W Main St, Hoboken, GA), Oct. 22-25, week nights: 7:30, speaker: Stefan Richardson
——————–

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe
in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent
of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith
in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized
in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith,
living for the Lord; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
——————–

Tebeau Street
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA  31501
Sunday services: 9:00 a.m. (Bible class); 10 a.m. & 5 p.m. (worship)
Tuesday:
7 p.m. (Ladies’ Bible class)
Wednesday: 7 p.m. (Bible class)
evangelist/editor:
Tom Edwards (912) 614-8593
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
https://thegospelobserver.wordpress.com (Gospel Observer website with pictures in WordPress)
http://thomastedwards.com/go (Older version of Gospel Observer website without pictures, but back to March 1990)
http://tebeaustreetchurchofchrist.org/
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)

The Gospel Observer (October 15, 2017)

Contents:

1) Not Realizing the Value (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes
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Matthew16_26

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Not Realizing the Value
Tom Edwards

The story has been told about a poor, starving man in tattered clothes who entered a music shop in London on an extremely cold winter’s day.  With him was an old violin and the hopes of selling it in order to buy some food.

In hearing of the man’s urgent need, the store owner offered him a guinea for the instrument, which was the equivalent of about $5 back around 1820 when this story takes place.  With much thankfulness the shabby man accepted the offer and made his way back out into the chilly night.

Mr. Betts, the store owner, had bought this violin without even trying it out first or closely examining it.  But he then did so, after the seller had left.  And how overwhelmed the buyer now was when hearing not only the rich, mellow tones that the violin could produce, but also after lighting a candle to see the writing within the instrument, which said, “Antonio Stradivari 1704”!  It was that famous Stradivarius that had been missing for a hundred years and earnestly sought after throughout Europe.

This particular violin has been owned by different people down through the years and is still also given the name of “the Betts,” due to the story behind it. It has been referred to as “one of the four or five greatest violins in existence today” and is part of the Cremonese Collection in the Music Division of the U.S. Library of Congress, thanks to Mrs. Gertrude Clarke Whittall who had purchased five of Stradivari’s instruments in 1934 and 1935, including the “Betts.”  In addition, she also contributed the funding for the building of the pavilion wherein they are now kept and displayed.  It was completed in 1939.

Some of Stradivari’s instruments today are said to be valued at millions of dollars – which certainly would include the “Betts”!

So that poor, starving man who had entered that music shop, almost 200 years ago, did not realize the wealth he actually had in his possession.  And perhaps he never did find out the great worth of what he had parted with.  From our perspective, it was unfortunate he did not realize.  For though he was paid, how temporal that was – and especially compared to what he could have had (if he only knew).

Did he soon return to a destitute state after that money was gone?  And, if so, did he remain that way a long time?  For to live on the equivalent of $5 in 1820 would be like someone having only about $96 to live on in 2016.  That would not last too long, would it?

Even more unfortunate, however, than that lack of knowledge the poor man had about his violin, is when individuals do not see the great value in having Jesus Christ and God’s forgiveness in their lives.  For what could be more needful for our souls than that?

But what do so many “sell” their souls for? Only for that which is ever so brief when compared with eternity – yet can keep one out of heaven forevermore if God’s way of pardon is rejected — and Jesus wants us to realize this.  He, therefore, declares in Matthew 16:26, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”  That is certainly something worth remembering — the great value in having our souls right with God!  It should mean more to us than anything else!  And though some might think that sounds selfish, it is actually the exact opposite.  For to be right with God also involves unselfishly treating others the right way, out of a love and concern for them, as the Bible teaches!

This particular Scripture must have been in the mind of A.J. Hodge when he wrote in 1923 the following hymn, entitled, “Have You Counted the Cost?”  Here are its first two stanzas and chorus:

“There’s a line that is drawn by rejecting our Lord,
Where the call of His Spirit is lost,
And you hurry along with the pleasure-mad throng,
Have you counted, have you counted the cost?

“You may barter your hope of eternity’s morn,
For a moment of joy at the most,
For the glitter of sin and the things it will win,
Have you counted, have you counted the cost?

“Have you counted the cost, if your soul should be lost?
Tho’ you gain the whole world for your own?
Even now it may be that the line you have crossed,
Have you counted, have you counted the cost?”

In counting the cost, one should give serious thought to what really is going to be of greatest value in the long run.  And will it be worth striving for and paying whatever price is necessary to obtain it?  Will it be the way of sin?  Or the way of following after Christ?  And which way will ultimately lead to the best destination?  Perhaps when thinking of these things the choice will become easier to make.  And the Lord does want every accountable person to give earnest thought to it and to make the right choice, just as He did toward the people of Isaiah’s time, when saying,

“’Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the LORD,
‘Though your sins are as scarlet,
They will be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They will be like wool.

“If you consent and obey,
You will eat the best of the land;
But if you refuse and rebel,
You will be devoured by the sword.’
Truly, the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Isa. 1:18-20).

The allurement of sin, along with the pleasure some wrongdoing can bring, has kept many in its hold and also continues to lay its snare for others as well.  But let us be encouraged by people like Moses who “when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.  By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen” (Heb. 11:24-27).

Moses had the right perspective.  His focus was on God. For He was of much greater value to Moses than what this world had to offer — and even worth suffering for!  Would not the world be a better place if more were like him in having that same dedication to the Lord?

Notice, too, how sin is referred to in that passage as “passing pleasures,” or the “fleeting pleasures” (ESV), the “short-lived pleasures” (WNT), the “temporary pleasures (Darby), or “the pleasures of sin for a short time” (NIV, ISV).  For regardless of how long we could recklessly indulge in iniquity, it would always be a brief time compared to eternity.  And this “world,” as John writes, “is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 Jn. 2:15-17).

Folks sometimes don’t realize the great value of things that are available to them.  It really sounds ironic, but hear what the Lord said to some of those whom He addressed while on earth: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life” (John 5:39, 40).  How blind they were!  That true life was right there in front of them, but they rejected Him — the One who was and is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6).  So Jesus is not just “a way,” but “the way” — that is, the ONLY way.  For He goes on to say in the same verse that “no one comes to the Father but through Me.”  In speaking to the rulers and elders of the people, Peter declared of Jesus that “He is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone.  And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:11,12).

Think of all the people who came into contact with Jesus and never realized that He was God in human flesh (cf. Jn. 1:1-3,10-11,14).  That, by far, is the worst thing one could be ignorant of.  For as Jesus declares, “unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (Jn. 8:24).

God’s word itself  is a treasure worth more than silver and gold!  Cf. Psa. 119: 72,127; Psa. 19:7-11.  And to ignore the word of the Lord is to “neglect so great a salvation,” which leaves the person in a situation of no escape from the penalty of God’s wrath upon the transgressor (cf. Heb. 2:1-3).

Let us, therefore, never forget the great value we have in Jesus Christ and His word — in having sins forgiven and being in a spiritual relationship with God.  For to forfeit our soul, as Jesus speaks of in Matthew 16:26, is to also lose out on these needful blessings of the Lord and of the eternal life in heaven that He would want all to have (cf. 2 Pet. 3:9). That’s why there is such tremendous worth in entrusting our souls to our Creator through our faith and obedience to His word – and may we never forget the supreme value of that!  For even though we might not have much money in the bank, there is no amount that can even come close to the great value of all we have and will have for all eternity, as God’s children, because of our Lord Jesus Christ!

(All Scripture from the NASB unless otherwise indicated).
——————–

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News & Notes

Let us continue praying for all those who are involved in putting out the fires in California and all who have been affected by it — especially those who have lost loved ones.

Others to also be praying for:

Khyla Dennis, a 13-year old, passed away October 10.
Let us be remembering her family and friends in prayer.  She had been an 8th grader at the Snelson Golden Middle School in Hinesville, Georgia.

James “Buddy” Gornto is now in ICU.  He had been feeling poorly October 15 and admitted the following Tuesday.  He has been receiving dialysis at home for many months, has a heart condition, and now with some fluid in the lungs.

Jarvis Williams, a 2-year old in Jesup, received 2nd degree burns from scalding-hot water in a tub recently.  He had been treated in Savannah and is now back home.

Cedell Fletcher has been in poor health for several years with a blood disorder similar to leukemia, which requires being examined every week and receiving 2 units of blood about every 3 weeks, due to its loss.  Recently, he had been back in the hospital with mini-stroke-like symptoms, which have not yet been determined.  He is now back home, but not doing well.

Myrna Jordan is still having a little trouble with her hip.

Jim Lively is not feeling well.

Shirley Davis goes for therapy twice a week, but also has it at home every day, using a machine, which is painful for her.  The pain is primarily in her lower back and right shoulder muscle that is still healing from the re-attachment. She says she is “doing good and healing,” but just has continual soreness and needs to strengthen her muscles.

Also those others with health issues: Judy Daugherty, Pat Joyner, Misty Thornton, Michelle Rittenhouse, Rachael Gerbing, and Mary Vandevander.

Those healing from recent surgery: Anita Abbott, Mary Kicklighter, and Charles Crosby.
——————–

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe
in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent
of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith
in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized
in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith,
living for the Lord; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
——————–

Tebeau Street
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA  31501
Sunday services: 9:00 a.m. (Bible class); 10 a.m. & 5 p.m. (worship)
Tuesday:
7 p.m. (Ladies’ Bible class)
Wednesday: 7 p.m. (Bible class)
evangelist/editor:
Tom Edwards (912) 614-8593
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
https://thegospelobserver.wordpress.com (Gospel Observer website with pictures in WordPress)
http://thomastedwards.com/go (Older version of Gospel Observer website without pictures, but back to March 1990)
http://tebeaustreetchurchofchrist.org/
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)

The Gospel Observer (October 8, 2017)

Contents:

1) Example and Influence (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes
——————–

1tim4_12d

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Example and Influence
Tom Edwards

Whether for good or bad, everyone is an example!  Even when not trying or realizing it, our influence can affect those around us in one way or another.  For none of us are invisible, and the way we communicate and act can have an impact on others.

But though someone once said, “No man is completely worthless. He can always serve as a horrible example,” I don’t think that many would want to be of that classification — but, rather, of a much better one!

In the Bible we read of a daughter-in-law named Ruth who, apparently, had been greatly influenced by Naomi, her mother-in-law.  Even after the death of Naomi’s husband and her two sons, Ruth felt compelled to remain with her – and even though Naomi had strongly advised her two widowed daughters-in-law to return to their own people in the land of Moab, while she would then head back to the land of Judah, since its famine was over.  But Ruth, who would not depart from her, declared, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge.  Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me” (Ruth 1:16-17).  Surely, Naomi’s good example and influence had much to do with Ruth’s feelings toward her –- and even toward Naomi’s people and toward her God!

Setting forth the right example can be motivational.  It is said that when Benjamin Franklin wanted to see his city of Philadelphia start using street lighting, he did not merely talk about it.  Rather, he placed a beautiful lantern on a long bracket in front of his own door.  He kept the lantern polished and its glass clean, and every evening he lit its wick.  Soon, his neighbors were doing the same; and not long after that the entire city took enthusiastic notice of its benefit.  Today, Franklin is regarded as the one who introduced street lighting to the entire U.S.

Examples can be helpful – and Jesus often used them.  He spoke of people (Noah, Abraham, Lot’s wife, Moses, David, etc.); of places (Sodom and Gomorrah, Chorazin and Bethsaida, Capernaum and Jerusalem, etc.); and of things (the temple, the sparrow, the seed, the lily, etc.).  Are not the parables of the Lord also examples? They compare one thing to another – an earthly thing to a spiritual principle.

The Scriptures have much to say about examples – and sometimes refers to them as “ensamples” and “patterns.”  The Bible gives examples of not only those who lived righteously, but also of those who lived to the contrary, that we may learn how and how not God wants us to be.

Hebrews 4:11, for instance, says, “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall through following the same example of disobedience.”  Some of these examples of disobedience can be seen in 1 Corinthians 10: “Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, ‘THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, AND STOOD UP TO PLAY.’ Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (vv. 6-11).

These examples go back to the period of the Exodus and the early Wilderness Wanderings.  But we can still learn lessons from them of what we should not do in our time.  For we should not “crave evil things,” “be idolaters,” “act immorally,” “try the Lord” (in the sense of testing and exhausting His patience), and “grumble.”

The Lord wants us to consider these examples of the past and others as well: “As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful” (James 5:10,11).  And the greatest example of all is that of our Savior, Jesus Christ (cf.  1 Pet. 2:21).

The Bible is silent when it comes to most of the years that Jesus was on earth, prior to his three-year mission.  But one thing we do know – He was always obediently pleasing His Father!  For when God said of Jesus at His baptism, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matt. 3:17), God did not say this because of His Son’s triumph in the wilderness over Satan — for that was still to come!  Nor did He have reference to Jesus’ determination in Gethsemane or His supreme sacrifice at Calvary – for they were also future events!  But this must have been said with regard to Jesus’ earlier days on earth, while growing up.  Luke sums up that rather silent period of the Lord’s life by simply stating that “Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52).

We know that during some — and probably many — of Christ’s silent years He had worked as a carpenter (Mark 6:3).  For that was what His earthly father Joseph had been (Matt. 13:55); and it was common for the Jewish father to teach his son the same trade.  For to grow up not having been taught a trade was actually a shameful thing.  So Jesus was a good example in this aspect of his life as well.

As we think more of the kind of influence we might have on others, I imagine you’ll easily understand why this following poem by C.C. Miller is entitled “The Echo”:

‘Twas a sheep, not a lamb, that strayed away,
In the parable Jesus told;
A grown-up sheep that had gone astray
From the ninety and nine in the fold.

Out on the hillside, out in the cold,
‘Twas a sheep the Good Shepherd sought,
And back to the flock, safe to the fold,
‘Twas a sheep the Good Shepherd brought.

And why for the sheep should we earnestly long,
And as earnestly hope and pray?
Because there is danger, if they go wrong,
They will lead the lambs astray.

For the lambs will follow the sheep, you know,
Wherever the sheep may stray;
When the sheep go wrong, it will not be long
‘Till the lambs are as wrong as they.

And so with the sheep we earnestly plead,
For the sake of the lambs, today;
If the sheep are lost, what a terrible cost
Some lambs will have to pay!

Note some of the things in which Paul specified to Timothy to be a good example in: “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe” (1 Tim. 4:12).

To some, our heart has been viewed as a pulpit. Our life is the message. The world is our audience, and every day we are giving a sermon to it.

What does the world see in our lives?  If we are the pattern to them of what other Christians are like, are we giving them the correct impression?  Do they see us standing for the right things?  Does our lives bring honor or reproach upon the church of our Lord and His worthy name?

May it be our desire to always set the proper example for others around us.  For as the song tells us in the lyrics written by Annie Johnson Flint, “We are the only Bible the careless world will read.  We are the sinner’s gospel; we are the scoffer’s creed; we are the Lord’s last message, given in deed and word, What if the type is crooked? What if the print is blurred?”

Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, in which he instructs them about many of their spiritual problems, apparently, helped them change for the better.  Notice, for instance, what he later wrote to them: “You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Cor. 3:2-3).

May we always be the right example for the cause of Christ and for the good of others — and may that kind of influence be contagious toward all!

(All Scriptures from the NASB, unless otherwise indicated.)
——————–

-2-

News & Notes

Let us continue to remember in prayer those who have recently lost loved ones: the friends and family of Geraldine (Jerri) Coop, of Kelli McDavid Fleeman, of Ronald Ray Renfrow, and of Ladonna Andrews.

Others also to be praying for:

Myrna Jordan has been having a little trouble with her hip lately.

Jan Bartlett‘s fever has subsided, but she is still healing from her sickness.

Danny Bartlett has been having some pain from a swollen knee.

Doyle Rittenhouse has been having some more back trouble.

Though the due date is not until around the 12th of this month, Felicia Mackey could be giving birth any day now.

Also, those with health issues: Shirley Davis, Cedell Fletcher, Judy Daugherty, Pat Joyner, Misty Thornton, Michelle Rittenhouse, Rachael Gerbing, and Mary Vandevander.

Those healing from recent surgery: Anita Abbott, Mary Kicklighter, and Charles Crosby.

And also for Cicily Thompson who is seeking employment.

Congratulations to Charles and Marde Montero Sweezy who were recently married!
——————–

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe
in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent
of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith
in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized
in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith,
living for the Lord; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
——————–

Tebeau Street
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA  31501
Sunday services: 9:00 a.m. (Bible class); 10 a.m. & 5 p.m. (worship)
Tuesday:
7 p.m. (Ladies’ Bible class)
Wednesday: 7 p.m. (Bible class)
evangelist/editor:
Tom Edwards (912) 614-8593
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
https://thegospelobserver.wordpress.com (Gospel Observer website with pictures in WordPress)
http://thomastedwards.com/go (Older version of Gospel Observer website without pictures, but back to March 1990)
http://tebeaustreetchurchofchrist.org/
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)

The Gospel Observer (October 1, 2017)

Contents:

1) How Vivid were Visions from God? (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes
——————–

Ezekiel 11_24

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How Vivid were Visions from God?
Tom Edwards

Have you ever wondered how clear and lifelike visions from God must have been? It was one of the “many ways” (Heb. 1:1) in which the Lord spoke to the prophets in time’s past.

The term itself is first seen in Genesis 15:1, in which the account declares that “…the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision…”  It is also seen with regard to Jacob (Gen. 46:2), Nathan the prophet (2 Sam. 7:17), Iddo the seer (2 Chron. 9:29), Isaiah (Isa. 1:1), Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:1), Daniel (Dan. 2:19), Amos (Amos 1:1), Obadiah (Obad. 1:1), Nahum (Nah. 1:1), Habakkuk (Hab. 2:2), Ananias (Acts 9:10), Paul (Acts 9:12), Cornelius (Acts 10:3), Peter (Acts 10:17), and the apostle John (Rev. 9:17).  All of these received visions from God, and how many more there must have also been!  For the Lord had “spoken to the prophets” and “gave numerous visions” (Hos. 12:10).

Consider Samuel’s experience with visions when still a boy (1 Sam. 3:1-15).  During one night, God had called him three times by name; but Samuel thought it was Eli calling instead.  The voice was that  real!  On the fourth time, Samuel then responded, for Eli had told him to do so; and the Lord, who “came and stood and called as at other times…” (v. 10), then spoke His message to young Samuel, which is all referred to as a “vision” (v. 15).

The book of Isaiah begins by saying, “The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz concerning Judah and Jerusalem, which he saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah” (Isa. 1:1). Later in the book, Isaiah declares that “A harsh vision has been shown to me…” (Isa. 21:2).

Ezekiel, while in Babylonian captivity, mentions in the first verse of his book that while he was “by the river Chebar among the exiles, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.” Some of the visions Ezekiel received were most strange in appearance, outlandish: “As I looked, behold, a storm wind was coming from the north, a great cloud with fire flashing forth continually and a bright light around it, and in its midst something like glowing metal in the midst of the fire.  Within it there were figures resembling four living beings. And this was their appearance: they had human form. Each of them had four faces and four wings. Their legs were straight and their feet were like a calf’s hoof, and they gleamed like burnished bronze. Under their wings on their four sides were human hands. As for the faces and wings of the four of them, their wings touched one another; their faces did not turn when they moved, each went straight forward. As for the form of their faces, each had the face of a man; all four had the face of a lion on the right and the face of a bull on the left, and all four had the face of an eagle” (Ezek. 1:4-10).  He then goes on throughout the rest of the chapter to vividly describe more of what he saw in this vision. But notice especially the last three verses: “Now above the expanse that was over their heads there was something resembling a throne, like lapis lazuli in appearance; and on that which resembled a throne, high up, was a figure with the appearance of a man. Then I noticed from the appearance of His loins and upward something like glowing metal that looked like fire all around within it, and from the appearance of His loins and downward I saw something like fire; and there was a radiance around him. As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking” (vv. 26-28).

Not only did Ezekiel hear and see visions from God, but he was also “transported” by them. He writes: “….as I was sitting in my house with the elders of Judah sitting before me, that the hand of the Lord God fell on me there. Then I looked, and behold, a likeness as the appearance of a man; from His loins and downward there was the appearance of fire, and from His loins and upward the appearance of brightness, like the appearance of glowing metal. He stretched out the form of a hand and caught me by a lock of my head; and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem, to the entrance of the north gate of the inner court, where the seat of the idol of jealousy, which provokes to jealousy, was located.  And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, like the appearance which I saw in the plain.  Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, raise your eyes now toward the north.’ So I raised my eyes toward the north, and behold, to the north of the altar gate was this idol of jealousy at the entrance. And He said to me, ‘Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations which the house of Israel are committing here, so that I would be far from My sanctuary? But yet you will see still greater abominations” (Ezek. 8:1-6).

Ezekiel had been in Babylonian captivity.  Babylon was about 500 miles straight across from Jerusalem.  Of course, travelers would follow the Fertile Crescent NW, arching over at the top, and coming down south into the land of Israel for about a 900-mile journey, instead of going straight across the desert.  But Ezekiel was transported in a vision by God, so physical distances are irrelevant.

Notice, too, that not only did Ezekiel see visions, hear God, and be “transported,” but he also could touch, feel, and interact with what he saw in the vision!  For look what he goes on to say: “Then He brought me to the entrance of the court, and when I looked, behold, a hole in the wall. He said to me, ‘Son of man, now dig through the wall.’ So I dug through the wall, and behold, an entrance.  And He said to me, ‘Go in and see the wicked abominations that they are committing here.’  So I entered and looked, and behold, every form of creeping things and beasts and detestable things, with all the idols of the house of Israel, were carved on the wall all around.  Standing in front of them were seventy elders of the house of Israel… each man with his censer in his hand and the fragrance of the cloud of incense rising” (vv. 7-11).  So much imagery!  And all of which he could see, touch, feel, hear, smell, interact with, and experience!  These visions were way beyond mere vague notions or foggy impressions!  And since Ezekiel could move around in them and interact, these visions must have been at least three dimensional!   How real they were!

Ezekiel then relates other things God declared and revealed to him by a vision. Following that, the prophet then writes of his “return” to Babylon: “And the Spirit lifted me up and brought me in a vision by the Spirit of God to the exiles in Chaldea.  So the vision that I had seen left me. Then I told the exiles all the things that the LORD had shown me” (Ezek. 11:24-25).

How real that vision was!  But would Ezekiel have had any less trouble in explaining exactly how all that was happening to him than the apostle Paul when saying, “…but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago – whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows – such a man was caught up to the third heaven. And I know how such a man — whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows – was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak. On behalf of such a man I will boast; but on my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses” (2 Cor. 12:1-5).  Paul is speaking in the third person about himself in this passage. He knows this miraculous event happened to him, but he can’t fully explain the process of how it took place.  For he knew not whether he had actually left his own body or remained in it when he was caught up to that heavenly realm.  But how vivid and beautifully real it must have all been to him — and even though it is referred to as “visions and revelations of the Lord” (2 Cor. 12:1)!

Like Ezekiel, the apostle John was also given some very unusual visions by God for the Revelation letter, which are highly figurative and symbolic to the reader (cf. Rev. 9:17-21).

But now consider even more of just how real in appearance these visions must have been to those receiving them.  In Acts 12, “Peter was kept in prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God” (v. 5).  “Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter’s side and woke him up, saying, ‘Get up quickly.’ And his chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, ‘Gird yourself and put on your sandals.’ And he did so. And he said to him, ‘Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.’ And he went out and continued to follow, and HE DID NOT KNOW THAT WHAT WAS BEING DONE BY THE ANGEL WAS REAL, BUT THOUGHT HE WAS SEEING A VISION” (vv. 6-9, emphasis mine).

Peter knew about visions.  He had received one prior when on the rooftop of Simon the tanner’s in Joppa.  In that vision, Peter “saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. A voice came to him, ‘Get up, Peter, kill and eat!’  But Peter said, ‘By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.’  Again a voice came to him a second time, ‘What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.’ This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky” (vv. 11-16).  This is referred to as a “vision” (Acts 10:19; 11:5).  So, yes, Peter was well aware of how real a vision could appear.

But now Peter was seeing an actual event, which wasn’t a vision, when an angel of the Lord had come to him in prison (whom he had seen), had struck him on his side to awaken him (which he had felt), with the chains now falling from his hands miraculously (which he could also see and feel), and his obeying the angel’s instructions to gird himself, to put on his sandals and a cloak, and to follow the angel (which he could see and experience himself doing).  Peter was involved in all that.  It was all really happening — but Peter thought it was just a vision! Doesn’t that indicate how real visions from God must have been?!  They were certainly not just a hazy awareness, or some type of foggy image that cannot be clearly seen. For in that jail, Peter was seeing reality; but it was so far from a normal event that it seemed to him like a vision!  So the vision he had seen at Simon the tanner’s must have been vividly real with lifelikeness — like seeing reality!  And would not the same be also so for the many others — from Abram on down — who had also received visions from God?  How amazingly real and clear it must have been for them!

(All Scripture from the NASB, unless otherwise indicated.)
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News & Notes

Here are some folks to be praying for:

All those who were affected by the recent terrible shooting in Las Vegas that resulted in 58 deaths and 489 wounded.

Let us continue to remember in prayer the others who have also recently lost loved ones: the friends and family of Geraldine (Jerri) Coop, of Kelli McDavid Fleeman, of Ronald Ray Renfrow, and of Ladonna Andrews. 

Myrna Jordan has been having a little trouble with her hip lately.

Danny Barlett has been having some pain from a swollen knee.

Doyle Rittenhouse has been having some more back trouble.

Also those with health issues: Shirley Davis, Cedell Fletcher, Judy Daugherty, Pat Joyner, Misty Thornton, Michelle Rittenhouse, Rachael Gerbing, and Mary Vandevander. 

Those healing from recent surgery: Anita Abbott, Mary Kicklighter, and Charles Crosby. 

And also for Cicily Thompson who is seeking employment.
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The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe
in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent
of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith
in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized
in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith,
living for the Lord; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
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Tebeau Street
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA  31501
Sunday services: 9:00 a.m. (Bible class); 10 a.m. & 5 p.m. (worship)
Tuesday:
7 p.m. (Ladies’ Bible class)
Wednesday: 7 p.m. (Bible class)
evangelist/editor:
Tom Edwards (912) 614-8593
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
https://thegospelobserver.wordpress.com (Gospel Observer website with pictures in WordPress)
http://thomastedwards.com/go (Older version of Gospel Observer website without pictures, but back to March 1990)
http://tebeaustreetchurchofchrist.org/
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)