Weekly Bulletin Articles
Please understand that clinical depression is a very real malady. However, the depressions people often feel have underlying emotional and spiritual causes. In such circumstances, the Great Physician (cf. Mark 2:17) can “heal the brokenhearted…” (Luke 4:18). Consider God’s prescription for depression.
Find some one to serve. A sure way to improve mental health is to turn our focus upon service. Is it not odd that Paul, a man imprisoned for his faith and who confesses having poured himself out in sacrifice and Service, could say, “I joy, and rejoice…” (Philippians 2:17). This flies in the face of the world’s conventional wisdom. Expending precious time and energy on someone else brings joy and happiness? That is antonymous to depression. Look for ways to encourage others, to brighten and cheer the sick, the unfaithful, or those you know in adverse circumstances. When you do, your efforts will have a double effect. You will be helping not only the struggler, but also yourself.
Find some time to meditate. Many of the people with whom I speak who are suffering from depression admit to being distant from God. They typically do not read and study the Bible regularly, nor do they consistently pray to Him. When doing both more faithfully is suggested, they often discount or dismiss the value of both in aiding their state of mind. Yet, “the proof is in the pudding.” Diligent Bible students are given promises and reassurances of God’s help and power that they see fulfilled in their daily lives. Comfort and peace are side effects of regular Bible reading. Through prayer, one gets the Sense that there is One who is listening, who sympathizes and who cares. Faithful prayer coupled with faithful living yields confidence and coping ability. Meditation works! Delight follows meditation (Psalm 119:15). Strength follows meditation (Psalm 119:27-28). Depression may be defeated by saying, with our deeds, what David wrote, “Let my meditation be pleasing to Him; As for me, I shall be glad in the LORD” (Psalm 104:34).
Find some thing to eliminate. It may be doubt. All doubt, including self-doubt, ultimately points to a lack of faith in God. We may doubt that our circumstances will improve. We may doubt our own abilities. We may doubt God’s existence or ability to help. Such negative thinking must be reprogrammed. Remember, the Christian “can” (Philippians 4:13). It may be dread. Fear of future events, of social, economic, or emotional stress, or of interpersonal conflict all cause feelings of anxiety. Jesus says, “Don’t do this” (Matthew 6:25ff). Again, faith and trust in God is imperative. It may be disobedience to God. It is hard for one who believes in God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit to feel good about willfully continuing in a life of sin. Depression many times results [from continuing in sin, DR]. The solution is not killing the conscience, but amputating the sin problem. Guilt is a first cousin of depression, and guilt is a spiritual consequence of sinning. Failure to do what we know we should and committing what we know we should not causes all kinds of turmoil, including depression (cf. Romans 7:19-24).
Many years ago a young Midwestern lawyer suffered from such deep depression that his friends thought it best to keep all knives and razors out of his reach. He questioned his life’s calling and the prudence of even attempting to follow it through. During this time he wrote, “I am now the most miserable man living. Whether I shall ever be better, I cannot tell. I awfully forebode I shall not.” But somehow, from somewhere, Abraham Lincoln received the encouragement he needed, and the achievements of his life thoroughly vindicated his bout with discouragement.
So far as we know, Mr. Lincoln was not a Christian. Thus, those of us locked in the dungeon beneath the castle of despair have the key to the door of depression. His name is Christ (John 14:27)!
(Editor’s Note: There is a story that Lincoln was baptized into Christ during his presidency; there is no “hard” evidence, although the circumstances certainly indicate that the story may be true.)
The church of the New Testament assembled together each Sunday to remember the cross and to partake of the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7). It was on these occasions that they also worshiped the Lord in other authorized ways. There was singing and prayer, public Bible reading, and preaching. There was also a collection for the ongoing work of the church (1 Cor. 16:2). But after the Sunday public assembly, the Bible gives no absolutes as to when the church is to come together. If we modeled ourselves completely after the original Jerusalem church, it could be argued that they met in some capacity every day, but probably not all at the same time in the same place (Acts2:42-47).
Any other meeting besides the Sunday assembly is left up to the leadership in each individual church. Over the years, it has been customary to meet on Sunday nights for a second worship service. Perhaps the main idea, in the beginning, was to provide those who were unable to attend the first assembly to have a second opportunity – specifically for the purpose of partaking of the communion. Somewhere in the middle of the week, many churches also meet for Bible study. Each congregation has the freedom to choose, after the Sunday assembly, exactly what it wants to do with regard to further meetings. The church could meet any other time of the week, on any day, as many or as few times as is desired.
Once the decision has been made by the leadership of the church, the rest of the church should obey and support that decision. Local members of the body of Christ are expected to observe and obey the expedient measures decided upon by the eldership (Heb. 13:17). Christians are commanded not to forsake the assembly (Heb. 10:24-25). If, therefore, the elders have chosen to call the church together at another specific time, then each local member should make every effort they can to gather together for worship and study as a family of believers on each and every one of these occasions.
Every church model is different with regard to circumstances which dictate further assemblies. Some churches only meet once on Sunday afternoon because it might be difficult for their members to come twice. It was customary years ago for folks to ride in a wagon to the church house on Sunday morning, bring their lunch for after services to eat on the grounds, and then assemble one more time to worship before the long ride back to the farm before dark. It seems that this example also led to the tradition of Sunday night worship, especially in rural communities.
Whatever the case, further assemblies of the Lord’s church should be viewed by Christians as the most important spiritual opportunities of the week. Those who love the Lord would never view these extra meetings as a burden (1 John 5:3). True converts will only anticipate more assembling. They will want to meet in homes and in public places and, instead of looking for excuses not to assemble with the saints, they will look for excuses to get out of work, ball games, and other activities so that they will never have to miss an assembly.
For me personally, I can’t wait to be at every public assembly of the church. It would be wonderful to meet with the brethren every day of the week. In a sense, as a preacher, I get to do that. If not for the blessings of being with the church, I would not be so spiritually blessed. I could list 1,000 reasons why I love Sunday nights and Wednesday nights. But the supreme reasons are simple. I love God. I love Jesus and what He did for me at Calvary. And I love what the Holy Spirit teaches me in the word!
“One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.” – Psalm 27:4
The work of the church is unique. The New Testament authorizes the church to work in three areas: 1) Evangelism — teaching and preaching the Gospel (Mark 16:15-16), 2) Edification — teaching and instructing its members (1 Thess. 5:11; Col. 3:16) and 3) Benevolence — helping those in need of the necessities of life (James 1:27; Gal. 6:10).
To do the work God has commanded the church to do requires money (the funds necessary to carry out the work). God has given instruction “where” and “how” the church gets its money to do its work. It is by the free-will offering of its members. The Scriptures authorize a collection to be taken up each first day of the week. In 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 we read, “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him....” A famine had made many destitute of the necessary things of life. Churches of Christ everywhere were instructed to help the needy. This passage tells them how to do it.
In the New Testament, you never read of the church of Christ having chariot washes, bake sales, rummage sales, 10K walks, etc., etc. to raise money for its work. There is no Scripture that authorizes the church to solicit (request, seek, beg) money, food, clothes (material goods) from non-members (the general public).
Therefore, you should never see the church of Christ soliciting material things from those who are not members of the church in order to help the church do the work God has commanded the church to do.
I Never Intended to Quit!
by: Gus Nichols
A man who had not attended one service of the church in four years told me he had never thought of "quitting" the church. I reminded him that he had:
1) Withdrawn his presence from the worship services. He had failed to sing, pray with fellow Christians, to partake of the Lord=s memorial supper and the fellowship of the saints.
2) Refused to give his moral support to the activities of the congregation.
3) Withdrawn his financial support, for he had not given one dime to help carry on the Lord's work.
Then I asked, "What else would you have to do in order to 'quit' the church? In case you ever decide that you no longer desire to be a member, what other steps will be necessary to 'quit' the church?"
As the true status dawned upon him, his expression reflected his sober thoughts. He replied, "Why, Brother Nichols, I have quit already, haven't I? Well, I surely didn’t mean to! And I don't know when I did it...but I've quit the Lord and His church! I'll tell you right now...I'm coming back." He did, too. At the next service, he was restored and three years later, he was still faithful.
Dear reader, how about you? Have you quit the Lord and His church without resolving to do so? Perhaps no one deliberately decides to quit, but many carelessly drift into backsliding.
If you quit attending services, quit boosting the program of activities planned by the elders and quit giving as God has prospered you to enable the congregation to meet its budget, you need to be restored.
"not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:25)
Paul takes us into God’s war room. If we grasp his message we’ll more clearly perceive why the Christian lifestyle is significant. We’ll also realize there is a battle for our hearts.
Perhaps the place to start is by appreciating that Ephesians was written against a bleak background (Ephesians 2:1-3). Evil in all of its forms dominates and subdues humanity. Filled with insatiable fleshly cravings people plunge into pursuing life as they think best oblivious to their spiritual ruin.
Yet there is hope. Evil offers no contest to God’s power. Furthermore from the very beginning, God has had a plan. Paul longed to enlighten those caught in the thick of the battle to know God’s power for his people and the goal toward which God is working (Eph. 1:17-19).
To achieve this the apostle flung open the doors into God’s command center revealing God’s strategic plan. Beholding his plan causes Paul to break forth in praise. “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Eph. 1:3).
Our eyes fall upon a plan predating creation that determined what would happen. God would achieve spiritual unity by rescuing people from darkness through adopting them as his own.
What is unexpected is that this adoption would be made possible through God graciously purchasing sinful people by the blood of his beloved Son. Moreover God seals those he redeems with the Holy Spirit as a downpayment of the inheritance that awaits them!
Having outlined God’s plan for achieving unity between heaven and earth through Christ, Paul impressed upon those caught in the battle for their hearts about the nature of God’s power. God can transform those who are spiritually dead into becoming alive with Christ. However, this does not exhaust God’s plan.
The plan also calls for uniting spiritually diverse peoples, the Jews and the Gentiles. And once again the blood of Jesus makes this possible. God creates one new unified community in whom God dwells by the Spirit! Complete unity!
The evil that would separate people from God as well as people from other peoples must melt away before God’s power. Unity within the light dispels the divisive darkness. There is no contest.
While God’s power and working evoke praise, the Lord’s people also have a role to play. God’s plan calls for rescued souls to live worthily of who God has made them to be. They are to live in ways that will further his purposes, step closer to that inheritance awaiting them and preserve the unity of the Spirit which God has achieved.
Thus they are to banish sinful ways from their lives. The devil is not to be granted any footholds in their life. To continue living in ways of darkness would work against God’s purposes thus grieving the Spirit who has marked them for inheritance. Instead, these people purchased by Christ are to exemplify godly characteristics in whatever societal roles they might find themselves.
There is a war raging between God’s light and evil’s darkness. The redeemed need to be aware of this and who their true enemy is. They need to put on the whole armor of God that they might stand against the devil’s schemes.
God’s power creates beachheads of light within the darkness. To be aware of the goals toward which God is working, how God desires us who have been redeemed to maintain the unity he has created, as well as how to be prepared to stand against the adversary’s schemes underscores the significance of living daily for Christ.