By Michele Morin
By the time I was 21, I had been thoroughly inoculated against any threat of marriage by the wistful comments of my married friends: “Oh, you can do that now, but just wait till you get married and have kids . . .” They painted an image of a small, constricted world with no scented candles (dangerous open flame!), no possibility of travel (too complicated!), and no orderly bookcases (kids destroy everything!).
When I eventually did get married and start a family, I was determined to prove them all wrong. I bent over backward to prove that nothing in my life had changed. Sure, we had a new baby, but we strapped our firstborn into his fifty-pound car seat for long road trips. We dragged ourselves through antique stores and spent Saturdays doing yard work together. We welcomed houseguests into our fixer-upper and fed them from the produce grown in our huge garden. We did it! Life went forward unchanged — except that I was exhausted all the time.
Today, nearly thirty years later, I want to pour that tired woman a steaming mug of tea, sit across the table from her, and whisper to her that no is not forever, but it can be a freeing word when we say it at the right time. I would tell her to get comfortable with uncertainty in the small details and to sharpen her understanding of God’s sovereignty over every season of life. Then I would offer three insights that I discovered on the job but wish I had known from the start.
Lesson 1: Make the truth your home.We have a choice to make every day as to whether we will dwell on the positive or the negative aspects of that day. Will we choose to focus on negative campaign ads, wildfires in the Pacific Northwest, and the parts of our schedule we can’t control — or will we hand our anxieties over to the God of the universe? We might employ the apostle Paul’s language and call this taking “every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
If this sounds impossible to you, then you’re on the right track. Paul was not a self-help guru, and while he knew where his bootstraps were and could employ them as needed (and so should we!), nowhere in Scripture do we get the message that Christianity is a self-improvement project. The discipline of our mind, emotions, and will is just one battle in the believer’s ongoing warfare, and God has equipped us with weapons that are effective for that spiritual battle. Psalm 1 describes the way of the righteous as a way that is steeped in biblical truth. God’s word is an object of delight and regular meditation.
During one long February of serial stomach viruses and lonely isolation with my four sick kids, I discovered that regular doses of gospel truth were far more effective than caffeine or a girlfriend chat. Even the Son of God, in his time on earth, used Scripture as a potent weapon against evil, and he’s our example. The point is to give the truth more room in your life than you are giving to the screaming banshees inside your head.
“In the endless monotony of laundry and food preparation, our hearts need a beautiful horizon of truth ahead of us.”
In the endless monotony of laundry and food preparation, our hearts need a beautiful horizon of truth ahead of us to energize our efforts. Love of Christ fueled by biblical knowledge motivates daily obedience and inspires a healthy longing for his return.
Lesson 2: You are more than what you do.As believers, we embrace the truth that our salvation comes to us by grace, but when it comes to living the Christian life, we’re often not so sure. New mothers can be some of the worst Pharisees. Cloth diapers versus disposables, breastfeeding versus formula, eventually how we educate our children — they all become points upon which we divide and judge one another.
I chose to quit working outside the home after the birth of our oldest son, and since we homeschooled, my résumé went on mothballs for over twenty years. Whenever I allowed myself to “walk . . . in the counsel of the wicked,” I felt apologetic about my choice (Psalm 1:1). Maybe I really could “have it all”? Was I missing out by not having a career?
Then, listening to a different chorus of error, I would begin to define myself as a “stay-at-home mum,” making it the most important element of my identity. I was tempted to condemn the choices of other mums, and that habit of comparison built walls where bridges of understanding would have been so much more redemptive.
Finding grace to “delight in the law of the Lord,” to focus on who God is, enabled me to accept who I was (Psalm 1:2). Whether you stay home full time with your children or continue to be employed in some capacity, your “job” does not define you. You may prepare menus and grocery lists a month in advance, or you may do your best meal planning standing in front of an open refrigerator door. You may vacuum daily, preside over a miraculous two-day laundry turnaround time, and administer a color-coded family calendar on your kitchen wall. Or you may function so well on the fly that planning ahead feels like going to jail.
There is no formula for perfect parenting. You will never be a perfect wife or a perfect mother — but you may drive yourself and your family crazy trying to be. There was free and abundant grace available when God first saved you. Why should it suddenly be scarce?
Lesson 3: Build habits you can fall back on.When you are tired, emotionally spent, or simply not paying attention, you will fall back on your habits. Strong spiritual practices give your mind a good place to go so that it can direct your heart toward its rightful Object. The blessing of strong roots is promised to the one who meditates on Scripture “day and night” (Psalm 1:2–3). As a young mother, I wanted to be rooted in truth, stable and reliable from day to day, so that my children would be able to make the leap from dependable parent to dependable God.
“When you are tired, emotionally spent, or simply not paying attention, you will fall back on your habits.”
Memorizing Psalm 103 provided praise words for a tired brain. Learning Psalm 91 reassured me that God would be trustworthy. Soaking in the truth of Romans 8 reinforced my trust in God’s persistent, never-giving-up love that would flow to me and my family. Truth from Psalm 1 was fuel for living a righteous life as a mother.
Motherhood is certainly not the only path to sanctification, but its challenges pushed me toward a deeper dependence upon God and the miracle of actual righteousness that the Holy Spirit alone can produce in me. For example, the habit of confession paves the way to clear communication with God and others. The habit of taking God’s new mercies every morning makes it a whole lot easier to extend grace and forgiveness to your family as the day wears on.
Someday your family will be full grown, and you will want to have grown full of wisdom in your prayers for them and in your counsel to them. Your journey of faith will continue. I know this because I am still a work in progress today, still grace-dependent, and still sticking close to truth as the only safe home for my heart and mind.
HOW JESUS MAKES A WOMAN BOLD
by Jennifer Brigdon
( resident of the state of Mississippi)
Motherhood put me in a spiritually lethargic mindset.
Yes, I needed times of rest as I took care of my newborn. After all, I was seeing hours of the night
I’d never seen before. Quickly, however, my need for rest became an excuse to avoid hard things.
Although I needed fellowship, I wanted to face the hardships of motherhood at home where I felt safe.
I also didn’t desire to evangelize as much or invite others into my home (into the mess I had learned
I began to see my home as a comfortable cottage where I could retreat from many of the hard things
God calls his people to do. I didn’t have the determination to muscle through times of fellowship
and hospitality and evangelism and service or anything else — even if those things were for the good
of my soul and the glory of God.
Lethargic by DefaultI notice a similar tendency among professing Christian women today. It’s not only moms.
Some Christian women avoid hardship altogether. They aren’t getting uncomfortable for the
kingdom of God or taking risks for the sake of Christ’s name in the world. Instead, they are clinging
more to the things of this world. I see it all over social media. I hear it in conversation.
Some women take on trends of the world that bring temporary satisfaction, such as Plexus and
skimpy rompers. Others live a retired life of shopping and endless primping to secure their
long-gone youthfulness. It’s difficult to live differently than the world. It’s easy to seek comfort and
go along with others in their pursuit of earthly pleasure. That’s why so many do.
This was me for a season. I became idle, apathetic, and lazy. I had little interest or motivation to pursue
the things of God outside of my personal Bible study in my cozy nook. I became spiritually lethargic
with more interest in worldly comforts than a determination to live a life most pleasing to God —
one that involves getting uncomfortable.
Every person struggles with this. It’s our default tendency. We wake up in the morning in our lethargic
and selfish mindset until we seek God and his help. There’s a reason the Scriptures tell us to set our minds
on things above and not on the things of earth (Colossians 3:2).
Loved, Saved, RaisedMoving away from this natural tendency requires an active and continual seeking, but God is the one who works it in us. In Romans 12:2, Paul calls us to “be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” We don’t transform ourselves; God transforms us and renews our mind when we set it on him and his word. He helps us to discern what is good and acceptable in how we live. He keeps us from conforming to the world and enables us to conform more into the image of Christ.
When we are hoping in the one who saved us when we weren’t good enough, when we couldn’t fully obey him, and when we were still sinners, it doesn’t make sense to live like the world. It makes sense to live with a fierce and joyful determination for the one who saved us when we didn’t deserve it — for the one who made us alive together with Christ, raised us up with Christ, and prepared good works for us to walk in (Ephesians 2:4–10).
We follow the course of this world until Christ delivers us from it. When he does, we no longer sit in bondage to our sin. Instead, we die to our sin and stand alive in Christ (Ephesians 2:5). When he rose from the dead, God raised us up with him and seated us in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). This is our hope — we get Christ! And the Holy Spirit is our guarantee to inherit this promise one day (Ephesians 1:13–14). When our hope in God consumes our minds, we live radically and with vigor for his mission, his glory, and his worship.
Uncomfortable for the KingdomJohn Piper says, “The deepest root of Christian womanhood is hope in God,” and “this hope in God yields fearlessness.” This doesn’t mean God calls every woman to pack it up and move to a hostile country — although every woman should be willing to accept such a call. It does mean every woman must get uncomfortable for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here are a few ideas for how every woman can do this:
TOXIC PEOPLE, THINGS THEY DO AND HOW TO DEAL WITH THEM
by Annette-Wright Warmington
(member of the mt airy church of Christ)
SUBJECT: The Worldly People Who Can Be Toxic To A Christian If They Are Not Aware Of Their Evilness:
We have all had toxic people with their poison ways in or out of our lives. Sometimes it's more like a drenching.
Difficult people are drawn to the reasonable ones and all of us have likely had (or have) at least one person in our lives who have us bending around ourselves like barbed wire in endless attempts to please them- only to never really get there.
Ephesians 6:12- For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Their damage lies in their subtlety and the way they can engender that classic response, 'It's not them, it’s me'. They can have you questioning your 'over- reactiveness', your tendency to misinterpret'. If you're the one who's continually hurt, or the one who is constantly adjusting your own behavior to avoid being hurt, then chances are that it's not you and it's very much them.
1 John 2:15-17 - Love not the world, neither the things [that are] in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
Being able to spot their harmful behaviour is the first spot to minimizing their impact. You might not be able to change what they do, but you can change what you do with it, and any idea that toxic somebody in your life or just out doing mischief is a evil person. They do not believe in God, if they did they would not rob, steal, and commit sinful crimes.
Psalm 37:20 - But the wicked shall perish, And the enemies of Jehovah shall be as the fat of lambs: They shall consume; In smoke shall they consume away.
Final Conclusion: Psalm 56:1- But the wicked shall perish; literally, for the wicked shall perish. The happiness of the righteous cannot be complete until the wicked are removed out of their way; since, so long as they continue in the world, they will be ever vexing the righteous and troubling them.
The best thing to do is pray for evil people who try's to harm or physically hurt you, and be aware of your surrounds at all times. Evil lurks in all shapes, colors and sizes. Even sometimes creeps into the church as being sheep in wool clothing.
Psalm 37:20 - Because the wicked perish and the fattened enemies of LORD JEHOVAH are finished and like smoke they disappear. For the sinners shall perish; and the enemies of the Lord at the moment of their being honored and exalted have utterly vanished like smoke. Wicked people are enemies of the LORD and will vanish like smoke from a field on fire.
2 Samuel 23:6-When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand. But the wicked will perish; They vanish--like smoke they vanish away.
WHAT? I NEED MORE SELF DISCIPLINE?
by Audrey Baker (member mt airy church of Christ)
The apostle Paul made an interesting statement in 1 Cor 9:27. He said: “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should.” What Paul is discussing here is self-discipline. Self-discipline is, of course, equally necessary for those of us today who profess faith in God and a desire to do His will and save our souls.
A friend once told me that in her country of birth, drivers frequently ignore traffic signals, road markings, or detour signs. You can imagine how stressful and treacherous it would be to navigate those roads, not knowing what actions to expect from other drivers. In contrast, the traffic laws in the US provide us with expectations of compliance and some measure of safety. In these scenarios, the outcomes depend on adherence to traffic laws. When drivers ignore the laws and do their own thing, we recognize this as a lack of discipline. Of course, any breakdown in discipline, whether in the way we live, work, behave, or interact with others reflects is troubling.
But, sometimes, we hate discipline. In Prov 5:1-15, the author pleads with ‘the simple’ to act wisely. In verse 12, the listener states: “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors.” Verses 21-23 states: “For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his doings…he shall be holden with the cords of his sins… ‘He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.’ So, it behooves us to acquire discipline to please God.
What derails discipline? As Christian women, we are not immune to various influences. Influence is the capacity to affect the behavior, character, or development of someone. If a Christian is being influenced by the world, this is contrary to God’s laws which admonish us to offer ourselves as ‘a living sacrifice’ to God only. Rom 12:1. In Jer 7:28 it states: ‘This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the Lord their God, and did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips.’ To avoid being influenced by the world, we need to discipline ourselves so our actions and lives reflect God’s desires.
So, how do we become more disciplined? Prov 29:19 says, ‘by mere words, a servant is not disciplined, for though he understands, he will not respond.’ Self-discipline requires controlling both the body and the mind. To condition the mind, we note that Rom 12:2 says: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is..” To condition the body, we note that 1Cor 9:27 says: “I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should…”. So mere words do not work, we need to transform the mind and condition the body, to achieve discipline.
What does self-discipline look like? It reflects controlling oneself, training oneself, depriving oneself, holding oneself to a conviction, and honoring established limits. These behaviors are incorporated in biblical texts that shape the way we live, work, behave and interact with others and with God. Below are descriptions of these behaviors.
In 2Tim 2:15, we are commanded to study to show ourselves approved unto God, so we can divide God’s word in the right way. The word of God is described as ‘the sword of the spirit’ in Eph 6:17, because we need it to chop away false doctrine and sinful ideologies. Often, we fight against studying or attending bible classes; however, diligently fulfilling these actions reflects our self-discipline and makes more equipped to serve God.
Next, self-deprivation is denying oneself of conveniences, necessities, or pleasures for a cause. In Mt. 16:25, Jesus told His disciples, “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” We all like to be winners, to be first, to satisfy our desires; however, when a person denies herself for Christ, she is exercising self-discipline.
Next, In Rom 8:38, 39, Paul states: “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” A conviction is a firmly held opinion, belief or action. We honor our convictions regarding ambition, hard work, social attachments, family ties, by acting on those beliefs. When a woman’s actions are shaped by her convictions, this shows discipline.
Finally, Limitations are boundaries that are designed to mark the borders between acceptable versus unacceptable, good versus wise. Rev 22:18 says: “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: “And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” This text admonishes us to operate within the limits of the scriptures and not tamper with the message in any way. In other words, God never asked for our editorial input. Respecting biblical authority and residing within the inspired biblical texts demonstrates discipline.
Sisters, we know it is impossible to please God without being disciplined. Although we live in a world where negative influences bang against our desires to be disciplined, we cannot give in. So, what do we do? No matter how lofty or well-intentioned they are, mere words do not improve discipline; but transforming our minds and conditioning our bodies will do the job. Studying, depriving oneself, holding to our convictions and honoring limits set by God are gems in the self-discipline jewelry box. Doing these will make us more disciplined and pleasing to our God.
11 Biblical Affirmations to Start Your Day· By. Liz Lampkin
Waking up in the morning is a blessing. Many people have established a routine that consists of different things to start their day. For instance, some people pray, meditate, do yoga, or exercise. Others may begin the day with breakfast or by reading God's Holy Word, selecting specific scriptures of affirmation to guide their day, create a positive mindset, and help focus on goals for the day. God's Holy Word is filled with love, guidance, correction, and encouragement. If you decide to begin your day with biblical affirmations or you want to start, take a look at the list of verses from the Bible to do so.
1. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16
What better way to begin your day than by affirming God's eternal love for you. Knowing that God sacrificed His only Son to save sinners is a love that is unmatched and one you can be sure of. If you decide to begin your day with this verse, say to yourself; I am loved by the Most-High God.
2. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. - Psalm 139: 14
All of God's creations are made with His intentional love and care. We are uniquely made in His image; therefore, we are worthy of respect and honor. Awake and walk in each day knowing that as a child of the Most High, you should be respected, but you should also give it. Say to yourself, I am a creation of the Most-High God. I live, walk and breathe with His authority.
3. I can do all things through Christ- Philippians 4:13
Days come with many challenges. Verse 12 of this chapter discusses how to be content no matter your situation. As the chapter continues, we come across verse 13, which tells believers that they can do all things through Christ, who gives them strength. Many believe that this means you can do or accomplish many things placed before you. However, the verse encourages believers to use the strength of Christ to be content during good and bad times. Each day we face brings known and unknown challenges. Having the knowledge and will to be satisfied with the outcome is the attitude every believer should have. Not only this but knowing that you possess the strength of Christ to be content is an amazing thing. Say to yourself; With God, I can withstand no matter what state I am in.
4. My help comes from the Lord- Psalm 121:2
What else needs to be said? Everyone needs help every day with something or someone. God is our help in and out of trouble. God is our help with large and small battles. It is wonderful to start your day realizing that God will help you throughout your days. Say to yourself; God is on my side, God is my help.
5. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want- Psalm 23:1
Shepherds are caretakers and guides for sheep. They feed, guard, and guide them. This verse can serve as a personal comfort for believers to start their day. It lets believers know that God has covered all you need and want because He is our Shepherd. Beginning each day knowing that God has everything you need is comforting. Say to yourself; I have everything I need because God is my Shepherd.
6. Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. – Ephesians 6:10
Ephesians 6:10 encourages believers to be strong in God and His strength. This is a powerful affirmation to begin each day because we never know what we will face. Being strong in God and using His strength to face each day is something all believers should do because there are many battles we can only conquer with God. If you use this verse, say to yourself; I am strong in the Lord, and His power lives in me.
7. For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.– Jeremiah 29:11
God has beautiful plans for all of His creation. As believers, we will face various trials and tribulations every day. While we're going through them, we may feel as though God has forgotten about us. However, Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us that God's plans for our lives are not designed to harm us but to move us forward in the direction He will have us go. Not only this, the plans He has for us are created for us to anticipate the future He has. Knowing God has already predestined great plans for our lives is an amazing feeling. Say to yourself, no matter what comes my way, God is leading my plans for each day.
8. And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus – Philippians 4:19
God is the supplier of everything. He knows what we need when we need it. His riches in glory are infinite. Starting your day with this verse will bring instant relief regarding how your needs for each day will be met. Knowing that God has what you need according to what He has is the key to relief from worry. Say to yourself; my needs have already been met because I am a child of God.
9. Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues. – Proverbs 17:28
As we go through the day, we will hear, read, or encounter things we may want to respond to. Proverbs 17:28 tells us that it's best to keep silent and determine what God says about the situation. Silence is golden. It allows hearing what God is saying to you. There's no need to respond to everything as you see fit. Close your mouth, open your heart, ears, and mind and wait patiently for God to give you direction. Say to yourself, I will hold my tongue and wait for God's response.
10. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9
Starting your day knowing that God is with you wherever you go is a fantastic feeling. Not only this, but God commands us to be fearless because He knows He is with us. As you use this verse to begin your day, you can say to yourself; there's no need to be afraid to face the day for the Lord God walks with me.
11. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. – Romans 15:13
This verse is great to begin the day because it provides encouragement wishing that the God who gives hope fills you with joy and peace and so that hope gives you more faith in God through the Holy Spirit. If you use this verse, say to yourself, God has filled me with peace and joy. I trust in Him and know my days will be filled with His power.
Every day God allows you to wake up is a blessing. Therefore, it would be wise to begin each day reading His Holy Word and encouraging yourself with it before your feet hit the ground.
by LINDSAY LI SOUMAR
(member of the mt airy church of Christ)
I was told at one time that being a mother will change you and your life. I was skeptical about it until becoming a mother of two boys. Those little humans, God’s gift, are small, but very powerful because they change you every day. When I was told to write this topic, “what did I learn as a mother”, I look at my kids at home and think what I have learned. Does feeding them, putting clean clothes on them, putting them to sleep count?
The list can go longer and longer. I didn’t know any of that before I become a mother. I probably did not know how to or would refuse to talk to a kid with the baby tones. Whenever I see them on the street, I think they are the cutest creatures on earth. Then I realized that being a mother is a lifelong learning process.
For example, my two and a half old boy is learning how to speak these days. He will say everything that I say. I know that I need to be careful about what I say to him or around him. He is like a miniature me until he develops his own ability to choose right or wrong. I know I am not perfect, but I want to be perfect in front of him every minute. My other boy who is 10 months wants me to hold him all the time. When I hold him, he will stop crying and start smiling at you. Both need me! As a mother, my job is not only to provide food, clothes, or places to stay, but to pass down my best qualities as calm, wise, and kind to children and everyone around them. In Proverbs 31:26, “her mouth is full of wisdom; kindly teaching is on her tongue”. At the same time, we need to be strong and not lazy since being a mother is not a one day, or a one year job, but a lifelong duty.
Proverbs 31: 25-28 says “strength and honor are her clothing; she is confident about the future. Her mouth is full if wisdom; kindly teaching is on her tongue. She is vigilant over the activities of her household; she doesn’t eat the food of laziness. Her children bless her; her husband praises her: ‘Many women act competently, but you surpass them all.”
This is what I want myself to be as a mother to be strong and resilient, serve my family by inspiring kindness and perseverance in my children. Being a mother is not a easy job. There are a lot of sacrifices but I’m grateful to have the opportunity from God to become a mother and to get better every day.
by Sarah Knapp Northside church of Christ , Conway AR
What does it look like in the New Testament to be close to each other as Christians? Many of the passages we will look at are in the context of a local church, but some of Paul’s writings are speaking of closeness with Christians in other places, too. Acts 2:42-47
Types of interactions: Apostles teaching, vs. 42 Fellowship, vs. 42 Breaking of bread, vs. 42
Prayer, vs. 42 Together and had all things in common, vs. 44 Selling property and possessions and sharing, as needed, vs. 45 Meeting in the temple, vs. 46 Breaking bread from house to house, vs. 46
Received food with glad and generous hearts, vs. 46 Praising God and having favor with people, vs. 47
Notice the spirit these activities are done with dailywith joy and generous hearts!! This isn’t just a duty to perform; it flows from a love of God and our brethren. They were together often, growing in the Lord and closer to one another through so many types of interactions. This sounds very different than mostly interactions based on 2-3 church services per week.
Are we as close or closer to our spiritual family compared to our physical families? Matt. 12:46-50 Jesus' mother and brothers were wanting to speak with him, but He said, "Behold My mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother."
This implies to me a greater closeness with spiritual family than even physical family. How many times have we experienced this type of closeness with brethren? Are we making sure to emphasize spiritual family to this degree to help create this closeness? This also implies to me a level of responsibility and commitment to each other that is a similar level as we should have for our physical families. Phil 2.17
Jn. 15:12-13 “ Are we living out this level of love for each other as brethren? Are we willing to be "poured out" for brethren to really help each other go to heaven? Do we often settle into a norm of a lower level of love for brethren than what the Bible describes in these and so many other passages?
I've been thinking lately about how I figure that generally speaking, our time period in history and being fairly well off here in America, affords us MUCH more "free" time to meet with other Christians than most people in most other time periods in history or even today in many other poorer countries. I figure that it's actually easier in general for us to have the capability to spend more time with our brethren because we aren't needing to spend so many hours a day just to scrape together our daily food. Way beyond that, we generally have time for luxuries, comforts, and leisure activities. Generally speaking, if we are very careful with time management, shouldn't we be able to have more time to spend with brethren? How high of a priority should it be to us? Geoff, my husband, has pulled together several illustrations to help us evaluate our function as a family and as a body, and they've helped me think harder about what it should really look like to function as a family and the body of Christ, particularly within our local churches.
Are we a bunch of severed body parts, that aren't working together or caring for each other? Or do we have people that feel like they are an appendix, and no one would really care if they were cut out of the body? I have had others express to me how hurt they are to be left out, and feel excluded, and uncared for. Are we a part of this?!! 1 Cor chapter 12. We've visited a church where the members purposefully live very close to each other (within a mile) and stay in small groups (they swarm when they grow larger) to be able to be close and honor their commitment to care deeply and equally to each member and really help each other go to heaven. I'd love to hear your solutions to help promote closeness equally within local churches where singles, elderly, and many others aren't left out and feel like an appendix no one would miss.
I heard a true story about a brother who was part of an actual gang and when he became a Christian felt so let down by the distance between Christians compared to the gang he'd been a part of. In the gang, they would literally have each others' backs and risk their lives for each other, and in the church he started with, they didn't even know where Brother so and so lived, only saw him at church, and really knew very little about him.
If we are close like a family, it would be very painful when fellowship would be taken away in a case where withdrawal is needed. But, if there is very little in the way of closeness, how would withdrawal be effective?
If a physical family isn’t close, does that affect things? How? If a spiritual family isn’t close, how does it impact the church? If we want to be close as a spiritual family, we need to prioritize time with each other, over other activities.
by Sarah Knapp, member Northside church of Christ, Conway AR
Why Should we be Close?
This topic has become very important to me over the last couple of years, with so much being shaken up with Covid, and particularly how much time brethren spend with each other. My husband and I realized that prior to Covid, we did not emphasize time with brethren nearly enough, and we are working to change that. We are convinced that closeness is vital to so much of the function of the church, and is the basis for the interaction of the first century Christians we read about in the New Testament.
So many are crying out for more closeness and relationships with brethren, and in many areas and churches, that seems to be quite difficult. Let's explore this topic together, and hopefully we can help follow God's design for closeness as a body and family.
Why are Christians together in churches?
Worship is a reason to come together, but we could worship God by ourselves. I believe one of the primary purposes for Christians coming together is to help each other go to heaven. Can we do that effectively if we don’t spend much time together or know each other well?
Purpose of Closeness
Important for spiritual health of each Christian. Heb. 3:13 This passage indicates we need frequent, daily interactions with brethren to help us not to be hardened with the deceitfulness of sin. This also gives the purpose for our closeness, to help each other be stronger spiritually. Casual conversations and interactions have their place, but these deeper conversations about how our souls are doing are vital.
What are practical ideas you have to make this a daily part of our lives to be in close contact with our brethren, and having these needed conversations to help us not to be "hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."?
If we aren’t close, how can we fulfill commands to rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep, 1 Cor 12:26? If not close, how can we correct brethren overtaken in sin, Gal 6:1? How can we stir up love and good works, exhorting one another as we meet often, Heb 10:24-25, if not close to each other or talking much each week?
I neglected to comment more on this in the previous email, but I’m really wondering if a lack of closeness is one of the reasons evangelism often seems not very fruitful. In the following passage, Jesus says that our love for each other is what will help people know we are His disciples. Are they clearly seeing that in us, in our everyday lives?
Necessary for evangelism. -Jn 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Love brethren as Jesus loves us, to help all know that we are disciples of Christ. How will people see this love for each other?
Closeness is Part of Holiness
- 1 Thess 3:12-13 “and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you,  so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.”
Increase and abound in love for one another and all to establish our hearts blameless in holiness. Loving each other is part of being holy!
-1 Pet 1:22-23 “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,  since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;”
Why are we purified?! Here it says for a sincere brotherly love by loving one another earnestly from a pure heart!!
Implied in these passages is a priority on relationships to each other as Christians. Is closeness with other Christians top priority to us, what we make sure we have time for? If we don’t have time for other Christians much, why don’t we? What needs to be cut out so that this very important matter can happen? If there is a conflict between activities to promote closeness with Christians and other activities, what gets bumped off?
If I had not experienced it first hand, I would have doubted it could be done, but we stayed with and visited a group of Christians that got together, either part or all the group 5-10 times a week!! And 3 of the families had 4-6 young children who they homeschooled, and they still made it a priority. They showed me it is possible to live out these Scriptures with very frequent interactions! What about us?! What can we do to make sure our lives aren’t too busy to make this a very high priority?
I can cut back on gardening, time intensive cooking, focusing overmuch on fun for me and our children, and keeping our schoolwork as simple as possible. We CAN make time for this!!
I think that hospitality is key. It will in general be the avenue to build closer relationships, even though other things can work, too. I think once we have a strong commitment to making closeness a priority, then the opportunities and ways are endless. But, if our heart isn't there, and we aren't willing to sacrifice to make it happen, it won't matter how easy or hard it is.
Would we like our churches to grow in maturity? Here’s part of it!
Growth in the church in these passages comes from closeness, working together closely, no matter how much we are different.
Eph. 4:1-6 one in Christ, be diligent to achieve unity, be one. Context is that Jews and Gentiles are one in Christ.
Vs.9-16 Each member doing its part, working together to cause growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
Col. 2:19 “and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments grows with the increase that is from God.”
I feel closeness is so vital for all the reasons we’ve looked at, and is all through the culture we see in the first century church in the New Testament. How important is it to us?
I'm praying that we will be who God wants us to be, to love each other in a deep, sacrificial way, and that we will truly spur each other on to go to heaven together! A friend said recently, aching for deeper fellowship, "Why would we just come to sit in pews together?!" If sitting in pews together is the majority of a church body's time together, with no committed, practical interest in knowing each other's personal struggles and sin to help each other grow, are we really that committed to each others' souls?
by Tanner Swanson
Tanner Swanson teaches third and fourth grade and writes regularly at her website. She and her husband, T.J., live in Denver, Colorado.
Nine-year-olds tell it straight. A boy in my morning class once asked me, “Miss, why do you look like you just woke up?” Another day he walked in sighing and clutching his chest. “I’m just so glad you aren’t wearing a wig again today!” The wig? My new bangs, hidden behind a headband.
Unlike adults, most kids don’t have a category for off-limit topics regarding appearance. While most adults would cry conversational foul play, bad haircuts, weight gain, and receding hairlines are all fair game for fourth graders. Why do kids feel free to describe beauty in both its presence and its absence?
At least in part, kids talk about appearance because, in their eyes, it’s just that. When students tell me how I look, that’s exactly what they’re doing — telling me how I look. They make no claims about who I am. If my ponytail looks “super weird today,” they say so — because my hairstyle does not undermine my identity as their beloved teacher.
Too often, however, we invest physical beauty with far more significance. We treat beauty as a means to self-worth: how we look is who we are. But if we would only gaze upon God’s word with the eyes of a child, we might unlatch beauty from its worldly contortions and fasten it instead to the God who is Beauty himself.
Beauty by the WorldLeft to our own devices, we define beauty a lot like the Evil Queen. We stand enraptured before the mirror, waiting for it to tell us how our appearance measures up to others across the land. In sin-twisted kingdoms, to be beautiful is to be attractive to as many human eyes as possible.
“We age, and lose it. Generations pass, and alter it. Staying beautiful is flat-out exhausting (and expensive).”
But beneath those eyes lie hearts whose visual appetite is insatiable. They flit from post to post, screen to screen, trend to trend — idol to idol — waiting to be satisfied. Nothing will do. That’s why an attractive-and-therefore-beautiful appearance, both as a personal possession and cultural definition, expires. We age, and lose it. Generations pass, and alter it. Staying beautiful is flat-out exhausting (and expensive).
While describing my teenage years to a group of girls, I mentioned how “thin and lanky” I was. They looked at me in horror. Cutting me off, one student exclaimed, “Miss, you are not thin! You’re perfect.” The other girls agreed. “Yeah, miss! Don’t say that. You are notthin. You’re beautiful.” Their words struck me silent. The teenage me had lived in a world where beauty required thinness; in their world, beauty required notthinness. I heard in their words not a compliment, but a truth claim: worldly beauty is fickle.
God warned us. Thousands of years ago, he said, “Beauty is vain” (Proverbs 31:30) — or according to some translations, “fleeting” (NIV). The adjective’s literal meaning packs the greatest punch, as the Hebrew word heḇel denotes “breath.” From the perspective of an eternal God, beauty vanishes with the rise and fall of a chest. If we put our hope in beauty, it will betray us — and quickly.
Does that mean God wants Christian women to toss out the mascara and throw in the washcloth? No makeup, no dyed hair, no new clothes, no gym membership — nothing? Shall we consign ourselves to a life of bedhead, wigs, and super weird ponytails? These aren’t bad questions, but they are the wrong ones. Instead we should ask, How does God’s definition of beauty change our pursuit of beauty?
Beauty from GodIn God’s economy, beauty does not fret over itself, or talk about itself, or make purchases for itself, or dawdle over pictures of itself. For God-defined beauty cannot be seen in a mirror. Rather, it pulses: “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Beauty flows from a heart that beats with moral goodness — love for, delight in, and submission to God (Acts 13:22).
Unlike our pursuit of physical beauty, we cannot fret, talk, purchase, or edit our way to heart-level beauty. The Beauty — with a capital B — for which we ought to exert the most energy, the Beauty on which we ought to spend the most time and resources, is one we cannot powder onto our faces. It is a Person we must pursue.
This Person is Jesus, the only man whose heart sought God perfectly for a lifetime. In him we find, and from him we receive, true Beauty. And it is not the beauty of appearance:
He had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:2–3)
Rather, it is the Beauty that loves and sacrifices itself for others, in which God delights:
He was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
This is the Beauty that does not perish upon makeup removal or spoil from one trend to the next. It is the Beauty that endures with laughter the aging process and the innocent comments of children (Proverbs 31:25). For regardless of appearance, its identity is secure: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17).
Beauty as Possession and PursuitDear women: If we call the beloved Son “Savior” and “Lord” (Romans 10:9), we possess this Beauty forevermore. For in God’s sight we have been clothed for all time with Christ’s sacrificial love (Galatians 2:20). There is no need to fuss over becoming and staying beautiful on this earth. Christ is eternal Beauty Himself — and our lives are hidden in him (Colossians 3:3).
We still labor for beauty — but not now for the beauty of appearance. If we possess Beauty in Christ, we will pursue the Beauty of Christ. We will strive, as those who are free from the world’s fickle fashions, to emulate an everlasting Beauty — to live as if God’s glory is real, precious, and worth pursuing, now and always.
Becoming more like-hearted to God’s beloved Son will never go out of vogue. We can exhaust ourselves in the pursuit of Christ’s Beauty, sure that “we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). When the day ends, we will not crawl into bed with less money and more products. We will drift off radiating God’s Beauty in Christ, satisfied.
Beauty as a MeansAs Beauty becomes ours ever more in Christ, beauty — with a lowercase b — will take its rightful place as a God-given, God-exalting gift. God cares about visual beauty because, well, he makes and sustains its every expression. He made us in his image, to image him. For our part, we humbly, happily use what he has made to exalt him who made it (Colossians 1:16).
“If we don’t watch ourselves, we will end up only watching ourselves.”
As with any morally neutral hobby, we seek to use earthly beauty to illumine heavenly realities. As we dab at our faces in the morning hours, we can wonder at the way God paints the sky (Psalm 19:1). We can adopt new styles with hearts enthralled by the God who has provided us with an imperishable garment — the righteousness of Christ (Isaiah 61:10). We can enjoy beauty without self-obsession when we seek to enjoy its Fount.
I’m not saying we have to pair Scripture and meditation to all our beautifying. Many activities whirl past us unexamined. But we all can agree that beauty — like many other endeavors, such as athletics or a career — has great capacity to be self-centered. If we don’t watch ourselves, we will end up only watching ourselves.
As my students discover lip gloss and T-shirt dresses, I pray they learn to use beauty as a means to enjoy and exalt God rather than self. I hope they know the beauty with which God already has created them and the Beauty to which he beckons them. Even so, they cannot learn what Christian women neither understand for themselves nor model for others. Let’s see beauty for what it is, as we lay hold of Beauty for who he is.
By Dianne Baker Blakley - Northside A Church of Christ, Conway Arkansas
When I was a child we would sing the following song in Bible class, it was sung regularly doing the Civil Rights Marches, and at school in music class. It appeared to be a song favorite of everyone by looking at the joy and smiles on people faces.
1. This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine,
let it shine, let it shine, oh let it shine.
2. Ev’rywhere I go,
I’m gonna let it shine.
Ev’rywhere I go,
I’m gonna let it shine.
Ev’rywhere I go,
I’m gonna let it shine,
let it shine, let it shine, oh let it shine.
3. Jesus gave it to me,
I’m gonna let it shine.
Jesus gave it to me,
I’m gonna let it shine.
Jesus gave it to me
I’m gonna let it shine,
let it shine, let it shine, oh let it shine.
In the Bible light has always been a symbol of holiness, goodness, knowledge, wisdom, grace, hope, and God’s Revelation. The word light appears over 200 plus times in the Bible. Now just think how important it is for us to be a light in this world. To encourage each other and guide others to God. It is a very important task for us to be that light for God. A few of the following encouraging verses are some of my favorites I am sure each of you have a few favorites also.
John 8:12. Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
James 1:17. Every good gift and every perfect is from above coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.
Matthew 5:15 “Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.
Matthew 5:16 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
In closing, my prayer is that this will edify my sisters Christ. And if you are not a member of the body of Christ, my prayer is that your heart and mind will be open to seek what is needed for your Salvation, for the door is always open.
If you live in the Philadelphia area, I encourage you to contact the Mt. Airy Church of Christ to study and learn about God.
If you live in the Conway, Arkansas area, I encourage you to contact Northside A Church of Christ to study and learn about God.
And if you need any information for a church location in any state, let us know. We can help you locate a Church of Christ.