HOW MANY TIMES? — BOB PRICHARD

Researchers have settled that pressing question we have all been asking: “How many licks does it take to get to the middle of a Tootsie Pop (or Tootsie Roll Pop)?” Doctoral students at NYU determined it takes about 2,500 licks, as revealed in an article in the Journal of Fluid Dynamics, “Shape dynamics and scaling laws for a body dissolving in fluid flow” (World, March 7, 2015, p. 23). I don’t know how they did their research, but it was probably more fun for the lickers than for the lick counters!

I suspect everyone was counting when Naaman went down into the Jordan. His story is found in 2 Kings 5. Naaman was a great man, captain of the host of the king of Syria, a mighty man of valor, “but he was a leper” (2 Kings 5:1). Learning that the prophet in Samaria could recover him of his leprosy, he got the king’s approval and took ten talents of silver and six thousand pieces of gold to buy his healing from the king of Israel. The king could do nothing, but Elisha had a simple, though seemingly ridiculous command: “Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean” (10). 

 Seven is a number of perfection in scripture. Genesis tells us of a seven day creation. There are seven signs in the gospel of John, seven letters to churches in Revelation 2-3, seven trumpets, seven seals, seven beatitudes, etc. in Revelation. Israel marched around Jericho for six days, and then seven times on the seventh day. 

The issue for Naaman, though was not the number seven as such, but the necessity of doing exactly what he was told. Dipping seven times in the Abana or Pharpar of Damascus (12) would have better suited him, but it would not have been obedience to the command.

Naaman was angry at receiving such a ridiculous command, expecting Elisha to put on a big show of power, but his servants reasoned with him that he would have done some great thing if asked. “How much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?” (13). Did it really make any difference how many times he washed in Jordan? Would it have been enough to wash five or six times? Of course not. “Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (14). The Lord said,  “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). There is no other choice.

Peter commanded the multitude on the day of Pentecost, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). How many were included in “every one of you”? We don’t know, but “they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). There must have been many who did not “gladly receive the word,” and did not obey. If Naaman had been there, he would have obeyed. How about you?

“THE 100” — BOB PRICHARD

The Birmingham News (July 3, 2016) released a list, “The 100,” their rating of the 100 greatest football players of all time with Alabama roots. They range from number 1 Don Hutson, Alabama end from the 1930’s, who also played for the Green Bay Packers in the NFL, to number 100, David Palmer, Alabama wide receiver. Familiar names along the way included Cam Newton, Auburn quarterback, #5; Mark Ingram, Alabama running back, #48; and Ken Stabler, Alabama quarterback, #10. 

Rather than rely entirely on opinion, the list was based largely on honors received such as membership in the college and NFL halls of fame, NFL MVP, Heisman trophy, etc. No doubt other factors not revealed were included. I found it interesting that the other end for Alabama when Don Hutson was playing was a fellow Arkansas native, Paul W. “Bear” Bryant. Bryant did not make the list of “The 100.”

Hebrews 11 contains a similar list, given in chronological order, beginning with Abel, who by faith “offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and by it he being dead yet speaketh” (Hebrews 11:4). The list, sometimes called “Faith’s Hall of Fame,” continues with Enoch who “had this testimony, that he pleased God” (11:5). Other on the list include Noah, Abraham, Sara, Moses, Rahab, and many others, some unnamed. 

Verse 13 is a summary statement for all of those who made the list: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”

We are in a better position than these Old Testament saints, because they “received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us” (11:39-40). We have the full revelation of God’s will, and knowledge that Jesus, “the author and finisher of our faith” has endured the cross for us and “is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). 

It is not necessary for our name to be on the list of “The 100,” but it must be in the book of life (Revelation 3:5). Paul looked forward to receiving a crown of righteousness from the Lord, the righteous judge, “and not to me only, but unto all them that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).

“YES, MA’AM!” — BOB PRICHARD

Many have noted the general coarsening of our society in recent days. The use of manners, it would seem, is a thing of the past. Too many parents are failing to properly train their children. I try to make it a point to compliment young people when they use good manners, holding a door for others, speaking respectfully, etc. Not everyone thinks that way, however. Tamarion Wilson, a fifth grade student at East Carolina Preparatory School in Tarboro, NC was punished by having to write “ma’am” 200 times after replying “Yes, Ma’am” to his female teacher, who had ordered her students not to call her “sir” or “ma’am.” The student was not intending to disobey the teacher, but he had been so well-trained by his parents that he was accidentally polite. His parents have since moved him to another class (World, September 29, 2018, 13).

Among the instructions Moses gave to Israel was the command, “Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head [gray haired], and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:32). Solomon likewise says, “The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness” (Proverbs 16:31). “If” has been added here by the translators, suggesting their understanding that not all aged men are found in the way of righteousness. Courtesy demands respect and concern for the aged, whether they by their lives have “earned it” or not. 

The problem for us today is that how we act is too often predicated on how others act. If they are nice and polite, we are nice and polite. But if they are like so many in our society who are neither nice nor polite, we act as if that gives us permission to be neither nice nor polite.

The way of the follower of Jesus is not that way, however. “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil” (Luke 16:31-35).

I hope that young Tamarion Wilson did not learn the wrong lesson from his encounter with his teacher. Even despite her, there is still a need for “Yes Ma’am” and “Yes Sir” in our society.

70 RESOLUTIONS — BOB PRICHARD

Many consider Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) the greatest American theologian and philosopher of the eighteenth century. He graduated from Yale University as valedictorian at 17, and became the president of Princeton University at 54, only to die shortly thereafter from a tainted smallpox vaccination. Best known for his 1741 sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” he was effective as an evangelist. His books include A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God, The Nature of True Virtue, Original Sin and others.

At the age of 19, he wrote out 70 resolutions that were to govern his life and ministry. Some include:

“Resolved, to do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general.

Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.

Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but improve it the most profitable way I can.

Resolved, Never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.

Resolved, Never to do any thing, which if I should see in another, I should count a just occasion to despise him for, or to think any way the more meanly of him.

Resolved, to study the scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.

Resolved, After afflictions, to inquire, what I am better for them, what good I have got by them, and what I might have got by them.”

If you make resolutions, you might want to give some consideration to Edwards’ resolutions. What we do with our lives is in our own hands. “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15).

WHY WE MUST BE BURIED WITH CHRIST IN BAPTISM — BOB PRICHARD

The heart of the gospel is the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. Paul began the great resurrection chapter, “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

It was their understanding that they had crucified the Son of God that made men at Pentecost cry out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” Peter’s response was “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:36-38).

The baptism that Peter preached that day was the baptism preached in the early church. Paul reminded the Christians of Rome that he and they had both been baptized in the same way, for the same reasons. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4).

These verses speak of our baptism or burial into Christ, our clothing of ourselves in Him. “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27).

I.  BECAUSE WE BELIEVE THE GOSPEL.

Our baptism pictures what we know to be true of Christ. As Jesus introduced the Lord’s Supper, He took bread and the cup and told them that his body and blood were given for us (Luke 22:19-20). We understand that Jesus suffered for us, “that he might sanctify the people with his own blood” (Hebrews 13:12).

We rejoice with the angels that said, “He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again” (Luke 24:6 -7). Every baptism proclaims the truth of the gospel.

II. BECAUSE HE IS OUR SUBSTITUTE.

He became one with us to be our substitute, because we cannot atone for our own sins. He “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:7-8).

God “hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). In baptism we acknowledge that we cannot atone for our own sins. Unless we accept His sacrifice, we must bear our own sins. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

III. BECAUSE WE ARE DEAD IN SIN.

Baptism is a burial, and the man who is buried is dead. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). What is dead needs to be buried (John 11:39).

As the head of the church, He gave Himself for the church, for us. “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18). Buried with Him, we put the old man of sin to death.

IV. BECAUSE WE RISE TO WALK IN NEWNESS OF LIFE.

We have not suffered the true punishment of our sins. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). But Jesus Christ has suffered that punishment, and in our baptism we acknowledge and identify with Him in His suffering and death.

His death is our death to the old way of things. We know that God hates sin, because He was willing to see His only begotten son die for sins. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).

We are buried so that we may be alive in Him. “Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19). That means that our perspective changes. “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:2-3).

Every Christian should have the attitude of Paul: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

DOES GOD APPROVE OF DENOMINATIONALISM? — BOB PRICHARD

Anyone who observes our religious world notices that it is filled with multiplied denominations. Many see this as a good thing—that anyone can find a denomination that teaches what he wants it to teach, thus the slogan, “Go to the church of your choice.”

This was the attitude expressed by Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon in a sermon: “I bless God that there are so many denominations. If there were not men who differed a little in their creeds, we should never get as much gospel as we do. … God has sent different men to defend different kinds of truth.” Spurgeon’s Sermons, Vol. 2, 224. We might ask Mr. Spurgeon how there can be different kinds of truth. But on another occasion Mr. Spurgeon recognized the problem of denominations: “”Denominations! A plague upon denominationalism! There should be but one denomination: We should be denominated by the name of Christ, as a wife is named by her husband’s name. As long as the Church of Christ has to say, “My right arm is Episcopalian, and my left arm is Wesleyan, and my right foot is Baptist, and my left foot is Presbyterian or Congregational,” she is not ready for marriage. She will be ready when she has washed out these stains, when all her members have “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”—Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Messages of Hope and Faith, p. 308.

The question is not whether Spurgeon approves of denominations, but whether God approves. Did God plan for man to “Go to the church of man’s choice”? Does God approve of our divided religious world?

Are religious divisions inevitable? Are all of the denominations in agreement with the fundamentals of the faith? Is it arrogant for anyone to claim that they understand the Bible and that others are in error? Can we know the truth?

Consider these facts about denominationalism.

1. Denominationalism is prompted by a spirit of separation.

Denomination is defined as “the act of naming, a name, an appellation.” The only way the word church is used in the New Testament is in the local sense—one congregation, or in the aggregate—the whole church. Any denomination is always more than the local congregation and less than the whole church, so it is based on separation. This is despite the Lord’s prayer that all of His followers would be united. In the very shadow of the cross, Christ prayed for unity. “Neither pray I for these alone [the apostles], but for them also which shall believe on me through their word [all who claim to be Christians today]; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:20-21). The separation of denominationalism is a great detriment to the world believing the message of Christ.

2. Denominationalism sanctions the way of man’s choice (instead of God’s choice).

Jeremiah lamented, “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). Wayward man thinks he is making the right choice, but is too often mistaken. “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 16:25). Remember, if it is up to man, he may pick the wrong church. The Lord will add a man to the right church, though. “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:42b).

When the kingdom of Solomon divided into the two competing kingdoms of Israel and Judah, Jeroboam, who ruled the northern kingdom of Israel, realized that he might lose the people if they returned to Jerusalem to the temple, so he offered alternative worship. “Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold, and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in Beth-el, and the other put he in Dan. And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan.” (1 Kings 12:28-30). This was equivalent of “Attend the church of your choice.”

3. Denominationalism is built on sincerity instead of truth.

Sincerity is important, but is it enough? “And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day” (Acts 23:1). Paul was sincere, but sincerely wrong when he persecuted the church. “Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:13). Most of the people whose conversion we read of in the book of Acts, such as Lydia (Acts 16), and the Ethiopian treasurer (Acts 8), were very sincere in their beliefs. Why did they have to change? Would a sincere atheist need to change?

4. Denominationalism ignores God’s standard for unity.

Notice again the Lord’s prayer for unity. “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me” (John 17:20-23).

Paul begged the Christians at Corinth to be united. “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10).

Can you imagine Peter and Paul being members of different churches? Some say, “We are all teaching from the same Bible, going to the same place.” But how can one denomination say baptism is immersion, another say that it is sprinkling, and another say that it is pouring? “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3).

5. Denominationalism destroys faith in the church.

Some say it doesn’t matter which church, if any, you are a member of. “One church is as good as another,” they say. But can any man build a church as good as the church Jesus built? The church Christ built came at great cost. Paul urged the Elders of the church at Ephesus, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).

That church was established in Jerusalem on the first Pentecost after Christ was raised from the dead. Acts 2 tells the full story of how Peter and the other apostles preached the first gospel sermon to the multitudes gathered there, in fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy of the last days (Acts 2:14-21. Peter commanded, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47b).

You have the choice of being just a Christian. The appeal of the churches of Christ is to be a Christian, a member of the church of the New Testament, not a member of any denomination. If you obey the gospel just like they did in the book of Acts, worship like they did, and follow God’s commands as they did, you can be a member of the same church. The Lord does not want His followers to be divided among the denominations. He just wants us to be Christians, and Christians only. Why would you want to wear any other name religiously but that of Christian?

“OH MY GOD!” — JOSH ALLEN

It is impossible to avoid hearing it. Watch TV or listen to the radio long enough, and someone will say it. From “Oh My God!” to “Oh God!” to simply “God!” These are not holy supplications but expressions of shock, excitement, frustration, and even anger. It is a reactionary statement said without thought and is so common in our culture that it has been abbreviated for texting purposes, “OMG.” It’s everywhere, but should it be in the vocabulary of Christians? 

Would you be surprised to know that this statement is biblical? It was often on the lips of God’s faithful. Three times Nehemiah cried out, “Remember me, O my God” (Nehemiah 13:14, 22, 31), and once, on behalf of his people, he said, “Remember them, O my God” (Nehemiah 13:29). OMG is also found frequently in the Book of Psalms. Twelve times the Psalmists sing, “O my God” (Psalm 3:7, 22:2, 25:2, 38:21, 40:8,17, 42:6, 59:1, 71:4,12,22; 83:13). Even Jesus on the cross cried out, “‘My God, My God, Why have You forsaken Me?'” (Matthew 27:46). Such verses indicate that “OMG” was never used the way it is today. In the Bible, it was never an expression of surprise or slang. It is just the opposite! Those in Scripture utter these words with the utmost respect and reverence. In the Bible, it is an expression of prayer, pleading, and a personal relationship with God.

God instructed Israel, “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Exodus 20:7). In this commandment, God did not prohibit the use of His name but rather the misuse of it. He is holy and desires His people to hold Him in reverence. He still does! So one must ask, do expressions (such as, “Oh My God!” or “Jesus Christ!”) show respect? Or do they reveal a heart that fails to make such a distinction? 

Jesus taught that words matter, for they reveal the heart. “‘A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give an account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.'” (Matthew 12:35-36).

The sound advice of James 1:9 is much needed today. “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” In other words, “Think before you speak.” Neither surprise nor anger is an adequate excuse for taking God’s name in vain. So, the next time you use the Lord’s name, let it be in prayer or praise.

“O my God, I trust in You; Let me not be ashamed” (Psalm 25:2)

ONE SMALL LIFE — BOB PRICHARD

Andrew Allen was just seven years old when he passed from this life on October 22, 2022, after a brief fatal illness. The shock of his death continues to reverberate through his family, church and community in Pikeville, KY. 

Andrew and his family (parents Josh and April, and sisters Ella and Chloe) visited us this past Spring. We had a great time together visiting and seeing some of the sights, including the Vulcan statue that overlooks Birmingham. The fifty-six foot tall statue, constructed in 1903, depicts Vulcan, Roman god of fire and the forge. Andrew was amused, as only a seven year old boy can be, that Vulcan wears an apron, but no pants. Andrew chuckled the whole visit over Vulcan’s “backside.”

We ended the day with Josh leading a family Bible study, including hymns, scripture reading and prayer. Andrew surprised us that evening by quoting the twenty-third psalm flawlessly. Even at his young age, he was taking Bible study seriously.

Everyone who knew Andrew knew he had a sweet and kind spirit about him. When his elementary school friends drew pictures of him to take to April and Josh, the main thing they remembered was his smile, a boy who was a friend to everyone. Sometimes he had a big toothy grin, but most of the time it was a little straight smile that was his trademark since his birth. 

At his funeral, there was a beautiful display with the words, “A small life walked by leaving footprints on our hearts.” The hundreds of people who came to comfort the family and join in remembering Andrew demonstrated very clearly that his “small life” had an outsized impact on everyone he met. And if we had not been forced to step out of our routine by the tragic circumstances, we likely would not have realized this. 

Jesus emphasized that even the smallest things done in his name are noticed by the Master, and more importantly, they matter. “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me” (Matthew 25:35–36). “And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42). No matter how small we may be, we can make an impact.

As we sought comfort in Andrew’s death, our hearts immediately went to David’s grief at the death of his child, when he said, “now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me” (2 Samuel 12:23). This was a common response, because it really does matter, and losses such as this bring home the fact that we must be prepared to live this life in such a way that we will have a grand reunion.

Having Andrew’s “footprints on our hearts” reminds us that everyone matters, even if they are not our loved one. Our Father notices everyone. “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:6–7). There are many among us that are not important in the eyes of the world, but they are important to our Father, and should be to us. “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2).

Grieving for Andrew has been hard. He was much loved. What do people who do not know the Lord do? How do they begin to cope? Paul encourages as he writes, “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Corinthians 1:3–4). He comforts us, and we comfort one another.

One small life, yet he blessed so many, often just with a smile. Will we be inspired to live better by this one small life?

“CHURCHILL DISSES AMERICA” — BOB PRICHARD

Few individuals contributed more to the allied victory over Hitler in World War II than Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of Great Britain. He recognized the Nazi threat, and then the Soviet threat, when few others did. Many of his decisions were questioned, but ultimately he was vindicated in most of them. Andrew Roberts saw a different side of Churchill by examining the diaries of King George VI. He found that while Churchill was often publicly very supportive of Franklin Roosevelt and the Americans, he was very critical privately. He promoted Anglo-American unity because it served Britain’s interest, and allowed Britain to survive the war.

Roberts suggests two characteristics shown throughout Churchill’s political career: “The first was his capacity ruthlessly to sacrifice the trivial and the short-term for the greater prize. The second was his powerful sense of personal and national destiny” (Andrew Roberts, “Churchill Disses America,” Smithsonian, November 2018, 10-16).

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). Wasn’t Jesus telling us that sacrificing the trivial and the short-term for the greater prize is what we should be all about as the servants of Christ. Paul certainly understood this. After he recounted all of the things that he could claim, things the world prizes, he turned his back on them.

Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ (Philippians 3:8-9).

He then went on to speak of the choice he had made:

Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14).

Not only must we seek the greater prize, we also should recognize we “are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9). First century Christians were accused of turning the world upside down (Acts 17:6). It is our task to continue doing this. That is our “destiny” as a royal priesthood serving our Master.

“SO FIGHT I” — BOB PRICHARD

Irish boxer Steven Donnelly defeated Mongolian boxer Tuvshinbat Byamba, in a split decision at the 2016 Rio Olympics, but lost at the same time. Lacking confidence before the match, Donnelly made a bet with a bookmaker that he would lose. So he won the match but lost his bet. Punishment from the International Olympic Committee was only a reprimand, because he was unaware of Olympic rules against sports betting and had “no intent to manipulate any event” (WORLD, October 29, 2016, p. 13).

Seems pretty dumb to bet against yourself, unless you are planning to lose. Why would anyone work at cross purposes to himself, betting against himself, and then trying to win the fight?

But before dismissing Steven Donnelly too quickly, we might ask ourselves why we also work at cross purposes to ourselves. The most important thing we could hope for our families is that every member would go to heaven. Yet Christians will neglect worship, roast the elders and preacher, and demonstrate that Christ and His church are surely not the most important thing in their lives, and then be surprised when their children have less faith than they have.

The lure of sin is so powerful that we must be constantly on guard to make sure that our lives are consistent with God’s will, and that we do not lose our priorities. Even Paul had to fight against the evil he found within.  

For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:  But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. (Romans 7:19-23). 

It was enough to make him want to give up: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Like Paul, we can rejoice:  “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin” (Romans 7:24-25). With every sin, every missed opportunity to serve God, I am betting against myself. Paul says, “I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Corinthians 9:27).

COSTLY! — BOB PRICHARD

Travel, especially air travel gets very expensive very fast. Your airplane ticket pays for you, your luggage, and the plane itself to be flown through the air. Fortunately, today’s jets can carry the same size load the same distance as forty years ago on half the fuel, due to lighter hulls, more fuel-efficient engines, and improved aerodynamics. But even little things still matter. National Geographic, in 2015, said that a Boeing 737-800 carrying just one extra fifty pound suitcase on every flight would cost $3,627 more to operate over the course of a year. One extra fifteen pound carry-on would cost $980 for the year. Even one extra magazine, weighing just .7 pound would add $46 a year to the cost of operating the plane. And those are 2015 figures! No wonder it is so expensive to fly! (“Explore: Science,” National Geographic, April 2015).

Just living is costly today. Inflation, greater demand for products, and technological innovations contribute to increasing costs. Most things are more costly, as prices have inflated over the years. In my first job, I had to use a crammed-full shopping cart to carry twenty dollars worth of groceries. Today, I can carry twenty dollars worth of groceries in one hand, and the difference is not that I have gotten stronger!

The sacrificial system under the Mosaic law was costly. The animal to be sacrificed was not just any animal, but one that was valuable, perfect, without blemish. In the KJV Old Testament, the phrase “without blemish” is used thirty-eight times in relation to the sacrifice. The high cost helped God’s people to understand the enormity of sin.

Peter, in calling for us to be holy, as the Father is holy, tells us “ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19). The precious blood of Christ was the most costly gift ever given to man, so much more costly than gold or silver. 

For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him (Romans 5:6-9).

The cost of living is high, but the cost of dying without benefit of the blood of Christ is much worse!

“THIS LITTLE LIGHT OF MINE” — JOSH ALLEN

“Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matthew 19:13-14)

Before this, Jesus “…called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.'” (Matthew 18:2-5). 

I recently quoted these verses at my son’s funeral, and they have been in my heart ever since. They remind me how bright a little light can shine.

Like the disciples, our perception of greatness often needs to be checked. The context of these passages reveals that the disciples were privately jockeying for position and debating who would be the greatest among them. When Jesus challenged them, they became silent because they were ashamed (Mark 9:33-34).

Jesus also knows our secret discussions. He knows that we often believe that we must impress others with our vast knowledge or great skill or employ grand gestures and mighty works, like those mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. Yet Paul reminded the Corinthian church that such great works were nothing compared to true love. His description of love begins with these words, “love is patient, love is kind…”. But that sounds too simple, naive, and little. Right? Wrong! We forget that God does His best work through the little things. A life consistently demonstrating the “little things” like kindness and patience can make a big difference.

To help His disciples understand this, He showed them a child. He has also helped me understand this through a child, through the example of my son. Although he was just a 7-year-old boy, his impact on others has been evident to me in the last couple of weeks.

His impact was evident in the hundreds of people who came to pay their respects at the visitation. The line at the calling hours extended into the parking lot. Around 800 people waited patiently for hours in that line. 

His impact was evident in the packed auditorium at the funeral. People filled every pew, and chairs had to be set up for everyone to have a seat. The local schools closed so students and teachers could attend. Even more surprising is that the funeral service now has 4,676 views online! 

His impact was evident among those who chose to “Wear Blue for Andrew,” which included many nearby schools. It was also apparent on Fist-Bump Friday at Pikeville Elementary when the UPike Football team showed up in custom T-shirts with his name on them. They also honored him on game day with stickers on their helmets and named him an honorary Captain. 

His impact was evident through the countless posts online where people shared their special memories. Parents hope and pray that their children listen to the lessons they are trying to teach them. While my heart remains broken, it also soars as I hear story after story about my son’s kindness to others and willingness to help those around him. 

One day in the lunchroom at school, Andrew quietly and discretely got the principal’s attention. When he walked over, Andrew asked, in a whisper, if he could give his lunch to a little boy at another table who wasn’t eating. He was worried that the boy didn’t have food for lunch. It turned out that the little boy had gotten in trouble before lunch and was pouting about it, but the story illustrates the kind and thoughtful person Andrew was. 

His classmates shared how Andrew would help them whenever they needed help with their schoolwork and how he was a friend to everyone. Many of the children told their teachers that Andrew was their best friend. One teacher said she had never heard so many kids say that about one child. A local TV station ran a story about Andrew and his school with the headline, “Better because of Andrew.” Superintendent David Trimble said, “He made a difference in this world. I think about our family here–our family was better because of Andrew… I think Andrew was really good at the things that we sometimes call ‘little’ that are just so giant.”. Principal Glenda Adkins added, ”He was just such a great kid and brought a lot of light to our hallways and to our classrooms.” 

I never imagined one little life could impact so many. A bulletin board in the hallway of our church building now reads, “If you see someone without a smile, give them yours.” As I read that, I realized that is what Andrew did. So many people have mentioned his smile. In a letter to the district, Mr. Trimble said, “This young man had a smile that truly brightened our classrooms, hallways, cafeteria, school buses, and playground, and he had as kind of a heart that you will find anywhere.” It seems like such a small thing, but the world needs more smiles, kindness, and love. When you think about it, that’s not such a little thing, is it?

We chose the name Andrew for our son because the Apostle Andrew was known for bringing people to Jesus (see John 1:40-41, 6:8-9, 12:21). We envisioned that he would follow me into the ministry one day. Never for a moment did we imagine that the greatest sermon he would ever preach would be his short, beautiful life. His life, not his death, has touched thousands of hearts! And it reminds me that the so-called “little things” matter. 

“Better because of Andrew” is not just a cute slogan; I know it to be true. He made a difference and continues to make a difference. 

_____________________________________________________

Footnote:

DISAPPOINTMENT OR REST? — BOB PRICHARD

A popular old hymn stresses our longing for our heavenly rest, but also our commitment to keep working until Jesus comes. It begins, “O land of rest, for thee I sigh! When will the moment come, When I shall lay my armor by, And dwell in peace at home?” The refrain repeats “We’ll work till Jesus comes, We’ll work till Jesus comes, We’ll work till Jesus comes, And we’ll be gathered home.” The words, by Elizabeth K. Mills, who died at 24 or 25, were first published in 1837. The tune, attributed to William Miller, was added in 1859.

I have been unable to verify if this is the same William Miller who twice set a date for the return of the Lord, but if it is the same man, it is ironic. William Miller (1742-1849), was a Baptist preacher who through his study of the book of Daniel determined that the return of the Lord was very near, and he traveled throughout the United States preaching a message of the need to be prepared for the Lord’s return. As his followers, known as Millerites, pressed him for a date, he announced in January 1843, that the date would be March 21, 1844. When that date passed, he and his followers recalculated, and set the date for October 22, 1844.

Despite the words of the hymn, many of Miller’s followers did not “work till Jesus comes.” They left farms untended, debts unpaid and took it easy. When the second date failed, these people were very upset with Miller, and he died disillusioned and forgotten in 1849, still thinking the Lord would return in his lifetime. Some of his followers pressed on, organizing the Seventh Day Adventist church. In their history they refer to the Miller failure as the “Great Disappointment.”

The hymn is consistent with the warnings of the Lord. He likened the kingdom of heaven to ten virgins waiting for the bridegroom to come. Five were wise, but five were foolish, and “took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.” All were in the same situation waiting for the bridegroom, but the foolish were not ready to serve when the cry came, “Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.” They all arose, but the foolish were unprepared, and missed their chance. “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 25:1-13).

Disappointment awaits those who are not working until Jesus comes. “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them” (Revelation 14:13).

“REFINANCING THE PAST” — BOB PRICHARD

I enjoy the comics, not only because they allow me to have a chuckle in the midst of an evil and frightening world, but because they often suggest profound thoughts. A “Frank and Ernest” cartoon (9/8/2017) has Ernest speaking to Frank as a loan officer, telling him, “In order to invest in my future, I need to refinance my past.”

It is often prudent to refinance a loan, getting a better interest rate or a more affordable payment. There is usually a cost, but that cost is offset by future savings (if the borrower is acting wisely).

Your future is affected by your past, not only in terms of finances, but in terms of how your life has been invested. Whether you have used your time wisely, been diligent in pursuing an education, or lived above the norms of the world have a tremendous impact. Mistakes of the past, even long past, have a tendency to hurt us when we least expect it, like the “Marlboro Man” who quit many years ago but then faced cancer, or the crisis we face today because we did not plan for the “rainy day.”

When it comes to spiritual matters, even the best of us need to have our past refinanced so that we can have a future. From the time Adam and Eve chose to rebel against God, each of us has followed the same path. “As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). And that sin has a significant cost: “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). In fact, the cost was so high, that the only remedy for this great sin debt was “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19).

In the financial world, it is possible to dig such a serious hole of debt that no refinancing is possible. All that is left is to declare bankruptcy. That is where we find ourselves concerning our sins. We are bankrupt without Christ. Paul acknowledged his bankrupt state: “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” But Christ saved him, and gave him a future. “Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting” (1 Timothy 1:15-16). We have followed Paul’s pattern in sin, and we can follow his pattern in obeying the Lord to receive his gracious promise for our future!

JESUS PRAYED. DO YOU? — JOSH ALLEN

The apostles taught that Jesus is the Christian’s example in all things. To Paul, He is the pattern to imitate (1 Cor 11:1); to Peter, He is the Shepherd in whose footsteps Christians are to follow (1 Peter 2:21,25); to John, He is the Servant who led by example (John 13:13-17). Today, let us consider, He is our pattern in prayer.  

A survey of His life reveals Jesus was a prayerful person:

  • He prayed alone before His day began (Mark 1:35).
  • He prayed alone in the afternoon (Matthew 14:23; Luke 9:18, Lk 5:16).
  • He prayed with His disciples in the afternoon (Luke 9:28-29).
  • He prayed alone at night, all night (Luke 6:12).
  • He prayed in public (Matthew 11:25-27; John 11:41-42, 12:27-28).
  • He prayed before important decisions (Luke 6:12-13).
  • He prayed at pivotal moments in His life (e.g., after His baptism, Luke 3:21-22).
  • He prayed in moments of deep agony (Lk 22:42; Matthew 27:46).
  • He prayed before meals (Mk 8:6; Mt 26:26; Luke 24:30).
  • He prayed to teach others (Matthew 6:9-13).
  • He prayed for others (Lk 22:31-32).
  • He prayed for His disciples (John 17:6-19).
  • He prayed for His future disciples (John 17:20-26).
  • He prayed for children (Matthew 19:13-15).
  • He prayed for His enemies (Luke 23:34).
  • He prayed to heal (Mark 7:34-35).
  • He prayed with thanksgiving (John 11:41-42; Luke 10:21-22).
  • He prayed with loud cries and tears (Hebrews 5:7).
  • He prayed the same prayer multiple times (Matthew 26:39,42,44).
  • He prayed short prayers (John 12:27-28).
  • He prayed long prayers (John 17:1-26; Lk 6:12).
  • He prayed while standing (John 17:1).
  • He prayed while kneeling (Lk 22:41).
  • He prayed while prostrate on the ground with His face in the dirt (Matthew 26:39).
  • He prayed according to the Father’s will (Mt 26:36-44).
  • He prayed with His dying breath (Lk 23:46).
  • He prayed before He ascended back to Heaven (Luke 24:50-53).

The prayer life of Jesus illustrates the command to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Jesus was continually prayerful. He placed a priority on prayer in His life. Do we?

WRITING IN BOOKS — BOB PRICHARD

Bev Ellis, an Australian book store owner was understandably upset when a customer told her a strange man had been defacing many of the store’s Stephen King books by writing in them. She was surprised to catch up with the man in a nearby Woolworth’s and find out that it was Stephen King himself, who had autographed the books (World, September 18, 2007).

Having bought many used books over the years, I am always irritated to find that a previous owner has underlined or highlighted the book, but I am glad to find a book that has been autographed by the author. I realize that defacing the book by underlining lowers the value, but the autograph of the author increases the value.

It would be marvelous if “Original autographs” [the original manuscripts] of some of our Bible books could be found among the thousands of extant manuscripts, but apparently none have ever surfaced. Verification of an original autograph would be a sensation in the archaeological world, no doubt.

Paul apparently used a scribe to write down most of his epistles, although he indicates several times that he personally wrote down a part. “Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand” (Galatians 6:21). “The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write” (2 Thessalonians 3:17).

Moses told Israel, “the LORD delivered unto me two tables of stone written with the finger of God; and on them was written according to all the words, which the LORD spake with you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly” (Deuteronomy 9:10).

Every page of the Bible demonstrates the autograph of God. It is more than coincidence that the longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119, is devoted to praise for the written word of God. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).

“I HAD RATHER BE A DOORKEEPER” — BOB PRICHARD

As God prepared His people to enter the Promised Land, He assigned the tribe of Levi to be in charge of all things related to worship. That meant that the Levites provided all of the priests, as well as those who would care for the tabernacle/temple, play instruments in worship, and any other possible assignment relating to the worship of God.

Among the various families of the Levites, each family received a particular assignment. The family of Kohath was assigned to carry the tabernacle furnishings as they traveled, but even though they were Levites, they could not serve as priests. Korah, the head of the family, felt slighted, and led a rebellion against Moses and Aaron. “And Moses said unto Korah, Hear, I pray you, ye sons of Levi: Seemeth it but a small thing unto you, that the God of Israel hath separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself to do the service of the tabernacle of the LORD, and to stand before the congregation to minister unto them? And he hath brought thee near to him, and all thy brethren the sons of Levi with thee: and seek ye the priesthood also?” (Numbers 16:10). The wrath of God fell on Korah and the other rebels, and the earth opened up and swallowed them.

God was merciful to Korah’s family, however. “And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up together with Korah, when that company died, what time the fire devoured two hundred and fifty men: and they became a sign. Notwithstanding the children of Korah died not” (Numbers 26:10-11).

Several generations later, the family of Korah was still serving faithfully in the temple, not as priests, but as gatekeepers and singers. Perhaps this prompted them to write in Psalm 84:10, “For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.” In other words, they had more joy from one day in the service of the Lord, than for a thousand days in the service of evil. There is joy in simple service to God, in whatever humble capacity we find ourselves. Aren’t we grateful for the many who serve the cause of Christ in those unsung positions that we could never do without!

LICENSE PLATE THEOLOGY — BOB PRICHARD

When states first started letting people put messages on their license plates, it became a challenge to decipher the meaning of a tag. There was even a TV game show based on figuring out personalized tags. Often the messages are “cute,” like BOB4UA, meaning Bob is for the University of Alabama. Or ATCHR, suggesting perhaps the person is a teacher. I saw a tag the other day that was not hard to decipher, but it was hard to understand why someone would choose that message. The tag said SINNER. It made me wonder, what is the theology of the person who chose to proclaim this message on the vehicle?-

Was this person feeling guilty for being an employee of the IRS? Jesus compared the prayers of the Pharisee who prayed “with himself,” and “the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13). The Jews hated publicans, but it was not necessarily his work as a tax collector that made him a sinner.

Perhaps this person is on the run. Solomon advises, “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed. Evil pursueth sinners: but to the righteous good shall be repaid” (Proverbs 13:20-21).

Perhaps this person just wants to call attention to the common plight of mankind: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Fortunately, this verse is not the end of the story, however. The next two verses remind us, “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.” (Romans 3:24-25). 

An encounter with Jesus, obedience to Him, changes everything. When Jesus told Zacchaeus He was going to his house that day, “they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner” (Luke 19:7). The end result of the visit was repentance and restitution by Zacchaeus, and the declaration of Jesus,  “This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:-10). Yes, we have sinned, but I thank God that Jesus gave himself so that we do not have to bear the consequences of our sins. FORGVN!

BEAUTIFUL BOTTLES — BOB PRICHARD

Out to lunch at an upscale restaurant, I saw the most beautiful bar display I have ever seen. The clear glass shelves were lighted from below to showcase beautiful bottles of liquor in every hue of the rainbow. They sparkled in the light, and every eye that passed by was drawn to the stunning display. Beautiful, yes, but so dangerous!

Solomon warned, “Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.” The beautiful color is deceptive. He asks, “Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes?” The answer, of course, is “They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine” (Proverbs 23:31, 29-30).

The beautiful bottles conceal hidden danger. “At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.” The effect is to muddle the mind and cloud the judgment.

Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things. Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast. They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again (Proverbs 23:32-35).

Satan knows too well the power of persuasion, and how enticing sin can look. Who would think that just one drink, just one fling, just one “little” sin could lead to so much trouble? Yet hell will be filled with people who followed Satan’s enticing lead. 

Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death (James 1:13-15).

Don’t be dazzled by the beauty of sin.

THE BOYS IN THE BOAT — BOB PRICHARD

The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown (Penguin, 2013) is the inspiring story of the University of Washington eight man crew team that won the Olympic gold medal at Berlin in 1936. Crew is the ultimate team sport. With a coxswain calling or beating time, the boat only moves swiftly and smoothly if the eight rowers work in perfect unison. The rowers were all of of different sizes, strengths, and temperaments, but they learned to dip their oars in the water and pull the boat forward as one man, in perfect precision, and were able to bring home the gold medal.

This working in unison is what God plans for His church. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul compares the church, the body of Christ, to the human body, stressing each member of the body must do its part to build up the whole body. “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.” Just as every member of our physical bodies, from foot and eye to inner organs, is important, so is each member of the spiritual body, the church. “That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Corinthians 12:13-14, 25-27).

A unique challenge of six-man crew is that only the coxswain, guiding the rowers, can see the finish line. The rowers, the “boys in the boat” must trust him to guide and control them, never knowing for sure how close they are to the finish line. We understand that the “heavenly finish line” awaits us, but we cannot see it, and we never know exactly how close we are to reaching it. That is why, as we “run with patience the race set before us,” we look unto “Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2). He has prepared the way, and He will guide us to the finish line. And the ride is so much smoother when we listen to His counsel and row as one man.