God’s Tools

This past week, I have had several things to repair around the house. I have also been laboring to get a new hitch installed on my SUV so that I can attach a new product that I recently bought for our family vacation. For each job, I needed some tools. At one point I needed a hammer. At another point I needed a screwdriver. At one point I needed a drill. Each tool has a different application but they all work together to get the job done and they are all instruments to serve the one who is using them.

In the scriptures, the relationship of the Christian to the gospel is described in various ways. Paul writes that we are earthen vessels (2 Corinthians 4:7). He says that we are God’s instruments (Romans 6:13). He notes that we are God’s epistle (2 Corinthians 3:2). Christians are also described as the aroma of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:15). All of these things–earthen vessels, instruments, epistles, and aromas–all serve something else. The vessel serves that which it contains. The instrument serves the one who wields it. Epistles serve those who write them. And the aroma points back to that which created it. All of these things are conduits of something else and point back to something greater and better than self. As Christians, we must recognize that we are tools for the Master’s use as well.

Now we are not all the same tools. Just as there are different tools for different jobs, so also there are different Christians for different works. Not everyone can be a pulpit preacher. Not everyone is qualified to be an elder. Not everyone can serve as a song leader. However, the scriptures teach that everyone has something that they can do. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth regarding the members of the church,

For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body.

We are all dependent upon each other to get the work done that is before us. We have some great opportunities here at the Berryville church of Christ to get the Lord’s work done in the coming months. As mentioned in other areas of the bulletin, the elders have set before us some goals for our friends and family day as well as for our VBS. Now, let’s look at ourselves and say, “What can I do to help meet these goals.” No one individual among us can meet these goals by his or herself. We must work together to get this done. Someone mentioned that if each of us brings just one other person with us, we will make our goal. But let’s not stop at the goal. The goal is good to have to motivate us to work, but the goal is not a limiting factor. We can always invite more.

Tools are available for us when we need to use them, not just for one job, but for many. As God’s tools, let us recognize that God can use us for His glory. Let’s make it our personal goal to write down the names of at least ten people that we each individually know and invite them. Then, let’s make it our goal to do everything that we can to support the effort.

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J.D. Tant

I have just finished reading one of the most delightful books that I have ever read. It is entitled, J.D. Tant–Texas Preacher. I am sure that many of the brethren have read this book, and I would encourage more to read it. As a young gospel preacher, I found it particularly encouraging because in this biography we have an example of a man who confirmed in his life the very principles to which we have committed ourselves as gospel preachers. In this book, brother Tant stands as an everlasting example to preachers everywhere as to what a gospel preacher should be. Let us briefly look at how this man followed the Lord in his life. Then let us follow his example as he followed Christ.

J.D. Tant is an example of what a Gospel preacher should be in being honest. When J.D. Tant first started preaching, he was a Methodist preacher. One day, a “Campbellite” preacher came to town and Tant went to hear this man. He was convinced that Methodist doctrine was wrong and he became a Christian. He had been immersed with Methodist “baptism” and was told that if he was satisfied with his “baptism” then he would not have to be “baptized” again. A few years later, J.D. Tant came in contact with a man who taught that sectarian “baptism” was not New Testament baptism even if it was done in the form of immersion. J.D., being convinced that his “baptism” was valid, engaged this man in a debate. Tant “licked” his opponent. However, his opponent came back with new rebuttals. In the second debate, J.D. was forced to see the necessity of being immersed with the knowledge that immersion was for the remission of sins. Although the man with whom he debated did not baptize him, he sought out another gospel preacher and was scripturally baptized. Truly he is an example to the gospel preacher on being an honest man.

J.D. Tant is an example of what a Gospel preacher should be in preaching the gospel. He went everywhere he could to preach. When he first started preaching, he would simply go to people’s homes and preach to them right in their own houses. Soon, a church of Christ was established and he would go to another place to preach once more. In his day, they had what were called “protracted gospel meetings.” They would meet every day for seven hours a day for a period of three to four weeks. This is what they called a gospel meeting. (This embarrasses me when I think of the series of sermons we style “gospel meetings” today. It is no wonder that the church grew during that time, and it is no wonder that we are not growing today. The people wanted to hear gospel preaching and were willing to devote large amounts of time to hear and study the gospel message. Would to God that we get back to real gospel meetings instead of this Friday to Sunday nonsense!) Brother Tant was not ashamed to preach the gospel anywhere he could. If there was a church in the town, then he would go there and ask to use the building to preach a gospel meeting. If there was no church, then he would go to the “digressives” (Christian church) and ask to use their building to hold a gospel meeting. If there were only denominations, then he would go and ask to use one of their buildings to preach the gospel. If all three of these were not present, or did not allow him to use their building, then he would go to the courthouse and hold a gospel meeting there. He did not stop until he found a place to preach the gospel. When he left, he usually left a small congregation. Often times, he left a fairly large congregation with a meeting house which, more than likely, he helped build. At the end of his life he had baptized over 8000 people and had trained more than 100 gospel preachers. Truly he was a great example in preaching.

J.D. Tant was an example in contending “… earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3). When he did preach in Christian church houses, he made is plain that he was opposed to the mechanical instrument of music and to the missionary society. When he preached to Methodists and Baptists, he made it plain that these people had to come out of Methodist and Baptist doctrine to be saved. Very often, the Methodists and/or Baptists would realize what was happening and challenge him for a debate. He was more than happy to comply with them stating that he would “affirm anything they would deny and deny anything they would affirm.” Often times he did not even worry about signing a proposition until he arrived at the debate location knowing that he was going to oppose error and defend the truth. Not only did he debate the denominations, but he also debated his own brethren in regards to the question of whether a person must know that they are being baptized for the remission of sins when they are baptized. He affirmed that a person must know this and was instrumental in convicting many brethren of this truth. He was also militant in his writing. He would not hesitate to write in the Firm Foundation, or the Gospel Advocate who, where, and what he had condemned through the power of the gospel. Toward the end of his life, many churches asked him to come and straighten out congregational problems that had arisen. He would not hesitate to mount the pulpit and call names of individuals and tell the sin in which they were involved. At the end of his articles, in which he would report these things, he would write, “Don’t forget, brethren, we are drifting.” Had he lived to see today, no doubt he would have written, “Brethren, we have drifted.” J.D. Tant was an example in contending earnestly for the faith.

There are many other things in which J.D. Tant is a good example for gospel preachers. He was an example in bravery, sincerity, charity, loyalty, sacrifice, humor, and many more wonderful Christian virtues. We would do well to buy this book; read it; learn from this man’s life, and follow him as he followed Christ.

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Seven Exercise to Mental Wellness

The Bible is the greatest book ever written for man and the words of the Bible prove this fact over and over again. It has been said that it is the “owner’s” manual for life. Certainly it was written by the one who knows man best-his Creator. Just as we would look to the owner’s manual for our automobiles, houses, and other items we possess to become more intimately acquainted with these items, so also we should look to the Bible to become more intimately acquainted with ourselves. Modern psychologists have nothing to boast greater than the principles set down for man’s well being in the Bible. Perhaps no clearer example of this can be found than in the book of Philippians.

Paul wrote the book of Philippians to thank the brethren in Philippi for the monetary gift that they had sent Paul by the hands of Epaphroditus (1:4,5; 4:18). But Epaphroditus also brought some additional news to Paul regarding the church a Philippi. They had heard about Paul’s current imprisonment and were worried about him (1:30). Paul comforts the church by letting them know that this situation he is in resulted in the increase of the gospel (1:12). He also relates to them that he hopes that he will soon be released from his imprisonment and will visit them again (1:25, 26). However, Paul wants them to know that whether he lives or dies all will be well (1:21). Their concern for Paul’s situation had evidently lead to a congregational anxiety that was preventing them from living according to the principles of the gospel. The rest of the book of Philippians is addressed to the concern that Paul has regarding the Philippians-that they should set their minds on matters over which they can control, not over matters that lead to worry and depression. This would bring them out of their “blue funk” and bring them back to greater service to the Lord.

The crux of the book of Philippians in this regard is found in chapter four. It is in this chapter that Paul discusses the action one can take to bring one’s self into the peace of God. The prescription that Paul gives to the brethren is a combination of mental and physical exercises. First, they were to “rejoice in the Lord always” (4:4). This is a mental exercise. The Christian has everything for which to be thankful and nothing for which to be ungrateful. This should lead to a perpetual spirit of joy in the Christian’s life. The sacrifice of Jesus for our sins should humble us into recognition that nothing is so important in this life so as to be cause for anxiety and depression. The Christian has everything! For this reason, he can rejoice! Psychologists have stated that in times of extreme tension, one should picture oneself in a place of happiness. The principle was first iterated long ago in the sacred scriptures.

Second, Paul says, “Let your moderation be known unto all men” (4:5a). This is a physical exercise. The Christian is not to be caught up in the extremes of the world. There is on the one hand the extreme of debauchery in all its forms and practices and it was prevalent in the Philippian’s society as well as ours today. On the other hand there is the extreme of isolationism. This is the concept that we must completely cut ourselves off from those around us who are not Christians and never have anything to do with anyone. Both of these are extreme choices that Christians faced then and face now. The Christian must exercise moderation in living a life that includes interaction with society, but does not participate in its sinfulness. Balance is certain one of the fundamental principles of modern psychology and here it is clearly stated in God’s word.

Third, Paul writes, “The Lord is at hand” (4.5b). Many have interpreted this phrase to have reference to the second coming, but the context suggests that this more likely refers to the ever-present awareness within the Christian that God is with us. This is a mental exercise. Hebrews 13:5c states, “for he hath said, ‘I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.'” The expression, “The Lord is at hand” indicates to the Christian that God will always be there for him in time of worry or depression. It is a great comfort to recognize that God is always by our side and is not going to leave us as long as we don’t leave Him. With God, there is no problem or trouble or worry or fear that can’t be overcome, for all things are accomplishable with Him (Philippians 4:13). Modern psychology is replete with the principle that you are never alone. The self-help group is a common occurrence in today’s society. The Christian’s “self-help group” has a Member the likes of which this world cannot boast.

Fourth, we read, “Be careful in nothing” (4:6a). This is a mental and physical exercise. The word “careful” should really be translated “anxious” as indicated in the American Standard Version. Anxiety for the things of this life can become a big problem for the Christian. Jesus taught us to understand that God knows the things of which we have need and that he will supply those things if we but seek Him and His kingdom first (Matthew 6:25-34). When we start to dwell on the cares and concerns of this life, let our minds and our actions turn to things of the kingdom. What can we think and do to further the cause of our Lord upon the earth? We can study the word. We can visit the sick. We can help the poor. And the list goes on and on. There is no shortage of activity. Today we hear from psychologists these words, “Get involved.” Being involved in something goes a long way toward eliminating anxiety that crops up as a result of eating the bread of idleness.

Fifth, Paul states, “but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (4:6b). Here is a mental exercise. Prayer unburdens the Christian from the ceaseless parade of events about which he is concerned, but has no direct control. Prayer provides a means whereby the Christian may exercise a heart of thankfulness to the Creator, Sustainer, and Provider. Prayer provides opportunity for the Christian to divest himself of wrong choices made in the course of the days events. Prayer motivates the Christian to act in ways that will improve his relationship with his God and his fellow man. There is much blessing in prayer. Modern psychology acknowledges these activities as being therapeutic and helpful to an individual’s mental state. Oh, if we as Christians, would only acknowledge the power of prayer in times of trouble how great burdens would be removed from our weary shoulders and what great relief would be obtained from the troubles of life.

The conclusion of enacting these five exercises in one’s life is this: “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” There is a certain peace that comes through understanding and applying these five principles in one’s life. Modern psychology may be able to provide a measure of peace and tranquility, but not to the extent that can be provided by God. The peace that God gives “surpasses all understanding;” that is, no efforts on the part of man solely through his own mental abilities are going to be able to provide the type of peace that God can provide. This is because modern psychology cannot supply God. Faith in God comes through hearing God’s word (Romans 10:17) and ultimately the peace of God depends as much upon our faith in God as it does upon the principles that God sets forth in this passage. Faith must always be presupposed when applying the principles of having a healthy mind to us as individuals. Without faith, none of these exercises will prevail to bring peace to our troubled souls. The hearts and minds of the Christian will only be guarded through Christ Jesus. As great as this promise may sound, however, there is yet more that the apostle wishes to address regarding our mental health.

Sixth, we read, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (4:8). The exercise in this verse is mental. It is an exercise of focus upon the spiritual. It is the proactive exercise of the mind to think. The exhortation is not to just let your mind drift upon any and every old thing that comes along, but to purposefully and deliberately concentrate upon good things. When we fill our minds with positive thoughts, there will be no more room for negative thoughts. Worry, anxiety, depression, and despair are all negative thoughts that seek, almost without invitation, to invade our daily consciousness. It is a fight and struggle to battle these things, but we must. When we bring our focus back upon the true, honest, just, pure, lovely, good, and virtuous, there is no lack of things about which to cogitate. One of the great failures of modern psychology is that while it can help you understand what you are thinking and bring you to a greater awareness of your thoughts, it cannot provide content for your mind. The gospel, however, does this very thing.

Seventh, Paul has this to say, “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do” (4:9a). Here is a physical exercise. When we have done everything that we need to do mentally to prepare ourselves for Christian service, we must make application. Paul says that his teaching and example constitute an example for us as well. If we are looking for ways to behave, let us look to the example that Paul left as he followed Christ in his life (1 Corinthians 11:1). We have half the book of Acts to let us know how Paul behaved as well as many of his epistles in which we find great teaching regarding how to live the Christian life. This is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. Again, while modern psychology can suggest a course of behavior, it cannot suggest a lifestyle that will so thoroughly meet our needs as that which we find within the gospel of Christ (2 Peter 1:3).

The grand conclusion to these seven steps of mental health is found in the words, “and the God of peace shall be with you.” This is yet in addition to the previous promise. Not only do we have the assurance of the peace of God being with us, but also we have the assurance of the God of peace being with us. Greater blessing can no Christian have than to know that the very God who made us and knows us better than we know ourselves will provide a life that is filled with contentment and peace as well as provide the companionship that we need to finish such a life in His service. May we ever seek to apply these seven steps in our time of need.

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