The Elder’s Table

Elders Table (February 4, 2024)

   No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. (I Corinthians 10:13)

   We live in a modern age of mass media, mass communication, and mass temptations. The technical achievements of man, the advancements and production, has now filled the entire world with information and communication at our fingertips. The world is now a free-flow of information, both good and bad, some very good, some very bad.

   Studies on human behavior, especially children, are being published around the world. It is summarized as Screen-Time – the time an individual spends in front of a television screen, computer screen, iPad screen, phone screen, whatchamacallit screens, ingesting information at a phenomenal rate. Lots and lots of media sounds and visions fill our brains constantly. We have passed the saturation point and want to fill our brains to capacity, overflowing with dopamine, and find it difficult to turn away.

   My studies in education are in Human Behavior and Marketing, how to package and present products to the consumer. How to sell the Cornflakes box, not the Cornflakes. Brand recognition  and brand loyalty, pictures and jingles flowing in the mass media. We are simple beasts. Business ethics halted the slide to immoral weaknesses for many years, which are now only nostalgic memories of an age past and gone. We are bombarded with stimuli and may not even know it.

   So the tests are now flipped to exercising a Screen-Fast study. Two weeks of no screens, no media, no constant montage of information…and observing the change in behavior, in children.

   Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. (James 1:12-15)

 

Elders Table (January 28, 2024)

   And He (Jesus) said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.” ’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’

   “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12:15-21)

   We are a mix of generations and values. Persons who grew up in the Great Depression and during WW II know scarcity, and know how to do without. The post war Boomers grew up in a time of abundance and plenty, better cars, more money, better jobs, travel and excess, the world is at our fingertip. Following generations inherited this time of abundance and plentiful goods, not to be deprived of the good life and never know hunger or the ability to acquire whatever it is that the heart desires.

   Change is disruptive, and we are seeing change, but not in the normal up and up direction. Scarcity and loss are at our doors, poverty is never welcomed, and the times are changing. We are not to be distracted by these elements of change, for we are to keep our eyes upon the Lord at all times. Help one another, give thanks for what we have, giving to those who are in need, and seeking the Lord’s blessings and guidance at all times. Salem.

   The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, But those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty. (Proverbs 21:5)

 

Elders Table (January 21, 2024)

   My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:2-8)

    Growth in the Lord with an enduring faith comes by trials and testing. We may not like it at the time, even pleading with the Lord as to ‘why me Lord’, still it is the molding of character and resilience in preparation for more trials and sufferings. All of life has a meaning and a purpose, as God has purposed, for our use and our being. The nature of many people is to believe they have discovered the elements by their own resourcefulness and industry. Yet it is God who created the elements, with and all understanding, for our use and industry. 

   Iron is taken from the earth, and copper is smelted from ore. (Job 28:2) The metals for making tools all come from the earth. Copper, mixed with tin becomes bronze, iron, and iron when mixed with carbon at a high heat produces steel. The strongest steels are forged at a high temperature and beaten into an alloy, some for strength, some for tools, some to hold a surgical edge for cutting. Useful tools able to sustain our lives in everyday uses.

   Think of our lives as a piece of iron, smelted from the earthen ore, beaten into a raw shape, heated to extreme temperatures, beaten some more with a forge hammer, some elements added, heated and beaten some more, and finally ground and polished with a fine edge able to withstand the trials of life, ready for better uses. As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17 NIV)

 

Elders Table (December 31, 2023)

   We know that in any organization, club or group, 90% of the work is accomplished by 10% of the people, the 90/10 Rule. This is a principle, but it is scalable in the Lord’s church. Not everyone is the Minister, but all members minister in one manner or another. We are many and yet we are one. There is something to do for every member, some have more responsibility than others, some have greater abilities than others, yet we are all one in the body of Christ. 

   And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16)

   As we go into this new year let us all look to one another for teaching and benevolence. Let us all encourage one another, study the word, teach the word, sing often, meet often, pray often, give cheerfully, and let us all edify one another to good works. We are all valuable.

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

 

Elders Table (December 24, 2023)

   For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
   Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

   Isaiah the Prophet spoke these words and more concerning the coming of the Messiah of Israel, the Christ. He received this prophecy from God some 700 years before the event, during the most tumultuous period for the children of Israel. The prophecies of the coming messiah, Yeshua Hamashiach, Jesus the Christ.  

   Isaiah spoke of the birth of the Savior, the place, the signs, his lineage, his coming of age and teaching, his sufferings and death, his everlasting government, and that he would bear the sins of us all. Jesus, Joshua or Yeshua, the Christ, the Messiah. 

   Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,  and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:10-12)

   For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:11-14)

 

Elder’s Table (December 17, 2023)

   For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you. (Titus 2:11-15)

   The grace of God has appeared to all men, women and children. God’s goodness and mercy is seen everyday by everyone in many ways. In this Holyday season of Christmas, God’s love and blessings touch everyone’s soul. The prophet’s teachings of the arrival of the Christ child in Bethlehem, the promise of God, the one who would establish an everlasting kingdom has been accomplished. Rejoice, and be thankful for the season in which people will be loving and respectful of one another. 

   As the heavenly hosts declared at His birth, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests”. (Luke 2:14)

    Living as a Christian is a daily exercise of peace and good tidings towards men. Let us all carry with us every day, the teachings of Christ, the knowledge of our God, the love and joy of living in His presence, that we are alive in Christ, free from this world and its desires. Peace.

   “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) 

 

Elder’s Table (December 3, 2023)

   Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (II Timothy 2:15)

   The churches of Christ have always been deeply rooted in the scriptures and in holding to the Bible for instruction and guidance. It is time to return to these practices of bible study and the coming together to study God’s word.

   For this reason I am encouraging everyone to meet together, attend Bible classes and study the scriptures.  We need to be prepared constantly, keep our sword sharp, and know the truths found in the scriptures. With this new year close upon us, we are planning for classes and Bible studies for all in this next year. A meeting will be held for all teachers and instructors on December 12th at 6 PM at the church building, in the Fellowship Hall. (see Tom for the meeting agenda and information).

   All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (II Timothy 3:16-17)

 

Elder’s Table (November 19, 2023)

   But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. 

   Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. (II Timothy 2:20-26)

   This is who we are, the collective body of believers, the sanctified, the church. We have turned away from the sinful desires of this world, obeyed the Gospel, pursue righteousness and serve one another in love and peace. Fortunately, we are not all the same, and from time to time it shows. This is healthy that we do not all behave the same, think the same, look the same, but rather, we are a cornucopia of life and experiences. If we were all the same, it would be boring.

   Because we have separate life experiences and knowledge, we may have conflicts from time to time. In the household of Faith, each member is a part, making the whole greater than the sum of the parts. We have different spiritual gifts and talents. Share your talent, share your love, share your faith, and be thankful for the blessings we have all received from the Lord. Thanksgiving.

   Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. (John 17:7)

 

Elder’s Table (November 12, 2023)

   “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.

   “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”(Matthew 7:24-27)

   So, how shall we live our lives in the world? We shall live each and every day and hour as unto the Lord, conforming our lives to be a holy life in Christ, holy and set apart from the things of this world. We have the Spirit which dwells in us, we have the scriptures, we have a common place to meet, we have the fellowship of believers who meet together as the church of Christ, we have almost every blessing imaginable. What may be our own individual short-comings is our practical living as a Christian.

   The prophet Ezekial spoke to the Jewish people of the fall of their nation, that they had not lived their lives as holy unto the Lord, and had chosen to listen to false prophets –“Because, indeed, because they have seduced My people, saying, ‘Peace!’ when there is no peace—and one builds a wall, and they plaster it with untempered mortar— say to those who plaster it with untempered mortar, that it will fall. ” (Ezekial 13:10) 

   Their lives were like buildings of adobe clay bricks, plastered over with weak materials (untempered plaster), which eroded under the storms of life and the walls failed. The prophet’s teaching is the same as Jesus the Christ’s words – a warning to all of us to live our lives as unto the Lord, built on His firm foundation, the Rock. Our dwelling place (body) shall endure the tests of this world, and our spirits will be enrichened by this tempering by the fire, the trials of life.

   Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. (I John 2:15-16)

 

Elder’s Table (October 29, 2023)

   Just which Herod is the right Herod, you know, the one in the Bible? King Herod?

Well there are four persons with the name Herod that appear in the New Testament. In order of reign they are Herod the Great , Herod Antipas, Herod Agrippa I and Herod Agrippa II. The family reigned over Judea from 47 BC, when Rome appointed the loyal Antipater, an Edomite who converted to Judaism, as King of Judea (47 to 37 BC), the father to Herod the Great (37 to 4 BC), the father of Herod Antipas (4 BC to 39 AD), Herod Agrippa (40 to 44 AD), and ended in 93 AD with the death of Herod Agrippa II (44 to 93 AD). 

   They were all appointed by Rome, served as King of Judea, and were always loyal to the Roman Government through the times of Jesus and the Apostles, through the Jewish revolt (66 to 73 AD) and the destruction of Jerusalem.

Herod the Great – enlarged the Temple in Jerusalem, built many fortresses including the Fortress  Antonia attached to the Temple courtyard. He had the baby boys two years and younger in Bethlehem killed in fear of a messiah being born in Bethlehem ( Matthew 2:16)

Herod Antipas – had John the Baptist beheaded, King of Judea during Jesus of Nazareth’s ministry, had Jesus before him and heard the condemnations of Jesus on that day of His crucifixion. (Luke 23:1-12)

Herod Agrippa I – persecuted the early Christians in Jerusalem, having the Apostle James killed. He would be proclaimed Messiah of Israel, stricken by an angel, eaten of worms and die in five days. (Acts 12)

Herod Agrippa II – King of Judea after his father’s sudden death. Ruler when the Way was growing vigorously throughout the areas. Heard the Apostle Paul’s case in Caesarea. (Acts 23, 24, 25)

 

Elder’s Table (October 22, 2023)

   In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice. (Genesis 22:18) When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. And I will make My covenant between Me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.” Then Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying: “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, and you shall be a father of many nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you. Also I give to you and your descendants after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:1-8)

     Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law?  For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar— for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children— but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.

   Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But, as he who was born according to the flesh then persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, even so it is now. Nevertheless what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.” So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.( Galatians 4:21-31)

 

Elder’s Table (October 15, 2023)

   “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”(Luke 21:34-36)

   We have all been exposed to the events of this last week in Israel. To see what horrible things a people can do to another people and vice versa and call it justifiable, is beyond comprehensions. Many will say it is the result of a long conflict between the Arabs and Jews, each claiming the land as their godly inheritance by birthright, the sons of Abraham, killing one another, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. The end result will be a land populated with toothless blinded people.

   The world of Christians will see these events and jump to their feet, ready for that trumpet blast, ready to depart, for it is the return of the Christ – Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. (Luke 21:27) 

   But wait! What is your position on the End Times? Are you a Millennialist? Pre-Trib or Post Trib? What’s your Eschatology? Protestant of Reformist? Supersessionism, what’s that? 

   People will argue till the cows come home, maybe longer…until they finally look up and see there are no cows and remember…the Day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with a fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. (II Peter 3:10) 

   And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:2)

 

The Elder’s Table (October 8, 2023)

   “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell”. (Matthew 10:27-28)

   Christians do not be afraid of what is going on in the world about us, what we see, what we hear, what we understand. Step back and look at this world and all its troubles and understand that we are in this world but not of this world. We are but a remnant, a small piece of all who are in this world, we are the called out, the chosen few.

   When I look at the current state of humanity? I see wars, murders, immorality, corruption, decay, starvation, hatred, thievery, pestilence and disease. When a question is posed for the cause of these events, it is answered with lies and deceptions. In fact lying and deception have become an artform. These persons have decided to reject our Lord, deny our God, and blame others for their own sinful ways. In short, they pose as victims of the world they have perpetrated. They are to be pitied and not exalted. Yes, they need Jesus, the Christ they rejected and despise.

   “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but they will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, they would have none of my counsel and despised my every rebuke. Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way, and be filled to the full with their own fancies. For the turning away of the simple will slay them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure, without fear of evil.” (Proverbs 1:28-33)

 

Elders Table (September 24, 2023)

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17)

   It has been said that the church is a hospital for sinners. We come together to have refuge from the world, to grow spiritually, to have our hearts healed, to have our minds cleansed from the ways of this world, to have fellowship with one another, seeking support and understanding,  and a clear conscience towards God and all.

So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read. And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
(Isaiah 61)

 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:16-21)

We should all live the Gospel like we know it and mean it, every hour, every day, and in every situation.  Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. (Romans 14:4)

 

The Elder’s Table (September 17, 2023)

   As we have engaged in doing more singing and learning some new songs, while reinforcing many standard songs, additional enhancements are now in place. Social media and our Sonora Church of Christ website are a great gateway to information and access to songs we are doing in worship each week and in our gatherings.

   We are working on posting our worship songs two weeks in advance, and have added links to hear the songs sang in an acappella group recording.  Lyrics, and maybe sometimes the music arrangements, can be readily available to our members. Songs are best learned while listening to someone sing it, over and over and over…and over, it is learning reinforcement. Music theory and reading music are great tools, but difficult to master. 

   Stan is providing the theme to his Sunday sermons each week, so songs can be matched to the lesson’s theme and enhance the worship. We do get song requests and will fit the songs into our worship as suitable. We are also developing song leaders, men to lead songs in worship and persons to lead songs in gatherings, along with the learning of songs.

   The website is: https://sonorachurchofchrist.com Jeff Mefford is the Webmaster . Browse the site and enjoy the information which is available to our members and the public as well. Salut.

TM

 

The Elder’s Table (September 3, 2023)

   We are planning to gather to sing on Sunday, September 10th, after our morning worship, and after the Potluck. Members will also meet on other occasions, singing together and learning songs. On Sundays after worship to meet and sing together. Eating lunch with take out or sack lunch, and singing in the Fellowship Room. 

    Train-Practice-Perform. Singing and playing sports are very much alike. Regardless of your talent level, all persons need to train their singing voice, practice singing together as a team, and perform at the best level you can.  

   Train. Hear your voice, match it to others voices, match it to the notes and scales of the music, learn to hear yourself, learn to hear the song as you learn to control your voice and exercise your voice box. Breathing and sustaining breaths take training. Learn your voice range, train your ear to hear your voice, and learn to match your voice, your resonant voice to the voice that is in your head. 

   Practice. Singing with others takes effort, joint effort, harmony, timing, blending, sustaining, builds, unity (tight), dynamics, and practice, practice, practice. Singing acapella is a laborious task. Soprano is the star, alto brings harmony, tenor is the missing part, and bass is the foundation. Each part has a voice range, men are the lower ranges while women are higher ranges, the ranges are interchangeable within the melody line. The lead is usually the soprano part on the top of the music notes, below it is the alto, both live on the treble cleft of the music. On the bass cleft of the music is the tenor on top and the bass below it. The four parts that make harmony, known as four-point harmony. Style is another day. 

   Many songs are solo efforts, in unison or with backup singing. Much of Gospel singing is chordal, singing in a group with defined singing parts. A harmonic group of notes blends as a chord, and the song becomes much more pleasing to the ear. Chords are the basics of tonal and dominate chord progressions, which make the melody flow, define voice pitch and create the parts of the harmony. Chords have a dominant note, from which pitch is derived. Basic chords are three notes, a triad, that form the chord. The melody is the lead line in the song, but the bass is the dominate note that holds the song together. 

   Perform. This is the congregational singing, group singing, solo singing we love to do as a pleasing song to the Lord and edifying to all who join.  Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. (Psalm 100:2).

    

The Elder’s Table (August 26, 2023)

   See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

   Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God. (Ephesians 5:15-21)

   We survived a congregational meeting and have envisioned a path to learning and singing newer songs (contemporary songs, post 1970), singing these songs in worship and expanding our song leaders. This endeavor will take time, effort and commitment. Besides learning songs we will all work on voice, singing parts, harmony and song dynamics. Together. How do we get better at singing? Do it more often, and do it together.

    We are planning to gather to sing on Sundays after our morning worship. Members have been doing this spontaneously for some time. Eating lunch, take out or sack lunch, and singing in the Fellowship Room. Some occasions have carried on till the late afternoon.

   What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. (I Corinthians 14:26)

Train-Practice-Perform

 

Elder’s Table (August 18, 2023)

   Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. (Colossians 3:16)

    We sing not because we are commanded to, but rather because we like to sing, and maybe at times even some very good singing. We sing a cappella, just voices, without instruments of music, in structured harmonies, psalms (songs), hymns and spiritual songs.  We have song books with a thousand song arrangements to guide us in an orderly worship. We have songs we sing which are not in these hymn books, usually sang by our youth who have learned and practiced the words and melodies. It takes practice to learn a song, practice to sing the words, sing the melodies, sing the parts of harmony, and sing together. Lots of practice and more practice.

    Singing as the church is not a performance, it is a devotion. So, how do we sing with grace in our hearts, know the words, and follow the music? Practice and training, singing more often and singing more often together.

   In the 1970’s we had a movement to sing in church without using hymn books or song books. Some songs were scripture, some from the psalms, some from the heart. Easy to learn songs in which all could join in, and all could sing in a moment’s notice. These songs are still with us today as contemporary songs, some may even call them camp songs. Many of the songs are now in the hymn books and other Christian print media. We will sing these more often!

   Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put-on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;  bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.  But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Colossians 3:12-17)

 

Elder’s Table (July 29, 2023)

   The Wednesday mid-week gathering for the adults will begin a new class this first week in August. Having concluded the study on the Psalms, we will take a new direction of study and participation.

   We shall meet to sing hymns, offer prayers, and discuss topics which relate to the church and Christianity in today’s world. Teaching will be topical lecture with discussion,  applying scripture to answer the problems we all face in this world today. Letting the Bible speak where the Bible speaks.

   In the last class the question was asked concerning support for modern Israel and sending relief to the needy Jews in Israel. Ads are present on media asking Christians to send care to the needy Jews,  quoting “Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” Says your God. (Isaiah 40:1) and He who has a generous eye will be blessed, for he gives of his bread to the poor. (Proverbs 22:9) Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh? (Isaiah 58:7)

.

   The discussion will be the status of modern Israel and are the Jewish people in Israel God’s chosen people? And do we have an obligation to send care and relief to them?

 

Elder’s Table (July 22, 2023)

   Previous discussions have been on morals, the concerns with our own morality, the justification of being a morally upright person living in a world of immorality and depravity. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness…(II Peter 3:11).

   We all carry the wounds of life and have a knowledge of sins, both our own and of the world about us. We are forgiven of sins, we are free from the burdens of sin, yet, we war daily with the effects and affects of sin, these are our battle scars. The adversary will poke these wounds, stir up sinful experiences and draw you to sin. Telling us that abnormal is normal, immoral is moral, and virtues are passe. Media is a powerful instrument which can influence people’s norms and change one’s behavior. 

   When we are weakened and vulnerable, pray for God’s guidance, read the scriptures, seek a refuge in the fellowship of believers, do random acts of kindness. But, do not be slack or grow weary, this will make you vulnerable to Satan’s attacks. This world and our lives are only temporal. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)

   But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. (II Peter 3:10-13) 

 

Elder’s Table (July 1, 2023)

   In Philadelphia, on July 4, 1776 a delegation of men gathered together to sign a letter to be sent to their sovereign, King George III of England. Quarrelling and fighting was already underway in many areas of these British colonies, and it would continue for many years to come.

   When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. (Preamble to the Declaration)

   Persons wish to have freedom and free exercise of these liberties, knowing they have been given these rights, and are willing to fight to preserve them. As Christians we are a huge step beyond this declaration, we are in a kingdom not made with hands, not of the kingdoms of this world, nor servants of a ruling monarch.

   Pontius Pilate served the emperor of the Roman Empire. He understood that this Jesus, the Christ, was the King of the Jews, and asked him and Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” 

   We are in this world, but not of this world, is easier said than done. Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. (Galatians 5:1) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Romans 12:1-2)

   It is 400 years since the founding of the colonies in New England of North America. The Israelites migrated from Canaan to Egypt to escape a famine. They were in slavery for 400 years in Egypt. 

 

The Elder’s Table (June 24, 2023)

   Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. (Matthew 6:1-4)

   What is my offering, the gift of my blessings? The Lord blesses us all in many ways and in many talents. As the church we all work together, as one body. We are a single congregation of many members, each giving of their own volition. Many give their time, their efforts and knowledge, some in teaching, some in ministering, some in the edification and caring to others, some in labors, some in the giving of monies and property, never seeking personal praise or recognition. 

   Humble in mind and spirit we give, and we give without the expectation of a personal return – freely you have received, freely give. If you are giving with a certain expectation of prescribed uses and results, earmarking your offering for a specific use, you have missed the understanding of the free-will offering. If you are only giving of your discards and leftovers, reluctant to give of your blessings, do some soul-searching in prayer and personal instruction.

   Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21)

 

Elders Table (June 10, 2023)

   A lesson for today and for always, is the value of forgiveness and brotherly love. We can reflect on the past history of persons owning other persons, bondservants, that is slaves. We can impose our value system when looking into our past history and civilization. Yet, how can one person own another person? Slavery is a past reality and is an active reality even today.

   It was a common practice during the era of the Roman Empire, even existed in the early church. Slaves performed all types of labor and tasks, a system of employment without rights or liberty, a slave’s life and existence were at the mercy of their owner. Slaves, or bondservants, were usually people who had been conquered, captured, sold as property, born into slavery, compelled to a life of subjugated labor without rights or liberties.

   This relationship of a master and a slave will be explored as we study Paul’s letters to the Colossians and to Philemon. For in Christ they are equals, brothers and sisters, but not in society. The church has had an impact on the issue of slavery that does require a special understanding.

   Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put-on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. (Colossians 3:12-14)

   Etymology of Slave – the classification and stigma of slavery is referred to in medieval Latin as sclavus, in relation to the Byzantine Greek sklábos, being a derivation of sklabēnós, which translates as ‘Slavic’, originally as a self-reference for the Slavic people, as slovĕninŭ, who were geographically located mostly in Eastern Europe.

 

Elder’s Table (June 4, 2023)

   If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)

   People have asked me “so what church do you go to”? My answer would probably be “well, I’m going to the church in Colossi, for right now. I was going to the church in Ephesus, went to Philippi for a while, and decided to move on”.

   I would get mixed reactions, maybe a chuckle or a silent stare. Some good Bible students would understand that the Apostle Paul was writing to gentile churches who all had problems and needed edification and instruction. Here lies the eternal beauty of the biblical texts of the New Testament – we today have the same problems and struggles the early disciples had.

   Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. (Colossians 3:12-17)

 

Elder’s Table (May 27, 2023)

   Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; come before His presence with singing. (Psalm 100:1-2)

   I have heard singing over a huge PA system, the sounds bouncing off buildings, the sound carrying for miles. I have heard 50,000 men singing songs to the Lord in unison at a ballpark in Oakland. I have heard beautiful hymns sang inside a church building by regular people who love the Lord. I have sung with my fellow Christian brothers and sisters; I was edified along with all who were present and heard the praises to the Lord. I must have a million miles of singing while driving. 

   Singing is a fundamental human activity. People have sung by themselves, sang while they worked, sang patriotic songs, sang while going into battle, and mothers have sung a lullaby to children at bedtime. It’s not just for entertainment, it’s edification of all, especially for the soul.

    See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

   Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God. (Ephesians 5:15-21)

 

Elder’s Table (May 7, 2023)

   Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

   The doctrines of the church are simple and easy to understand. So simple that many people do not accept them, nor are they content to accept the simplicity of Christ’s teachings. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30). 

   Those who are in the Faith follow Jesus and His teachings, which are passed on through His apostles and disciples. The church is not a building or a constructed monument, nor artwork, built to impress the masses. We have the written records of the Gospel of Christ, the written foundations of the disciples who knew Him, recorded in the New Testament scriptures. Words which are written on the hearts of those who believe. We are His church.

   Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)

 

Elder’s Table (April 30, 2023)

   Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:1-4)

   The summer season will be here soon, traveling and vacations, meeting other Christians and greeting visitors from many other areas. We will have barbeques and fellowship out of doors, sing songs, join in prayers, while continuing in the Apostles doctrine.

   For our youth and ministers it is time for Summer Camp. A week of celebration in the Lord, singing, learning God’s word, prayers and fellowship. Bible Camp is important for all of us and especially for our children. Take advantage of this time and enroll in a bible camp early. For information see Stan.

   So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:46-47)

 

Elder’s Table (April 23, 2023)

   Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel.  What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice. (Philippians 1:15-18)

   Yes, I grew up in the families of the church of Christ and learned the scriptures and the truth. I also have been attentive to the world of Christian believers and an ecumenical gospel. Yes, the Gospel is preached in many ways, in many media forms and methods, and I will always gravitate to anyone or any message proclaiming Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Many preaching the Gospel today leave something out…sin. Don’t talk about SIN!!!

   When I would ask them about sin, repentance, leaving the sinful ways of this world, it would become confrontational, that is, don’t talk about sin. What? Talking about sin offends people and they will walk away, it only causes problems. We see that in our world today. Christians are the problem, they hate #&%8 and $&%@ and are constantly condemning people. I would say, people need to hear it, what sin is. Preaching the wages of sin hits a sensitive nerve, you can tell by the reactions. The Gospel is best served by speaking one on one, being a living example, and with love and compassion. 

   Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. (I John 3:4-6)

   The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 15:56-57)

 

Elder’s Table (April 8, 2023)

   The Spring Equinox brings annual holidays and rituals, the celebrations of life renewed and fertility. Significant days are recognized by many faiths and beliefs: Ramadan, Passover, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, and many more. 

The Lamb of God

   The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.” (John 1:29-31)

   As Christians we recognize these days as the week of the Passover, the events of the last week of Jesus of Nazareth in Jerusalem.  The lunar calendar and the Old Testament define these days and prescribe the methods of worship and rituals at this time. Further study and understanding only amplify the events in the season and the festival days. The observance of The Passover cries out Jesus as the Messiah, the Lamb of God, the eternal King. That through His death on the cross, we have life in His resurrection.

   For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11)

 

Elder’s Table (April 2, 2023)

   But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.(Isaiah 53:5-6)

   This is a week to consider and meditate on the events in this last week of Jesus of Nazareth in Jerusalem, the Passover week. From the triumphal entry of Jesus on the first day of the week to the glorious resurrection on the following first day of the week. He fulfilled the Law of Moses and the words of the Prophets. And with this standout portion of Isaiah 53 many recalled the words of John the Baptist, “behold, the lamb of God who takes away the sins of this world”.

   “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, against the Man who is My Companion,” says the Lord of hosts. “Strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; then I will turn My hand against the little ones. And it shall come to pass in all the land,” says the Lord, “That two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, but one-third shall be left in it: I will bring the one third through the fire, will refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested.
   They will call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘This is My people’, and each one will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’ ” (Zechariah 13:7-9)

   With the arrest of Jesus, His trial and execution, the disciples were in hiding with fear of arrest and punishment. The resurrection of Jesus brought an entire new Hope for mankind. The gospel reveals the power and glory of our Lord. We are His people, the one-third who are tested and refined by fire, for salvation has been brought down. 

   They will call on My name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘This is My people’, and each one will say, ‘The Lord is my God.

 

Elder’s Table (March 26, 2023)

   As in the first century of the church, it is in this twenty-first century also. The gospel of the new testament is preached, the word of God is made available to everyone in this world, false teachers and false doctrines become evident, people are led astray, and still many find the truth, obey the word, and are saved. 

   The Apostle Paul taught and encouraged Timothy and Titus, along with many others, to be diligent and to do the work that is before them – I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (II Timothy 4:1-5)

   We are the gospel of Christ, his living Word, His church in today’s world…Christians! Brothers and Sisters in the Lord, Saints! – But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things,  that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed. (Titus 2:1-5)

 

Elder’s Table (March 20, 2023)

   All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. (II Timothy 3:16-17)

   The history of the Church of Christ is unique in that, whereas all other movements since the days of Luther strove to reform the apostacies of the Roman Catholic Church, this movement went back of all decrees of the Roman Church to the practice of the church fresh from the hands of Christ’s apostles. The Church, strictly speaking, claims to be neither Protestant or Catholic, since neither of these divisions existed in the first century, but simply attempts to set up again on earth the Church established on Pentecost. Their whole appeal is to “speak where the Bible speaks, and be silent where the Bible is silent,” to have a “thus saith the Lord,” either in express terms or by approved precedent. 

   The movement has grown rapidly uniting many people with denominational differences into one body, thus making peace. (excerpt from – Churches of Today, by L.G.Tomlinson, 1927)

   We must all remain diligent, study the scriptures, continue in fellowship, and continue in sound doctrine. Bible study feeds the soul and gives us strength to overcome the trials of life. 

   The apostle Paul gave instructions to Timothy and to us today – Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. ( 2 Timothy 2:14-15)

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God;  because many false prophets have gone out into the world. ( I John 4:1)

 

The Elder’s Table (January 29, 2023)

   Sunday, February 5th, is the Sonora Church of Christ congregation meeting to elect and appoint corporate officers. This is an annual mandated meeting by the State of California to demonstrate the validity of the status and function of the Sonora Church of Christ as a viable nonprofit entity.

   This is not governance of what we say or do as a church. We are an incorporated organization which has property and engages in business as a corporate body. Therefore, we are required to hold an annual meeting of our members and elect corporate officers. 

   The executive corporate positions manage the assets and legal functions of the entity legally know as the  Sonora Church of Christ at 14054 Tuolumne Road in Sonora, in the state of California. As a nonprofit organization we do commerce, banking, contracts and monetary transactions. 

The current Sonora Church of Christ corporate officers are: 

Tom Moffitt, President

Stan Johnson, Vice President

Will Dorrell, Treasurer 

   The meeting will call for nominations of corporate officers starting in 2023. The vote will be conducted by an aye/for and nay/opposed verbal election of the nominated persons and the election of the corporate positions. 

   Barry Blaylock is Secretary in the Elders/Deacons body here at the Sonora Church of Christ and will make record of the corporate meeting minutes. 

 

The Elder’s Table (January 1, 2023)

   Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)

   Positive Mental Attitude (PMA). The world is overflowing with self-help persons and programs to help you have a positive attitude and well-being. This is the New Year. A benchmark to loose weight, get in shape, eat better, sleep better, be better, do better. The feasts and the holidays are finally behind us, and we can attain a new normal. A better you! So, bag up all those problems and issues and go out and drop them at the curb, for it’s a new year.

   Paul’s words to the Philippians are written for us read and understand. The Letter to the Philippians is the text by which we gain PMA, when we read it, meditate upon it, and put it to use. It is practical and useful to the saving of your soul, your hearts and minds. When I was managing business, you would find words written on my whiteboard, in my office, on the wall across from my desk, no reference, no book-chapter-verse. There for me to read every day, these words from Paul to you and me.

I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

   Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)

 

The Elder’s Table (December 25, 2022)

   What do we do with Christmas? There are incredible conflicts between the sanctity of the December 25th holiday season and the observance of the birth of our Lord in Bethlehem. Anyone who claims that the 25th of December is the birthdate of Jesus the Christ, is to be avoided. The only record of the birth of Jesus is recorded in the text of the New Testament Gospels of Matthew and Luke. No date, no year, no birth certificate.

   What do we do? First and foremost, we teach the scriptures and hold to the truths of the birth of the Christ, the Messiah, the Lamb of God, Mary and the virgin birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, the city of David. Joseph understood and listened to the angel’s instructions – “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus. (Matthew 1:20-24) 

   What do we do now? Well, we learn, we teach, and we acknowledge the event, not the day nor the date. If the Lord expected us to worship the date, it would have been revealed to us in the teachings and traditions of the New Testament church.

   So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:6-7)

   Most of what we see and hear in the Christmas Season are the results of absorbed cultural traditions and embodied religious beliefs infused into the Christmas Holiday lifestyle. Seasonal myths and pagan traditions handed down from long past generations of several cultures in the northern hemisphere. Even more of today’s holiday traditions are the results of modern commercial branding and marketing.

   As Christians today, we teach of the word, we keep the spirit of the season all year round, and preach the gospel to those who are perishing. I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. (II Timothy 4:1-5)

 

The Elder’s Table (December 18, 2022)

Sin needs forgiveness…for we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We acknowledge our sins, repent of our sins, confess our sins, and ask for forgiveness and receive forgiveness, with a clear conscience towards God, others and ourselves. 

   Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.” (Luke 17:3-4)

   Christians gather together, teaching and learning, giving support and receiving support, active in both worship and fellowship, we gain strength and endurance. 

   Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. But I trust that you will know that we are not disqualified. (II Corinthians 13:5-6)

   The dark days of the coming winter can be depressing for many. We become withdrawn into our dwellings like hibernating bears. Determined to last it out until spring arrives and life is renewed. With this last weather system of cold air, snow and ice, the trees have lost their leaves and the world appears to be dying. I took note.  This has been what our ancestors have faced every year in these northern hemisphere climates. The dark and cold winter. 

   The winter solstice will arrive on this Wednesday, December 21st, the shortest day of daylight and the beginning of winter. We will not go into the darkness without light, which is Jesus the Christ. 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.” (John 8:12)

 

The Elder’s Table (December 4, 2022)

   Repentance and forgiveness are underrated…and perhaps, underutilized. Disciples who carry about the weight of past sins and unreconciled wrongs, dragging a useless load which can only pull you down, is a pain which will hinder the joys we share in Christ.

   A repentant David pleaded with the Lord for his forgiveness. John the Baptizer preached repentance to the crowds…repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. Nicodemus secretly met with Jesus to seek understanding of this repentance, this forgiveness, this eternal life…to be born again? Simon, called Peter, had to learn repentance, and accept the power of forgiveness. Saul, a righteous pharisee, learned it on the road to Damascus, and was given a new name, Paul.

   A clear conscience is of great value, our sins removed and forgotten, a new person, less baggage and a better walk in the Lord. Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (II Corinthians 7:1)

   For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit, by whom also He went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water. There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him. (I Peter 3:18-22)

 

The Elder’s Table (November 27, 2022)

   Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. (James 5:16) Repentance and confession…or is it confession and then repentance? When our hearts are convicted with the understanding that our own sins have separated us from God, we are stricken with the sorrow, pain, a  piercing that is sin, my sin, my actions that have caused this pain…and what must I do to remedy this. It is the knowledge of sin which leads to repentance. There is healing, when in the  confession of sin(s) that the sinner’s heart is purged and freed from this pain. 

   Anyone who hears a person’s confession will carry a load of responsibility in knowing their sin and in knowing their pain. Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2)

   Too many believers walk about carrying this load of sin, the guilt and shame, the failures of having been forgiven and yet continue to have sin in their life. This is spiritual baggage. A load which will weaken your ability to walk in the light, to stand and fight against fiery darts of the evil one. Hearing someone’s confessions, their deepest and darkest sins, their load of baggage, it becomes apparent that they have not bagged up these sins, took the bags out to the curb, and let the garbage truck just haul the bags away.

   There is great healing in repentance, in the confession of sins, and the forgiveness we receive. Baptism washes us. Jesus gives us a new robe of white…a garment which will need some continuous care, cleaning, and some spot removing here and there.

   Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19-20)

TM