A Fair Lady

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A Fair Lady

Charlton Rhinehart

Yesterday evening my wife, daughter and I went to our local fair. I have always enjoyed the fair, I remember when I was younger being asked in school to write on our favorite season of the year, I would always choose fall. One of the greatest reasons I would give for favoring this season, was the fair. I was anything but a farmer, my city school system didn’t even know what 4-H was, but still I loved the tractors, hit and miss engines, animals, dirt bike races and of course the rides and excitement of being around all the people. As we walked toward the entrance yesterday my one year old daughter began pointing up at the people on the rides way up in the air, being that I had missed the fair for several years in a row now, I was excited myself to see it all again. As we entered the gate by the ticket booth, we entered by the rides which was the main entrance, so naturally being near all the wild rides, was the younger crowd, lots of teens. Something that was obvious right away was how these young people were dressed, wearing far less than they should. We walked straight past the rides at first toward the farm animal area, but the outfits there were not much different. Attractive young girls were wearing very short shorts, a lot were wearing cut off tank tops and when you’re down to just that there is not much left to do to make things anymore skimpy, aside from getting everything to fit tight, which was not left out either.

While there were some adults dressed this way also, the huge majority were high school and college age, the greatest temptation was clearly on our youth. What all this made me realize was what a huge challenge our youth face, not only did it make me realize that, but it reminded me of the reality of this huge temptation I faced ten or so years ago myself. Place yourself back in that position for a moment, you’re in high school, the girls around you are dressed this way, sure there are some policies the school has to keep clothes from getting  too minimal, but the school’s cheerleader and dance team outfits clearly show that policy is a joke. Maybe you were raised in the church, and you know that we have to be like Job, having a covenant with our eyes (Job 31:1), but it’s not just a person or two at the school who we have to look away from, it is the majority of the girls in every class we have. The Bible tells us to be satisfied with the wife of our youth (Prov 5:18), but you have no wife yet, and because of the norms of our society, marriage is years away. And just when we finally get away from the girls for a moment, the talk of the guys is constantly sexual jokes. The list could go on, but this has to be one of the most challenging times in a Christian’s life.

So what is my solution to this great problem? Is it to tell the churches parents not to allow your kids to dress this way, even though the majority of kids do not have Christian parents? Is it to tell you to send your youth away to one of our many church of Christ universities who over emphasize grace and teach sin is okay? No, my advice is simply to the youth who find themselves in this situation right now.

To the young men: You are in a tough situation, there is no doubt about it, there is no denying the challenge you face in our society to keep Jesus’ words, to not even lust after a woman. This temptation will never go away as long as you live, but you have to realize it is at its absolute strongest right now. Satan knows that and he is giving it everything he has to use this to break you from the commitment to Christ you have made. This temptation is a drug, it may not be condemned by those around us like it is, but it is absolutely addicting like a drug. I know you feel like you can just give in to it once, but every time that happens it becomes soooo much harder to break from. I want you to think about your life ahead of you, think about the fact you will one day be married, and that girl who you will be married to in a few short years is somewhere out there right now. You don’t know her name, you wonder what she looks like, what her personality will be, but I promise she is the one who will bring true joy. Don’t  focus on the many girls around you can’t have now, focus on her. Sure it’s hard to focus on someone you do not know, but just know she is just as alive as you are in some location of the world right now, and just as much as you want her to be pure for you, you have to be pure for her also. You don’t want her to be dressing like these girls around you, to be center of all the guys’ dirty thoughts, nor does she want you focused on any of those girls, because she is not dressed like that herself, but she has all the same beauty reserved for you. Focus on her, the reality that she is out there right now, that you will be with her in just a few years, and the purity you want to have for each other and for God, who your relationship will be built around. What seems so far away is just a few years away.

To the young ladies: I know you hear all the time of the temptations you place on young men, and you probably feel like you yourself are not that pretty to cause that, but you are! I am sure you know that girls are just as competitive as guys, maybe in different ways, but you know also the competition to look the best. This will always be a competition your whole life, but it is at its strongest right now, an especial challenge to be sexy, Satan knows this and he is using this to break you from your immersion into Christ. Jesus spoke of those who cause one of “these little ones to stumble” (Matt 18:6), he said of them who do such, it would be better for them to have a heavy millstone hung around their neck and be drowned! When we think of “little ones” we often think of children, but I don’t believe that is who Jesus had in mind, instead he was speaking of Christians, you know we are called children of God (Gal 3:26). Think of the importance that you be cautious in your decisions not to cause someone to focus on your body rather than you. When you see all the other girls getting the attention of the guys, think of your future husband, he is out there somewhere. Just like your greatest desire for him is that he has a loving caring personality, so also the one you are looking for will not be looking for merely sexual attraction, he can see your beauty without seeing bare skin or your shape, he also will be looking for the beauty of your personality, mainly your focus on Christ and His word. Peter said this perfectly in the inspired scriptures of God; “And let not your adornment be merely external – braiding the hair, wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quite spirit, which is precious in the sight of God.” 1 Pet 3:3-4

Satan’s temptations will never disappear while we are alive, while we must do our best to avoid them, we also know we can never completely escape them. But believe it or not, as hard as it may seem, “…God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able…” (1 Cor 10:13). When Satan’s temptations are at their greatest, it is so important that we keep our hearts in the right place, that begins with where we allow our thoughts and focus to go.

Misunderstood Freedom

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Misunderstood Freedom

Charlton Rhinehart

The Fourth of July or Independence Day is a time that we in America celebrate and remember our freedom as a nation. Like most national holidays, we often ignore their significance, but nevertheless, it is basic knowledge that America is “the land of the free.” Do you remember when you were young what you thought when adults emphasized how grateful we should be to be “free”? I remember especially in the first, second and third grade how often the teachers would point out that America is where we are free, whether it was in music class or literature, we were reminded often. But how did I and my peers of great wisdom respond? – “If we are free, than why do we have to be at school?” Or maybe we would extend it to the dreaded homework, – “I am a free American, I don’t have to do this homework!” Clearly we were missing the point of what it meant to be free.

In the New Testament we also see this same term “freedom,” used to describe Christians. Many scriptures talk about it, take 2 Corinthians 3:17 for example; “Now the Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” You might think also of passages like “the law of liberty” as James describes the New Covenant (Jas 1:25, 2:12). It is apparent that we who are in Christ are free or at liberty in some way, but just like our ignorance of America’s freedom we failed to understand in our youth, so also many fail to understand the freedom that we have in Christ. To make matters worse, not only is it the people’s gossip that causes us to misunderstand this freedom in Christ, but also the majority of preachers and bible teachers also contribute, saying things like “we don’t have to be worried about sin because Christ has set us free.” While a statement like this is not completely false, (we are free from the sins we have repented from), it also happens to be intentionally deceiving, giving the impression that sin is no big deal.

So what is our “freedom in Christ” that the scriptures tell us of so often? And what isn’t it? Our freedom in Christ comes down to two major things, we are free from the complexity of the Old Law (Old Testament), and we are free from the wages of our past sins, which is death (Rom 6:23). The Old Law was very difficult to follow, a heavy burden on those who lived under it, and just as the Hebrew writer says, “…He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.” Heb 8:6-7. In Christ that Old Law is completely done away, something that today’s denominations do not understand (Gal 3:25, Rom 7:6, Heb 8:13). The second point, our freedom from our past sins once we put on Christ is something we all know. We all know that Christ died for our sins. Less known however is how we put on Christ, a passage that describes both points, Romans 6:3 says, “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been Baptized into His death?” and verse 6 says, “knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin”. When we are buried with Christ in baptism, God at that point removes our past sins as we repent and are baptized for forgiveness, dying to our sinful self and rising to walk in the newness of life.

So what isn’t our freedom in Christ? Freedom in Christ is not freedom from law all together, just as we still have to go to school and do our homework in our free country, we also have a Christian law we must live by in our freedom of Christ. That law is not the Old Law but it is the new law, the law of Christ (1 Cor 9:21, Gal 6:2), the law of the Spirit (Rom 8:2), the perfect law (Jas 1:25) which is the new covenant. That means we cannot choose our favorite apostle and ignore the writings of the rest, but we are to live by all the New Testament’s teachings. Likewise this means that we are not free to let down our guard against sin just because at one point in our life we were placed in the grace of Christ. We can fall from grace, only “if we walk in the light as He is in the light,” will we be continually cleansed by His blood (1 John 1:7). Jesus told us this so plainly in John 8:31-32, saying; “…If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of mine; and you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” How often have were heard the latter portion of that passage quoted? Promising us that we can be free, yet how uncommon it is that we point out what Christ really said, that this freedom comes if and only if we abide in His word? Paul in Galatians gives us a warning so similar concerning our freedom. “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh…” (Gal 5:13, cf. 1 Pet 2:16, 1 Cor 8:9). Ask yourself, how have you been looking at God’s freedom he has given you? Just like as Americans and even more so as Christians, we have a great freedom to be thankful for and a heavy price that was paid for it. We must not forget the sacrifices that have been made. But we also need to ask our self a simple question. Are we making our freedom in Christ into something that it is not?

Photo Credit: <a href=”https://www.flickr.com/photos/46042146@N00/2635488820/”>Randy Son Of Robert</a> via <a href=”http://compfight.com”>Compfight</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;

The Small, Unnoticed Church – from the Valley coc bulletin

The Small, Unnoticed Church

Charlton Rhinehart

In the well known passage of Matthew 16, Peter answers Jesus’ question asking who the people say that He is. Peter replies that he knows that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus then said to Peter in Matthew 16:18; “… you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it ” (NASB). Jesus promised Peter, the apostles, and all who have read this scripture since then, that once his church was established, it would always be, that Satan could never eradicate His church. Those of us who have been in the Wednesday night study of Acts have had a recent reminder of when the church was established, in Acts chapter 2, 33 A.D. So has the Church Christ established really always existed all of this time, nearly 2000 years?

Not only ourselves, but Catholics also love this passage where Jesus responds to Peter, promising His church, yet they claim it has some different meanings. One aspect the Catholics favor, is that this was spoken to Peter, who they claim to be the first Pope. The other point they claim however, that is more relevant to this article, is that Jesus promised His church would always exist. The Catholic reasoning of this says; if the Church would always exist, then the succeeding church leaders could always be traced back to the very beginning of the church. This is exactly what they claim, taking great pride in their ability to trace their popes and bishops back to Peter and the Apostles. It is remarkable the history the Catholic Church has, but their error is revealed in the very early centuries, where the men they claim to be leaders of their church’s history, actually refute the structure of such an unscriptural church pattern. These early Christian men deny in their writings the authority that the Catholic church accredits to them.

So if the Catholic Church cannot trace its roots though forefathers back to the beginning, how could anyone else? The fact of the matter is that no one can trace their roots back to the establishment of the church by knowledge of all the saints who lived before them. Because the true church that Christ established, was not always the biggest church. The true church that has always-”followed in the apostles doctrine” (Acts 2:42), hasn’t been passed down in a continuous chain of a single denomination. The true roots of the church, that we can trace, is the teachings of the apostles through scripture, by following their teaching and traditions, we can know that we are the church that Christ established and died for (1 Tim 3:15). You see the church is built on the word, anyone, anywhere, anytime can establish a congregation by looking to God’s word and following the pattern we have there. We don’t see those congregations in history, because those congregations were too small, but we know they were always there. Maybe there would be one in a city for a while, one in the country, one meeting in a house, another meeting in secret because of persecution, but somewhere, no matter how small, there was always the church, and Satan could never overpower it.

That is exactly what we are at Valley, small. But if we hold fast to the standard of sound words (2 Tim 1:13), we can know that we are the church that is truly “of Christ”.  I cannot think of any better fitting scripture than what Christ said in Matt 18:20; “For wherever two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst.” We are small, when just a few miss because of work, travel, sickness, or just failure to be faithful to the assembly, it hurts us, and we really notice it then. But while we need to be here as much as possible, while we need every member we have, we also have to remember, that Christ never promised we would be the most popular, he never promised we would make the history books, but he promised His church would always exist, that Satan will never totally defeat His church. Let’s not give up because we are few, let’s not think that Satan has defeated us, let’s remember Christ and his promise, the great Kingdom that we are (Matt 16:19).