That’s a lot of Liquor

Charlton Rhinehart

There is a restaurant that my family and I often eat at and across the road from that restaurant is a liquor store. I have noticed the store a time or two, once there was a man stumbling around out front of the store that my wife and I watched for a moment, but aside from that I have paid the store very little attention. Recently I was leaving yet again from our favorite restaurant, and as I pulled out onto the main road I noticed that far down from the liquor store was shelves and shelves of liquor. I did a double take as pulled out onto the road watching careful for traffic coming also, but I had to see; was that liquor store really that big? It was that big, the store went down much further in the shopping center than I thought it did. I was impressed to see all the bottles that I did on those loaded shelves, and just to think it stretched all the way down to that entrance and beyond was surprising. I thought to myself, “that’s a lot of liquor”.

I was driving alone this time having drove separate from my family, and that gave me time to think. I wasn’t trying to think on the alcohol, it gives me hardly any temptation and perhaps even more disgust to dwell on it, but still I thought about all those bottles in that store. My first thought was that’s a lot of money – a lot of value to all those bottles, which lead to the next thought, that’s a lot of drunkenness. My mind wondered on still picturing all those rows and rows of bottles, I wonder how many DUI’s those bottles will cause? Worse yet, how many of those bottles will lead to wrecks on the road – or how many family’s will loose someone in one of those wrecks? I wonder how many will lose their job because of one of those bottles, as I thought of the man at work that most recently lost his job to his last DUI. That’s a lot of problems, that’s a lot of liquor.

That’s a lot of hangovers and miserable days. That’s a lot of money, not just the $50 bottles of vodka or tequila, but the wastefulness of a man under it’s influence for the night. That’s a lot of fights, arguments and hurt feelings. A lot of black eyes – physical and to the reputation. That’s a lot of bold words with no thought texted, and lot of apologies and shame in the following days. That’s a lot of foolish choices, that’s a lot of liquor.

That’s a lot cheap laughs at sinful things that should be despised (1 Cor 13:6). That’s a lot of excuses to sleep with a person that isn’t yours. That’s a lot of fornication, adultery and divorce. That’s a lot of broken homes, children with heartaches, and children tempted to turn to sin as they grow up empty. That’s a lot of missed house payments and bankruptcy. A lot of cost to society, but all our city council sees is the initial tax revenue. That’s a lot heavy cost to us all, that’s a lot of liquor.

Half of the liquor stores in my home town are still called package stores because there was a time when we were ashamed to admit what we had permitted to be sold. Instead, when we think of a liquor store or restaurant bar now, we think of dollar signs, good times, and prominent men making big business deals over a drink. We have somehow learned to ignore the true cost of alcohol.

There was a time when I would have liked to walk into that liquor store and pick out a bottle or two like I did at others. A time when all of those rows of liquor would have been appealing to me though I thought I was a Christian, liberalism told me I was fine. I can see beyond the appeal of such folly now thanks to truth and I can see what each of those bottles really are, and I can despise it. I am sure most all of these problems were sitting on one of those shelves of this store, and I am sure at least some of these problems were in each of these bottles. That’s a lot of problems, that’s a lot of  liquor.

Woe to those who are heroes in drinking wine, And valiant men in mixing strong drink;” (Isa 5:22) NASB.

Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger over wine, those who go to taste mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, When it sparkles in the cup, When it goes down smoothly; At the last it bites like a serpent, And stings like a viper” (Psalm 23:29-32).

The Elder’s Wife

Charlton Rhinehart

Throughout the scriptures we find examples of elders leading the church. In Titus we find a list of qualifications for elders, as well as I Timothy gives qualifications for elders, deacons, and their wives. As we look at all the qualifications it is the wife of an elder that we often forget about, but she is one of the most valuable qualifications of this leader in the church.

Among the many roles that we can each have as servants in the kingdom of God, there is no greater honor, respect and responsibility than that of the elders. We always see a plurality of elders in each single New Testament congregation, it is not the job for just one man. The elders who rule well are to be -“…considered worthy of double honor…” (1 Tim 5:17, NASB). We, the church are to – “…appreciate those who labor among you, and have charge over you…” ( 1 Thess 5:12). The elders also – “… keep watch over your souls, as those who will give account…” ( Heb 13:17). Great will be the reward in eternity for many faithful shepherds in the church of our Lord, but likewise great will be the punishment for many shepherds who have allowed their congregation to go astray. The position of an elder is one that holds great reward and accountability.

One of the first qualifications we see an elder is to have is his wife. He must be – “…the husband of one wife…” (I Tim 3:2; Titus 1:6). Peter also having served as an elder (I Pet 5:1-4), makes clear the responsibility of the husband and his wife toward one another (I Pet 3:1-7). We see that the elders’ wives are to be – “…dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things” (I Tim 3:11). If a woman is not to be a leader in the church (I Cor 14:34), if she is not to teach or have authority over the men (I Tim 2:12), then why is her presence such an emphasized requirement? Beyond her presence, why is she required to meet certain qualifications if she bears no responsibility herself? The answer is she does carry a great responsibility.

When I think of the good elders I have seen in the church, I no longer think of just the elder himself but often of him and his wife. One foremost word that comes to mind when I think of the elder and his wife is teamwork. Just scan your church auditorium as we are assembled, find each elder in the crowd, chances are he is not sitting next to the other elders but next to his wife. Watch as worship or classes end, she will get up and likely be one of the busier people. She is sure to be talking with others keeping up with the members concerns, she will seek out visitors and find out if they know about the church or not. Watch who is involved with the many children’s classes, the preparation for them and the coaching for new teachers. Notice how her involvement with the children link her to so many of the families in a special way. If there is any upcoming event in the church she is sure to be involved. Notice who is often working hard coordinating food for the sick, making sure needs are being met, and hosting groups for new Christians or other ladies. Some of the busiest and most involved individuals in the church are the elder’s wives. Sure anyone of us could step up and do many of the same things, but God knew that the elder’s wife would especially be involved in the church’s work. God placed certain qualifications for her because He knew the responsibility she would bear. An elder and his wife are a team in the church, they each lead in very different and very similar ways.

Another aspect of the shepherd’s wife is her counsel. If you have any clue to the elder’s work than you know they make many difficult decisions on weighty matters. If there is trouble in the church they are dealing with it, if there is a family having problems, if there is a member slowly falling away, the list could go on but there are many hard issues that each elder has the responsibility to be involved with. Many of these issues require deep thought, study and prayer. If an elder was to share many of these difficult things with other church members it could likely cause splits as groups take sides, if an elder were to talk about these things in front of his children gossip would be sure to leak out incorrectly at some time or another. An elder needs to be able to share the difficult things he is thinking on with someone intimate, his spouse. Perhaps again God knew this would take place, could any man be in such a hard position and not share his thoughts with his wife? This too is why his wife must meet some qualifications. An elder could possibly be married to a non Christian and meet the requirement of just being married, but if she were not a Christian he could not share these difficult things with her for her compassion and input. God set a requirement of her Christianity and character as a helpmate to the elder. She needs to be of solid Christian character, hence – “…faithful in all things” (I Tim 3:11). She too will be tried by the challenges an elder faces, she too will need knowledge of the scriptures as she counsel’s her husband, that knowledge which only comes with years of study. Her involvement in the church also might bring out facts the elder alone often wouldn’t know. Of course it is not to be that the man is merely a puppet only doing what his wife tells him, the scriptures deal with this also – (Eph 5:22-24; Col 3:18; I Pet 3:1-6), but she is his helper and most intimate friend. Men rely on their spouses’ input far more than they or others realize, God knew the elder’s spouse needed to be a faithful sister in Christ.

An elder’s and a deacon’s wife are one of the most involved individuals in the church leading in ways we often don’t think of. She holds a great responsibility that is more than just setting a good example. As I think about my own children, I would love for my son to one day be able to preach and teach and to defend the church if he is willed that capability. But as for my daughters, they may not ever be behind the pulpit or at an elders or deacons meeting. I know however that they can grow to be just as valuable in the church in ways like these if they are faithful and taught the Lord’s ways. The elder and his wife are a team in the church, how can we ever say that women are so limited in the kingdom?

Public School, Home School, & Sex Education

Charlton Rhinehart

As my wife and I approach the day we will have to make the choice for our children between home school or public school, I simply wanted to write some of the thoughts we have discussed as we near that day. As it turns out, sex education is a major part of that decision.

As I think about public school and the threats it may hold for a Christian child, there are a few subjects that arise. One of those subjects of course, is the teaching of evolution and the age of the earth, another would be how other school kids might treat a Christian child standing for what is right. The third item that comes to my mind is sex education. Just what are they going to teach my child that is right and wrong when it comes to sex, or as I have always known it, “Family Life Class?”

My wife and I were both raised in public schools. We hold no favoritism toward home schooling, nevertheless we have made some friends over the years that have chosen the home school route, and we can see the value in it. As we think about the above listed threats, we have discussed that we do not want to hide our children from the world. Christians are to be in the world, but not of the world. We cannot hide ourselves like the Amish from society, but we must let our lights shine before men (Matt 5:16). At the same time however, we know a Christian must avoid temptation. You don’t send a recovering alcoholic for a repair in a wine cellar, you don’t leave piles of money around someone repenting of past theft, and we cannot drop our children off in a school that constantly will teach and tempt them with many things we know are wrong! As you can see, there are several considerations.

Of all the threats that public schools hold, one stands out to my wife and I above the rest, sex education. The way science is taught often depends on the science teacher, who often might even be a believer himself. The way other children treat a Christian child often depends on your location and circumstances, but the way sex education is taught is hard to imagine holding any of God’s principals in public school; in fact, I know it doesn’t.

I remember when I was younger one very bored night going through my dad’s books, I happened across a 1986 Freed Hardeman Lectureship book. As I flipped through the book I landed on the introduction which spoke about the city of Memphis threatening to teach these “Family Life Classes.” I read on in amusement as it spoke about just how horrible these sex education courses would be for our children. The editor said, “They intend to expose students in Memphis to their liberal, humanistic view of human sexuality.”¹ Having just completed some Family Life classes at the time, I marveled at their ignorance of how harmless and helpful the classes really were. Now years later, I marvel at my own ignorance, the subtle teachings that contained so many lies that altered my thinking for years.

First and foremost, the Family Life course in public school teaches “Safe Sex.” My first sex education course was when I was in the fifth grade, 1995. I do remember marriage being taught as the ideal place for safe sex, but even in that day, the priority of the class was to teach “safe sex” to those of us who would need to know it long before marriage. This is one of the biggest problems of the course, it is instituted with the wrong motives. The class teachings may acknowledge that marriage is the ultimate solution, but the course has given up on the idea that we will be waiting until then. You might be saying, “is that not a good thing to teach, being that the majority of teens do not wait until marriage?” While I can see that argument, especially from the world’s view, I also have to think how different things would be if we didn’t teach our youth how to do what we are telling them not to do! When we teach our youth the way to have “safe sex” without marriage, how can we be surprised when they have sex before marriage? By the way, is there any “safe sex” outside of a marriage recognized by God? No practice can be taught to keep us from God’s judgment, regardless of other consequences we may dodge (Rom 1:27). There is no safe sex outside of God’s instruction, but Family Life teaches your child that there is.

Another hidden mistake of the class is the way that STD’s are portrayed. Again the truth is not totally ignored, there is the teaching and truly the education of what diseases can be spread through sex. I must say the course does educate well about the reality of those diseases, how they are treated, that there are other ways they can be caught, all things we need to understand. Here again however is some deception, and that is in the emphasis of the way STD’s are spread. The class admits sex is a way for STD’s to spread, but it obscures the fact that sex outside of marriage is the main reason for STD’s. There is a huge emphasis on the innocent who have caught a disease by some other means. Again in my youth I remember my uncle who was a bit random with his comments, telling my cousins and myself that the reason God sent aids was a consequence for homosexuals. We all busted out laughing at him, myself included, his ignorance to think that only gays could catch aids! Again, I now have to look back at my own ignorance instead. Yes, I know anyone can catch aids by any blood to blood contact, but we had been trained that most individuals who have aids got if from some means other than sex, a huge lie. They had taken a truth, and twisted it into a lie, a lie that made sex outside of God’s word look innocent. STD’s were no one’s fault, not the result of any sin, and we truly believed it.

A factor that is often unthought-of about sex education is the circumstance it creates in the family. The dreaded question of parents, “where do babies come from?” is now answered by the school. Not only is that question answered, but all those other questions that come along with it are answered there also. While this may seem like a huge relief to parents and a break from a difficult responsibility, there is a serious consequence to the family. When these difficult questions that every child has are answered by a third party, there is a part of parenting that is left undone creating a missing part of that relationship. One day your son or daughter knows nearly nothing about sex and the changes that lay ahead for their body, a few days later they know nearly as much as you do. There was never a discussion, never a point that you can both relate to made, never even an awkward word spoken, just one day they don’t know, and another day they do. This adds a huge awkward barrier to the parent child relationship, one you may have never even thought of. The best comparison I can think of is a marriage relationship silent about sex, can you imagine how strange that close relationship would be? While it may be different in many ways, there is a similar aspect in parenting, and that is that parents should be looked up to as guides to teach on these questions. When that is left un-discussed, there is something missing in that relationship and guidance, we are leaving out one of the “secret” bonds that cause our children to look to us. All we do is put up a wall of unspoken understanding that we both have that we dare not discuss, a wall that spreads to other aspects of our relation with them.

Finally as I consider the subject of sex education, especially as I think of my own children as they approach school age, there is the new aspect of homosexuality and transgender issues that have become common. My experience with Family Life or Sex Education began over 20 years ago, I can only imagine what is taught now. I honestly suspect homosexual methods of sex are explained and illustrated just like heterosexual sex was when I was in the course. I honestly suspect male and female bodies will be explained as choices rather than what we have been given. I can’t imagine the questions that would be asked in class, or the serious respectful way the teacher would be teaching on such issues that they seek to normalize, but I know they will be there. The government’s relationship with Planned Parenthood comes to my mind, and I have to wonder how related the belief system and teaching is between the two. There is a definite agenda in Family Life classes, and I should have never been part of it, I am certain I do not want my children to have any part of it either.

We are still up in the air on whether or not public school or home school is the best way for our children. We have a couple years left still to decide. One thing is for sure for us however, we will be opting our children out of “Family Life Class.” It may create some ridicule by other children, we may have to study some facts on STD’s and other things, it may cause us to have to teach on some difficult subjects and embarrass our kids and ourselves some, but there is no other choice for us. If you choose the public school route, I encourage you to look into making certain that opting out is going to be an option for you to choose for your children. Be alert when those classes are coming and stay one step ahead. Also, study your children’s classes to know what is taught in other classes. While most give the option to opt out of Family Life, some districts have began teaching these things in other classes that cannot be opted out of. When there is no option to opt my children out of select classes that teach these things, I know homeschooling will be my only consideration. Whatever route you choose, be aware of the deception that Family Life Classes teach, and keep your children from it.

¹ Claiborne, Winford. “Introduction,” Pages viii-x in Ethics for Daily Living Freed-Hardeman College 1986 Lectures. Edited by Winford Claiborne. Nashville:  Williams, 1986.

The Blessing of a Christian Spouse


Charlton Rhinehart

Myself along with many others have been challenged to write on the benefits of a Christian life by the website, The Preacher’s Favorite Passage, As I thought through the many blessings I wanted to write about, the blessing of a Christian life that I am choosing to write on is the blessing of a Christian spouse.

I first want to say that while a Christian spouse is huge factor in a Christian’s life, I realize that it is something not everyone has. Paul was one who was thankful he was not married or obligated to care for a family so that he could devote more time in work to the Lord (1 Cor 7:7), shame on any eldership today that sets the requirement that a minister be married. I also realize that many Christians are already married to someone who is not a Christian, to such Paul gives commands from the Lord, and challenges them to be the right example (1 Cor 7:10-16). There are also those who because of unscriptural divorce, are not permitted to remarry (Matt 19:9), to them I give some of my greatest respect. Brothers and sisters, be cautious who you choose to marry.

That being said, I truly believe that one of the greatest blessings of a Christian life is having a Christian spouse. The spouse you choose is someone you shape the majority of your life around. That person by their input and your agreement with one another will likely affect where you live, what future jobs you choose, what you do for fun, even what you eat will be a regular compromise with that individual. A person’s character who is this involved in your life is important; here are three traits that make a Christian spouse such a blessing.

A Christian spouse is one you can trust. With such a huge commitment of your own life devoted to one person, trust is mandatory. The Christian character is built around honesty, faithfulness and trust, just as God has been towards us. A secular marriage is also built on these things, but as we know, these attributes in a person often fail. While the same failure can happen in a Christian, just knowing that a person has a commitment to God that they have been faithful to, gives the promise of these aspects so much more meaning. To know that there is a commitment not only toward you from your spouse, but also an obligation they hold sacred before God to be faithful to you. To know that there is not merely a promise to be faithful to you, but that person strives to keep Christ’ command to not even let their heart stray from you alone. To know your spouse stands for the New Covenant’s teaching, that divorce and remarriage is not an option, but only for one reason. While the occurrence of divorce in the church has long been said to be the same as the world, several articles lately have been published  revealing that the divorce rate inside churches are actually much lower than the world. I dare say that divorce of faithful members in the Lord’s true church is very uncommon.  What a blessing to trust your spouse is not only faithful to their vows, but also in every word and to God.

A Christian spouse is an encouragement to your walk with Christ. A Christian’s life is built around service and labor for the Lord, love of His church and the treasure where our heart is, in the Lord. Our joy, our passion, our hope is invested in the kingdom of God, which is the church. You know the feeling that we have when a person we know begins showing interest in the gospel, things such as this is our purpose and joy. I cannot imagine being married to someone I could not share those feelings of hope with when I get home each day! A spouse more than anything is someone you relate to, someone you share feelings with, the one who knows you and you pour your heart out before them.  What a blessing it is to be able share this huge portion of your life: your labors, your hope, even your disappointments of your Christian life with a person holding the same goals. This is the difference in hoping your spouse will allow you to spare some money or time to give to God, or the spouse who is there by your side making a sacrifice along with you in the kingdom. Perhaps this is part of the reason why the most important role in the church, that of an elder, requires a faithful wife (1 Tim 3:2, 11; Titus 1:6). A Christian spouse is a huge blessing of encouragement.

A Christian spouse is a friend forever. We have deep love for the one we marry, even when the beauty of youth fades, often the friendship and bond in a marriage becomes far more valuable with time. It is only natural that someone so close to us would be the one who we are most concerned for their eternal home. As the earthly wedding vows many of us quoted tell us, “until death do we part,” a Christian couple has the assurance they will meet again. Jesus plainly tells us that, “…in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage…” (Matt 22:30 NASB). While our relationship there may be much different, better in ways our human minds cannot yet comprehend, what a blessing it is to know your husband or wife will be there in eternity with you. A Christian spouse is a blessing to know of the assurance you have for the one you love so much.

When God created man, He said “…it is not good for the man to be alone; I will make a helper suitable for him,” (Gen 2:18). A spouse is a helper, a helper in the challenges of life, and the greatest blessing of a spouse is a Christian spouse, a Christian helper. Christ chose this Holy relationship to compare His church to, the church which is made up of those He saved. Obviously this relationship is a blessing, and a Christian spouse is a fulfillment of that blessing.  I thank God for my Christian wife, God’s design for marriage and family.

A Fair Lady


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

Flag Pic

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=””>Randy Son Of Robert</a> via <a href=””>Compfight</a&gt; <a href=””>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).