A RACE TO THE BOTTOM
There are some races on snow that start at the top of the mountain or hill and end at the bottom. However, that is not the kind of race that we are talking about. We are not even talking about the Boston Marathon. A marathon is a foot race that is 26 miles and 385 yards long. A road race or foot race is a very peaceful thing. The peace of the Boston Matron was disturbed with two bombs placed at the finish line that killed and injured many. The Boston Marathon is an annual run hosted by several cities in Greater Boston in eastern Massachusetts. It is always held on Patriots' Day, the third Monday of April. It started in 1897 with 18 runners. Today it is one of the best known road races, attracting 26,839 registered runners in 2013. The Boston Marathon is open to runners 18 years old or older from any nation. However a runner must meet certain qualifying standards in order to enter. A runner must first complete a standard marathon course certified by a national governing body affiliated with the International Association of Athletics Federations within a certain period of time before the date of the desired Boston Marathon and within a certain time for that event. To qualify for the Boston Marathon I would have to run a certified marathon in 4 hours and 10 minutes or less. Our great nation is in a race; sadly, we are in a race to the bottom. Unchristian is the word that best describes our race to the bottom. Worldliness has resulted in immodesty, pornography, dancing, thefts, drugs, immorality, rapes, child abuse and divorce. Righteous Lot was vexed by the worldliness of his day and we should also be vexed by the worldliness of our day. (2 Peter 2:7-8)
We are in a race to the bottom morally. Our society has become a very violent society where people rape and rob, steal and kill, murder and molest. Multiplied numbers of people are under Satan’s control. Drug addiction becomes a worse problem daily. The evil fruits of addiction to alcohol and other drugs continue to be reaped in our society as more people continue to drink alcohol and use other drugs. (Proverbs 20:1) Drinking and using other drugs is so costly and harmful, physically, mentally, socially, economically, morally and especially spiritually. In our race to the bottom adultery, fornication and homosexuality have become a way of life for many. Our society has become so confused that it calls evil good and good evil. "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" (Isaiah 5:20) Think about the sad moral condition of in the United States where it is legal for a physician to kill a baby at any time prior to birth. You can call it abortion but murder by any other name is still murder. The Bible condemns abortion. Although the word "abortion" is not in the scriptures, God's word speaks very clearly about it. God warned, "Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man." (Genesis 9:6.) God hates those who shed innocent blood. (Proverbs 6:16-17.) Abortion is the shedding of innocent blood. We are in a race to the bottom morally.
We are in a race to the bottom religiously. The race to the bottom is marked by a moving away from God’s truth in religious matters. It can happen suddenly and deliberately; or it can happen gradually and accidentally. This moving away from truth leads to division and confusion. Satan does not want you to study the Bible for if you do you will find spiritual light and understanding. (Psalm 119:130) Since Bible study is so important, how could a person be so negligent and indifferent toward it? Satan has bound many in religious ignorance with the result being that we now have hundreds of religious bodies, each claiming to follow the same Bible and each claiming to serve the same God. In our race to the bottom, many approach true religion in a half hearted way. But, because God and His work are so important we cannot afford to be indifferent in our spiritual service. Those who are indifferent and those who are not following truth are in a race to the bottom religiously.
We are in a race to the bottom ethically. Ethics is that part of our Christian faith which is concerned with how we act; it is the study of behavior. Christians are very much concerned about the right kind of behavior. It is impossible to have an ethical community or nation without faith in God and obedience to His will. When people love God their word will mean something and they will respect their fellow man. Human life is precious to the believer. Obedience to God will lead us to a life where we do not lie, cheat and steal, and to a life where we do not waste our lives fighting with others. Gambling cannot be a part of an ethical life. Gambling is motivated by characteristics of selfishness, covetousness and greed. (Luke 12:15, Romans 12:10) Gambling demands a trust in chance and material things. Instead we must have a trust in God and His will. (Matthew 6:19-34, Luke 12:13-21) Christians are called upon to imitate Jesus daily. Great moral and ethical societies are built upon faith in God, honor, trust, and obedience to His will.
How can we get out of this race to the bottom? Our morally bankrupt nation is filled with “ungodliness and worldly lust.” We must not allow ourselves to live that way. Paul wrote of the grace of God, “Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” (Titus 2:12 ) Jesus “Gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” (Titus 2:14) Our escape from this downhill plunge is through Jesus Christ. To get off the race course to the bottom demands a strong faith in God and a determined obedience to His will. John wrote, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith.” (1 John 5:4) Faith is the victory over the world because through our faith we let go of the world and cleave to Jesus completely. The time that you spend in prayer and reading the Bible helps keep you off of the path to the bottom. As we live this earthly life let us stay focused on eternal things. Let us have enough confidence in God that we put ourselves totally into the things that are important to Him, into the things that will advance His kingdom and into things that move us upward and not things that take us to the bottom. Paul wrote of the upward call, “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)
Nahum wrote, "The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him." (Nahum 1:7) Let us run to the top and not to the bottom! Which way are you running? To become a Christian you must hear the gospel of Christ (John 6:44-45), believe in Jesus (Acts 8:37), repent of sins (Luke 13:5), confess Christ as Lord (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized to wash away your sins. "And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." (Acts 22:16) Are you a Christian? If the answer is yes, then you are exhorted to be diligent in serving Jesus. If the answer is no, you must remember that the bottom is eternal misery.
---- Charles Box
News & Notes
1. Prayer List: In Need of Prayer: LeRoy Boutwell, Dannie Box, Mary Ann Bozeman, Brenda Burkett, Edwina Butts, Terry Claunch, Camren Coleman, John Curry, Syble Farmer, Marietta Faulkenberry, Dawn Fullington’s cousin Jason, Ann Jackson, Sonny Johnson, Felice Kendrick, Patricia Kennemore, Ed Klash, Peggy Lassiter, Arthur Little, Kathy Mathis, Annie McKee, Jeff Miller, Karen Miller, Dot Mosley, Robert Mosley, Jane Owen, Candice Parker, Dawson Parker, LeAnn Parker, Elizabeth Perdue, Tina Pouncey, Brian Queener, Lydia Ann Raybon, Becky Reynolds, Billy Rodgers, Dianne Salter (sister of Pat O’Connor, Caleb Sam, Ron Seal, Nathan Simmons, Liz Singleton Martha Skipper, Kenneth Smith, Sarah Stidham, Robbie Taylor, John Tindoll, Bobbie Walker, Leroy Waller, Luvella Webb (surgery), Barbara Woods, and Tom Young. Crowne Health Care: Helen Autrey, Dorothy Buck, Jewel Cauthen, Gladys Childs, Arlene Coletrane, Betty Findley, Davis Hester, Kathy Johnson, Sarah Knight, Nelda Sanders and Annie Ruth Tetter.
2. Sign-Up Sheets for Vacation Bible School: June 23rd – 27th -- Let’s get an early start by signing up to help now. There will be a planning meeting for VBS on Sunday, April 28th at 4:30 pm. If you have any interest in teaching or helping with VBS in any way please attend this meeting!
3. 50th Anniversary Celebration: Bobby and Mary Terrell were honored on Saturday, April 27th as they celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Their family, church family, and other friends joined in the celebration. We commend the Terrell’s and all other families who honor God by marrying and staying married!
4. Bring a Visitor: Set your goal to make an honest effort to bring a visitor to the services of the church. There is someone that we can all influence to go to heaven. Let us all join together and win souls for Jesus. “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.” (Proverbs 11:30)
5. Youth Devotional: On Saturday, May 4th, there will be a devotional for youth of all ages at the home of Mike and Lora Gail Bagents. Children who wish to ride the van need to meet at the building at 11:30. Weather permitting; there will be a devotional, hayride, food, and fellowship. There is a signup sheet on the bulletin board for those who plan to attend.
6. Bridal Shower/Dinner: There will be a bridal shower/dinner for Dustin Harrell and Randi Burkett on May 19th after the evening service.
7. Anniversary: Celebrating an Anniversary this week: April 29th Bobby & Mary Lou Terrell, May 1st Tony & Libby Bozeman, May 2nd Jeff & Cindy Thomas, and May 3rd Allan & Ann Jackson.
8. Birthdays: Celebrating a Birthday this week: May 28th Kevin Huddleston, May 2nd Trina Croley, and May 4th Ricky Bagents.
9. Developing Strong Families: Our thanks to Jeff Grimes for the family lessons he presented last Sunday. Now, it is our task to go forth and put the principles of those lessons into practice. Christian families are one of God’s great blessings.
10. Carl Sessions Camp Fund: Please contribute to the “Carl Sessions Camp Fund.” This makes it possible for all Walnut Street Children to attend Bible camp. Make checks to Walnut Street Church of Christ and mark them “Carl Sessions Camp Fund.”
11. Be a Daily Bible Reader: It takes about seventy-two hours to read the Bible completely through at an average reading speed. Fill your heart with the word of God daily.
12. Area Events: (a) May 5th – Homecoming – Eastern Meadows church of Christ – Speaker Levi Sides – Bible Class 9:00 am, Worship 10:00 am and Worship 5:00 pm, and (b) Backwoods Christian Camp -- July 7th-12th. Counselors and Campers are needed. Contact Darrell Powell or Charles Box at 334-382-3001.
Sins That “Cling So Closely”
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). The idea here is that certain sins wrap around us like vines and become very difficult to avoid or overcome. Christians are encouraged to “lay aside” these sins, so that we can effectively run the race that is set before us.
The sin in the context of Hebrews 12:1, and one of the most widely entangling sins in the world today is the sin of unbelief. We are warned to beware of this clingy sin for a good reason. (Hebrews 3:12) If a person wholeheartedly believed Luke 6:38, would they be likely to have trouble giving with liberality? Or, would a person who really believed in Jesus refuse to be baptized after reading Mark 16:16? Remember that faith is justified through actions. (James 2:24) Therefore, the lack of faith, or unbelief, is the root of many sins.
We can think of many sins that might cling closely to us. Some sins we may commit as a result of our personality such as pride, laziness, or stubbornness. Others may be sins that we became entangled in before obeying the gospel and we need to lean on the Lord and depend on Him to help us outgrow those wrongs. These can be difficult to overcome, but I’ve seen new Christians conquer some of the most difficult sins, and they did it because of their deep love for God and their trust that he will help them.
Most of us face sins like these almost daily, and sometimes many times in a day. But when you feel Satan breathing down your neck, take comfort in Paul’s words, “…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.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) So, “let us lay aside every weight, and the sin, which so easily besets us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1.)