What Has This Year Taught Us?

With a global pandemic, lockdowns, economic woes, a contested Presidential election, and more, this has been quite an unusual year. While the wise man noted that “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9), from our perspective it can seem like we are living in unprecedented times.

As the events of this year have unfolded, there are some important truths that have been highlighted. These have always been true, but they are more apparent in light of recent events. Let us briefly consider a few points.

The Future Is Unpredictable

Many plans that were made for this year had to be postponed, altered, or cancelled altogether. While there never have been guarantees as far as our future plans are concerned, this year has made this reality even clearer. The wise man wrote, “If no one knows what will happen, who can tell him when it will happen?” (Ecclesiastes 8:7). James reminded us, “Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). This year should serve as a reminder for us that we cannot predict what will transpire in the days, months, and years to come.

Man Does Not Have All the Answers

As people around the world were faced with a previously unknown virus, it was clear that, despite the best efforts of doctors and government officials, no one was sure of the best way to deal with the situation. The Proverb writer said, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, but the glory of kings to search out a matter” (Proverbs 25:2). In other words, man will never find all of the answers he is looking for – even those who are seemingly in the best position to have the resources necessary to pursue these answers. This is one reason why the psalmist wrote, “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes” (Psalm 118:8-9). As many admonish us to trust the scientists or government officials, we need to be sure our trust is in the Lord first.

Life Is Fragile

Throughout the pandemic this year, many people have died from the virus and from complications related to it. Of course, death has always been a certainty. “And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Yet the constant news coverage of virus-related deaths and the accounts of sickness and death among those with whom we are personally acquainted has brought this into the forefront of our minds. As we already noticed, our life is “just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). Though one may live “seventy [or] eighty years,” once the end comes, whenever that is, our life is “soon…gone and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10).

Brethren Need One Another

Across the country, churches have shifted from regular assemblies to virtual “assemblies.” Even if churches have continued to meet in person, many members have not assembled due to health concerns or other reasons. The isolation that many have experienced during the pandemic has taken a toll on our society. In fact, a recent Gallup survey found that American’s mental health ratings have dropped to a new low among every demographic except one – those who attend religious services weekly. The Hebrew writer explained the importance of the assembly: “And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25). The assembly is not just about worshipping God and fulfilling our obligation to Him. It is also about encouraging one another. During difficult times, brethren need this encouragement from one another even more.

Our Hope Must Be in the Lord

No one knows if or when the situation with the pandemic will improve. No one knows if or when our economy or life as we knew it will ever return to “normal.” For all we know, from our limited human perspective, conditions could get even worse in the future compared to how they are now. However, as Christians we have hope beyond this life. Paul told the brethren in Corinth, “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. […] So also in Christ all will be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:19-22). Jesus told His apostles, “Take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Through Jesus’ resurrection, we can have the same courage. Paul encouraged the Christians in Rome by saying, “But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37). Despite all of the negative things that have happened this year – and what could happen next year and beyond – we have hope through Christ.


As we approach a new calendar year, let us remember what the Bible teaches on these points we have considered. Moving from one year to another does not change the truth of what God’s word has said. No matter what happened this year or what is in store for the next, let us keep our hope and trust in the Lord.

–Andy Sochor, Eastside church of Christ in Morgantown, KY. Plainbibleteaching.com

Christian astronaut — and his communion cups — lifting off on space mission

A Texas church member will rely on his Bible and prayer to deal with isolation at the International Space Station.

Online worship during the COVID-19 pandemic has helped prepare Victor Glover for a long-awaited work trip. Where Glover is going — 250 miles above Earth to the International Space Station — there is no physical church building.
“I actually sent up communion cups and a Bible, and we have really good internet connectivity,” said the NASA astronaut, one of four crew members for the SpaceX Crew Dragon’s first operational flight, set to launch this weekend.
“So honestly, I will probably continue in what we’ve been doing: virtual service, virtual giving, reading my Bible and praying,” added Glover, the pilot for a team that also includes NASA’s Michael Hopkins and Shannon Walker and Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi.
Glover, a Church of Christ member in the Houston area, discussed his faith with The Christian Chronicle while making preparations for a six-month mission to the space station. Glover’s first trip into space will give him a view of the heavens and the earth — which Genesis 1:1 says God created in the beginning — that few in history have experienced. 

What might be going through his mind as the spacecraft soars high above the clouds? “I have a job to do. Sometimes that gets lost in the emotion of it,” Glover replied. “I’m looking forward to looking out the window and taking the pictures and taking in the moment.” But most importantly, he said, he must focus on his job and Crew-1’s safety.
Once at the space station — a world-class lab orbiting Earth — the astronauts’ activities will include scientific experiments, robotic operations and space walks.
“I want to use the abilities that God has given me to do my job well and support my crewmates and mission and NASA,” he said. “That’s really the thing I think the most about.”
‘Do not be anxious’
In the moments before launch, Glover’s wife, Dionna, and their four daughters — Genesis, 17; Maya, 15; Joia, 14; and Corinne, 12 — will be foremost in his mind, he said. Before joining NASA in 2013, the 44-year-old Navy commander flew combat missions in Iraq and served as a legislative fellow to the late U.S. Sen. John McCain, himself an acclaimed naval aviator. 
“Just in general, before I go and even get in an airplane to go on a flight, I say a prayer, and I always think about my family,” Glover said. “If I don’t see them directly for some reason, I’ll send them a note, a text message, because I do a very high-risk thing.  “I’m not in combat anymore being shot at, but there’s still a risk,” he explained. “So I always want to make sure that, ‘Hey, if today is my day, I’ve told my family, I’ve told my girls that I love them, and I had a chance to commune with God directly.’ And then I go and do what I need to do and feel good about it.”
That said, he allowed for a bit of awe: “It’s going to be interesting to walk up to a rocket that’s really active and ready to go and has all those noises and sounds and know that I’m going to ride that to 400 kilometers up and then live there for half a year.”
For Dionna Glover, the approaching launch date brings a mix of emotions. “Of course I’m excited, but it’s also a little scary,” she said, seated beside her husband in a Zoom interview. “I’m nervous. I’m excited for him. I have Scriptures that I’m reading regularly to try to remind myself not to worry and not to stress.”
One of those Scriptures is Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Still, she acknowledged with a laugh, “I may be a basket case here once he leaves the planet. I’m praying that I won’t be.”
Growing his faith
Both California natives, Victor and Dionna Glover met in the 1990s as students at California Polytechnic State University, where the future fighter pilot and astronaut studied engineering. They married in 2002.
Dionna grew up in the Pinole Church of Christ, about 20 miles east of San Francisco. Her parents, Michael and Jocelyn Odom, still attend that congregation, where her father serves as an elder.
“I’ve always been a student of theology, I would say,” Victor said. “But I wasn’t as focused on studying and growing until I met Dionna, and then through college and into our married life, I got back to attending on a regular basis. “So I would say that as we’ve grown our family, that’s really when I’ve started to develop a real, true appreciation of my own faith and not just the academic.”
Tim Shoulders, from the Southeast church of Christ in Texas, praised Victor and Dionna’s dedication to their faith. “They have an incredible drive to produce faith in their children,” Shoulders said. “They are very invested in family and making sure church and God are at the center of that.”
“We (at NASA) do a lot of different types of team training, and some of it is just to build resilience so you can handle being up there in isolation,” Glover said. “It’s important to have different ways of finding encouragement, and for me, my family and my church and my Bible and praying are going to be a big source of that.”

(Christian Chronicle, November 10, 2020.)

Battle For Peace

The news is so negative. It has always been that way. However, today it seems like the negativity carries a megaphone and a bat. Despair echoes from every direction. Conflicts boil over in every relationship. We are paralyzed with anxiety and wield our opinions like swords. The devil dances with delight.

It is time for disciples of Jesus to go on the offensive. This is the moment to fight for peace. Now is the hour to rise to the occasion. But beware, our weapons are not physical, but spiritual. The battleground is not outward, but inward. The war is won by overcoming evil with good.

The path to peace does not come from human rulers, medical advances, or powerful organizations. Our peace is greater than any worldly calm. It comes from a transcendent God.

“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 4:7)

How often have I come to those words in search of peace and left frustrated!? I felt my peace should rise each morning with the dew, but it was gone just as quickly.

I discovered that peace does not come from chanting these words like a magic formula. They are not an ointment you rub on a bad day. The peace of God is a promise that depends upon tangible actions on my part. I must engage in the battle for peace, and God will ensure I win.

The strategy for winning the battle for peace is laid out in Philippians 4. Here are a few essential tactics.

Stand Together. A divided army is a defeated army. You see, there were two ladies in Philippi who were arguing, and the church felt the pain. Paul’s advice to them was to, “agree in the Lord” (Phil. 4:2). How can we spread peace, when there is no peace among us?

The blazing passions of our times are setting fires among believers. Now is the time to lay down your opinions and “pursue the things that make for peace” (Rom. 14:19). More than ever your world needs you to be a “blessed peacemaker” (Matt. 5:9).

Hold on To Joy. When days are dark it is hard to see the light of joy. You must fight for it. You must hunt it down. But it is there, in an endless reservoir, when you look in the right place. “Rejoice in the Lord always!” (Phil. 4:4). Find your joy in the Lord, for it does not crumble when the world quakes.

What makes you happy? Your anxieties reveal your true source of joy. When you are anxious about things that are temporary, worldly or selfish; when you agonize over the loss of your pleasures and plans, it is time to lay down your anxieties and “rejoice in the Lord.” Counteract every crushing report of despair with a reason to hope and rejoice in the Lord (this was the practice of the prophets and the psalmists).

Talk with God. I’m not surprised that people are afraid, uncertain, and angry. The problems of this world are too great for us. Even a microscopic virus is too great for us! But we are not alone. Through prayer we can rest in His ensuring wisdom and power. Through prayer we can fill the halls of our hearts with thanksgiving and praise. We need more prayer warriors who will lay down their constant need to be seen, and battle for peace on their knees (Phil. 4:6, 11-13).

Focus Your Thoughts. You are what you think! When our thoughts are dominated by the conspiracies, uncertainties, and violence of our day, we will be walking zombies of despair, or even worse, marching soldiers of ruin.

Guard the gate of your mind like a sentinel. Beat back the hordes of negativity. Only open the eternal real estate of your heart to things that are “true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and praiseworthy” (Phil. 4:8). In this culture, if you passively sit in your chair your mind will be captured by a parade of pessimism. It is time to break the stupor, get out of our chair, and go on the offensive and focus our thoughts on what is godly!

Take Action. The battle for peace has one more piece. Put on your shoes and do something to serve the Lord. Paul wrote, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil. 4:9). The time you spend helping the weak, saving the lost, serving the saved, healing the broken, will fill you with more peace than another hour plugged in to this cynical culture.

Lay down your pillow of escapism. Lay down your passive guzzling of pessimism. And bring the peace of God into a reality in your world.

Paul’s prayer is mine.

“Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way.
The Lord be with you all.” (2 Thess. 3:16)

Tim Jennings,
Castleberry church of Christ, River Oaks, Texas. 

From Focus Online

The Purpose of Suffering


I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippains 4:13)

Do you ever find yourself complaining throughout your day about silly frivolous things? Do you complain when it takes 20 minutes to get through the drive through at Burger King even though there are only two cars ahead of you? Do you complain when your tired and you just don’t want to do your homework, or the dishes? How about not wanting to go to work, or do your job while you are there? I’ll be the first to admit that I can sometimes be a big complainer––just ask my wife. The truth of the matter is that we really have absolutely nothing to complain about. It must sadden the LORD to listen to us grumble and complain about such minor things in our lives.
In 1 Corinthians 10:10-11, we can read about how the Israelite nation had this very problem. After they were freed from Egyptian bondage, and led into the wilderness, some of them began to complain and grumble about the conditions that they were living in. Some of them lost their lives because of their complaining. The Corinthians were told not to grumble, as some of them did, and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples, and were written down as a warning to us.
How strong this message is! The complaining that we so easily find ourselves doing is not very becoming of a Christian, but suffering for righteousness is.
When I hear someone is having a bad day, I usually tell them that you’ve got to have some bad days to appreciate the good ones. They usually tell me to shut up and go away!
To know Christ is to have fellowship in His sufferings. Philippians 3:10-11 tells us that to be a disciple is to suffer. According to 1 Peter 2:21-24, we have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for us, leaving His life as an example for you to follow in His steps. Then in Matthew 5:10-12, it tells us we are blessed when we are persecuted for the sake of righteousness. James 1:2-4 says that when we suffer, we also grow.
Here is a story by an unknown author that I’d like to share with you. One day, a man found the cocoon of an Emperor Moth. He took it home so that he could watch the moth come out of the cocoon. On the day a small opening appeared, he sat and watched the moth for several hours as it struggled to force it’s body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could, and just seemed to be stuck. Then the man, in his kindness, decided to help the moth, so he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of cocoon. The moth emerged easily, but it had a swollen body and small shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the moth, expecting that at any moment the wings would enlarge and expand enough to support the body, which would contract in time. Neither happened. In fact, the little moth spent the rest of it’s life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled legs. It was never able to fly.
What the man, in his kindness and haste did not understand, was that the restricting cocoon, and the struggle required for the moth to get through that tiny opening were necessary. God had planned it that way to force fluid from the body of the moth into it’s wings. It would then be ready for flight once it finally achieved it’s freedom. Freedom and flight would only come after the struggle. By depriving the moth of that struggle, the man deprived the moth of health and great achievement.
Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life. Our sufferings make us who we are. Read Romans 5:3-5. Trials produce many great qualities in us. We are blessed when we suffer for righteousness, 1 Peter 3:14-18. The conclusion of this is 2 Corinthians 4:8-11, we glorify God in our suffering.
We all have struggles, we all have trials. What we must understand is that the suffering here in this world and this life is not going to last forever. If we as Christians can continue to endure and fight the good fight, then we know that there is a home waiting for us in Heaven. If you are not yet a Christian, then you do not yet have that hope of being with God in the end. You need to asses your situation and find out what is keeping you from the Lord. He wants you, and you need Him, so become a child of God today.

––Eric Olson, Waupaca Church of Christ, Wuapaca, Wisconsin

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, 18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

(2 Corinthians 4:8-10, 16)

Practicing the Golden Rule

“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).

Most people, religious or not, recognize the “golden rule” – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. This is based upon Jesus’ statement in our text above. We know the statement, but how do we put it into practice? Let us consider a few thoughts.

We Must Take the Initiative

Jesus did not say, “Treat others as they treat you.” Instead, He said to treat them how you want them to treat you. The kindness of others is not a prerequisite to this command. In other words, if people do not treat us well, we are still to show love to them.

The reality is that people often may not treat us in the way we would like. This could be as simple as people ignoring or disregarding us, as Paul’s brethren did to him when he was on trial (2 Timothy 4:16). It could also take the form of persecution, something all Christians will face in some form (2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus taught that we are to “turn the other [cheek]” when we are mistreated by others (Matthew 5:38-41).

We are not to treat others as they treat us, but as we would want them to treat us. Jesus said, “This is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). This is what God has been consistently teaching His people throughout the ages (cf. Matthew 22:39-40; Romans 13:8-10).

Why We Treat Others This Way

On a basic level, we are to show love for others because God commanded us to do so. Jesus has “all authority,” so we are to do what He has said (Matthew 28:18-20). If we are wise, we will hear and obey His word (Matthew 7:24). If we love Him, we will keep His commandments (John 14:15).

Beyond this, we are to treat others with love because of the inherent value of each person. That means we practice the “golden rule” and treat others this way because they are worthy treating that way. All men were made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Jesus willingly died on the cross for each person (John 3:16) – even the “chief” of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15, KJV). Everyone is worth the same before God.   (continued on back)

There is also the matter of our relationship with God. Jesus said that God will deal with us in the way we deal with others. “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14-15). If we use an unmerciful standard of judgment against others, God will use that against us (Matthew 7:1-2). John wrote, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11). We cannot claim to love God if we do not love others (1 John 4:20-21).

How We Should Treat Others

We can start by showing respect for others. We typically think of the “golden rule” in terms of showing love (which we have already mentioned), but it is also important to think about it from this perspective. We should show the same respect toward others that we believe we deserve. This means we will do certain things:

Put others first – “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4). Paul said elsewhere that we are to “give preference to others” (Romans 12:10), being willing to put their well-being ahead of our own.

Be willing to forgive – “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14). Jesus said later that the number of times we are to forgive is “seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:21-22). In other words, we are not to “keep score,” but be willing to forgive always.

Strive to live in peace – “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:17-18). We can accomplish this by showing “patience” and “tolerance for one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2).

We should also help others when they are in need. We can ask ourselves the question: Would we want (or need) help if we were in their situation? Paul told the brethren in Galatia, “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). We are to be like the good Samaritan in Jesus’ parable (Luke 10:30-37) who saw a man in need and did what he could do to help. James warned that failing to help those in need when we are able to do so is an indictment of our faith: “What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (James 2:14-17).

We can also practice the “golden rule” by leading others to the truth. At times we may be tempted to refrain from teaching the truth to someone for fear of offending them. However, if we were wrong, would we want someone to correct us and show us the truth? We should have that desire, so we should teach others as well. When we teach others as we would want to be taught, we should do it with gentleness (2 Timothy 2:24-25) and humility (Titus 3:2-3). Our initial text about practicing the “golden rule” sits between passages about correcting others (Mathew 7:1-5) and the fate of the unfaithful (Matthew 7:13-14), so the point about teaching certainly fits here. We need to learn how to talk to others about spiritual matters as Paul described: “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person” (Colossians 4:6).


Regardless of how others treat us, we are to treat them with love and respect. Let us treat others how we want them to treat us so the Lord will treat us with the same love, mercy, and kindness.  

(Andy Sochor, plainbibleteaching.com)