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From Chris’s Computer

Jesus is unbeatable. Nearly everyone who has ever lived throughout history has suffered defeat at the hands of death. But not Jesus. Jesus walked amongst His creation, in the form of a servant (Phil 2:6-7; Col 1:16), and while He died on the cross, death was not the end. Jesus rose from the dead. He defeated the common enemy of humanity. We can do very little to escape the grave. Unless our Savior returns, our death is certain. None of us can escape that fate. Yet, Jesus rose from the dead victorious. In His victory over death, He proclaims that nothing will defeat Him.

This common enemy was introduced in the great fall of humanity in Genesis 3. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God, sin was introduced into the world.  Sin deserves punishment, more specifically sin deserves death according to Romans 6:23. This is why we can’t work our way into heaven, there is no work we can do to undo our sin. Thankfully, God had a plan to give us the gift of eternal life in His Son (Romans 6:23). Before Jesus was even born, an angel told His father Joseph that He would save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). His mission as the Immanuel, was to be our Savior, to save us from the sting of death, the punishment for our sins.

The importance of the resurrection cannot be understated. Certainly, Jesus paid the price for our sins by dying on the cross, but His resurrection, gave us the hope of new life. So much so that Paul explains that if Christ is not resurrected then our faith is useless, and we are still in our sins (1 Corinthians 15:17). We should most certainly praise God for the resurrection because of what it means for us. Jesus’ victory over death has become our victory (1 Corinthians 15:57). In Romans 6:3-4 the apostle Paul explains we are united with Christ in His death when we are baptized and are raised up out of the water with new life. Which is only possible because of our great Victor and Savior, Jesus Christ. Christ gave His life for our sins paying the price only He could pay and bringing the victory only He could bring through the resurrection of the dead!

“For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22 ESV)

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From Paul’s Pen

            Many of us have had Hebrews 10:25 drilled into us from an early age and can quote from memory “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.” And, hopefully, we want to assemble with the saints whenever we can. (Before I continue, yes, I understand that some folks cannot drive at night, have to work, are sick, are caregivers, etc.) Outside of this plain command cited above, there is an example in Scripture that makes me want to never miss a meeting of the Lord’s body.

            On the day of our Lord’s resurrection as recorded in John’s gospel, His disciples assembled that Sunday evening (John 20:19). But one of the twelve missed the assembly (John 20:24). The apostle Thomas wasn’t there for reasons not given. And the next verse reveals why this disciple is forever known as “Doubting Thomas.” However, let’s not miss the lesson for us – and the lesson Thomas came to realize the following week: Jesus, the risen Savior, was at the assembly Thomas missed! Don’t we believe our risen Savior is at our assemblies although not in bodily form (Matthew 18:20; 28:20)?

            When we miss an assembly of the disciples, we often miss something very exciting. That was certainly true if you missed our afternoon service last Sunday or our Wednesday evening service. Last Sunday, our young men led us in worship, and I can’t say enough about what a great job each one did. I want to commend them by name although space does not allow me to describe their participation. However, you can watch the afternoon worship service on YouTube if you were unable to be here. The following young men led us in worship: Josh Miller; Elijah Philips; Dylan Knox; Tyler Lancaster; Will Cooper; Eli Mitchell; Carson McNabb; Martin Nance; Danek Smith; Brayden Graves; Grant DeMario; and Henry Nance. Your willingness to serve is an encouragement to everyone!

            And, if you missed the assembly on Wednesday evening, you missed the beautiful “new birth” of Isaac DeMario. His father Greg took his confession and then immersed him into Christ. It is so encouraging to see our young people take seriously the gospel message and decide to follow Jesus. May we never do anything to cause one of these young people to stumble (Mark 9:42)!

            P.S. I don’t want to slight our young ladies as I am told Emma, Kayla, and Halaina all did a great job for our recent Ladies’ Day!

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Take Some Risks

by Justin Morton

Have you ever had to take a risk? Most of us can quickly recall a time or two when we were involved in taking a risk. Perhaps it was for our company, for a relationship or maybe even some type of financial risk. Despite the nature of the risk, the decision to take the chance was difficult because we did not know how things would work out.

If we are Christians, then we should be in the business of taking risks for the sake of the Kingdom. Think about it for moment. When is the last time you were willing to take a risk to spread the message of the Gospel? Sadly, for some of us, we might have to think long and hard about the answer to that question.

Being a Christian requires us to take chances if we are to fulfill the work of the Lord. Consider the apostle Paul. Paul was repeatedly warned about the dangers that were awaiting him in Jerusalem if he continued to travel that direction (Acts 20:22-23; 21:4, 11-12). Perhaps, this would have been a good time for Paul to hunker down or at least to avoid going to Jerusalem, but that’s not who he was. Paul was not fearful, he was fearless.

Instead of backing down and avoiding Jerusalem, Paul fully intended to go help the Christians no matter what he had to face. Paul told the brethren in Caesarea, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 21:13).

Did you catch what Paul said? He was not only ready to face imprisonment for the sake of Christ, but he was ready to die for the name of the Lord Jesus. Paul, knowing full well what laid ahead in Jerusalem, continued with his plans, willing to assume all risks.

Like Paul, we should be willing to fulfill the mission of our Lord despite any risks we may have to face. Imagine how different our churches and communities might look if followers of Jesus were willing to assume all risks for the sake of spreading the Gospel message. If we did this, we just might have the same type of impact on the world around us that the apostle Paul had. Let’s get out into our schools and workplaces and communities and take some risks for the Lord!

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Shepherds’ Notes

Have you ever regretted a decision that you made?   Chances are, if you are old enough, you can think of several occasions in which you made a decision or ventured down a path that you wish you had avoided.  Maybe words that were spoken or moments when we reacted that we wish we could undo.      As we get older, and we appreciate time and realize how fast each day, week, month, and year passes, we often regret how we spent some of that time and energy.    Most likely, one day we will look back and regret the time that we have spent on our smart phones and the endless scrolling through social media and wish that we had utilized that precious time in God’s Word or face to face with the people that we love.

Regret is a very complex emotion.    Often, it has the advantage of hindsight and whatever the circumstance, regret cannot undo what has been done.   But regret can also be a powerful motivation to make a change for the better!   A very wise lady often says, “we can’t change the past, the question is where do we go from here”.

Philippians 3:13   “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead” (ESV).  We can’t let regret define who we are or who we are going to be.    We must strive for what is ahead of us and the hope we have in Christ.    Regret can alter our path in life if we regret the right things.

2 Corinthians 7:10 says “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death (ESV).  The sorrow we have for sin and being separated from God, leads us to turning away from that sin, which leads to salvation and is something we will not regret!   Being sorrowful or grieving over things of this world, produces death.

When your time on Earth comes to a close, what will be your biggest regret?   Will it be that you never obeyed the Gospel of Christ?     Will it be the wasted time spent on “chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 1:14)?    The question is, “where do I go from here?”

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Land of Promise

by Justin Morton

There was no greater prophet in the eyes of the Hebrew people than Moses. He was responsible for going before the Egyptian Pharaoh, helping free the Israelite people from Egyptian slavery and leading them through the wilderness for 40 years. At his death, the Bible records, there was not another prophet like Moses in all of Israel (Deut. 34:10).

And yet, with all the good that came from the life of Moses as a leader of God’s people, his life was greatly impacted by one poor decision. Near the end of the Israelite’s 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, the people found themselves once again in need of water but with no water anywhere in sight. After listening to the complaints of the people, Moses and Aaron went before God. God instructed Moses to take the staff in his hand, gather the assembly and speak to the rock and water would spring forth for all the people and their cattle (Num. 20:1-8).

What Moses did next really stands out. He took the staff in his hand and assembled the congregation, just as God had commanded. Then Moses deviated from God’s plan. Instead of speaking to the rock like God had instructed, Moses struck the rock with his staff twice (Num. 20:9-11). Although water did come forth from the rock, Moses and Aaron had to pay a high price for their disobedience. The Lord told Moses and Aaron neither one of them would bring the people into the land He had given them (Num. 20:12).

Moses, one of the greatest prophets in all of Hebrew history, had a moment of weakness which cost him dearly. He had spent many years of his life serving the Lord and His people and helping lead them to the great land of promise, only to miss out on the prize himself. In spite of all the good Moses had done, his disobedience to God cost him the one thing he so desperately wanted, the Promised Land (Deut. 3:23-29; 34:1-6).

I know many of us have spent years of our lives in service to the Lord and His people. And while what we have done in the past is important, what we are doing and will continue to do in the future is of even greater importance. Never take your eyes off the prize of heaven. Faithfully obey God and His Word in all that you do each day, so that you do not miss out on our great Land of Promise.

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From Paul’s Pen

             Perhaps one of God’s greatest blessings we are prone to take for granted is our health. We know we should exercise but it’s easy to procrastinate. We know we need to eat healthy, but it’s just not convenient. We know we need to avoid certain foods, but they taste so good. And we could continue with the excuses.

            We’ve had a lot of illnesses and surgeries lately (and I’m not saying those are a result of bad habits and neglect). Outside of Walter Hill’s church family, Gail and I know so many who are battling advanced cancer and other serious illnesses. During times like these, I’m envious of an earlier time we read about in Matthew 4:23-24 – “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them.”

            No, I don’t want to go back under the old law, nor do I want my Savior to die on the cross again. However,  I do wish He would come and heal some of those we love. Yes, I do believe in the power of prayer but, let’s face it, sometimes these diseases are terminal, and we have to accept it. But we still say with the apostle John, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20b)! I’m ready for that day when there’ll be no more death, sorrow, crying, or pain (Revelation 21:4)!

            One of Jesus’ many acts of healing is recorded in John 5:1-15 – an unusual miracle because the man did not seem to even know about the Savior of the world. Here was a man who had been an invalid for 38 years and sought to be cured in the pool of Bethesda. Jesus knew the poor man’s condition according to verse 6 of the text and asked the man if he wanted to be made well. While a lot of speculation could be made about the healing power of the pool and the man’s defensive attitude about his helpless condition, the simple truth is that Jesus healed the man! It required no faith on the man’s part – he didn’t even ask to be healed. He was made whole because Jesus saw his sad condition and took the time to make his life better.

            I have often taken my good health for granted but less so now that I’m considered “elderly.” But I’ve also taken my salvation for granted because I was raised in a family who had known Jesus for several generations. As we look around our families and community, I believe there are many who are like the man at the pool of Bethesda – they don’t know Jesus. Could we find the courage to ask them a simple question like our Savior did? Maybe it begins by fixing the words of this hymn in our minds:

            Have you a heart that’s weary,

            Tending a load of care;

            Are you a soul that’s seeking

            Rest from the burden you bear?

            Do you know my Jesus,

            Do you know my friend,

            Have you heard He loves you,

            And that He will abide till the end?   

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The Joy of Victory and the Agony of Defeat

by Justin Morton

Like many of you, after Bible class on Sunday evening, our family tuned in to watch Super Bowl LVIII. Now I know for some people the Super Bowl is just a time to get together with family and friends, eat some delicious food and share some laughs. But for those who truly love the game, the Super Bowl is the most important game of the entire year. Certainly it is the most important game for the players who participate.

This year’s game came to an exciting conclusion in overtime. But it’s what happened at the end of the game that I want to draw your attention to. At the end of the game, while some people were celebrating a victory, other people were crying in defeat. As I watched the Chiefs celebrate their victory, I could not help but think about the agony of defeat for the 49ers players. They were so close to being crowned Super Bowl champions. The San Francisco 49ers lost the most important game of the season, the game they had been training and preparing for all year. Their team fell just short of their desired goal. Now they have an entire offseason to think about how close they were and what they missed out on.

The day is coming when the clock will strike zero, and our lives will come to an end. Each one of us will stand before the Lord and give an account of how we lived (2 Cor. 5:10). Many people have the goal of living eternally in heaven forevermore when that day comes. But much like the aftermath of the Super Bowl, on that day some will get to celebrate the greatest victory known to man, while others will be left with a pain and regret unlike any other ever experienced. Those individuals will be cast away from the presence of the Lord for all of eternity (Matt. 25:41-46).  And much like the players of the San Francisco 49ers, they will have lots of time to reflect on what might have been and all the opportunities they had to obey the Lord (Lk.16:25).

May we live our lives in obedience to the will of God so that when our game is over, we will experience the joy of victory instead of the agony of defeat.

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Shepherds’ Notes

People often tell me that they want to get more out of church or that they want to feel more deeply connected to members. Maybe you are one of those people. Maybe you just don’t know how to get plugged in. Try using these steps to grow deeper in your connection with and commitment to your church family.

Attend Regularly. You will not develop strong connections within your church by showing up to services once or twice per month. You need to attend regularly and often. The writer to the Hebrews urged his readers, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Be a Friend. Serve someone else. The church doesn’t exist only so that you can receive ministry and blessing from it, but so that you can minster to and bless others. Look for people who could benefit from your service and serve them. You will find that as you serve others, you begin to feel more closely connected to your church.

Prepare for worship. If your worship services feel dry, maybe it is because you are dry and ill-prepared to worship. Before you criticize the preacher’s preaching, consider whether or not you have prayed for his preaching. Have you prepared your heart to worship? You can prepare for worship by praying ahead of time and by meditating on the upcoming sermon text throughout the week.

Remember, sometimes church is messy. Churches are gatherings of people and people are imperfect. When you seek to be a part of Walter Hill remember that members can be messy and so are you. Someone is going to offend you or hurt your feelings. If you will commit to working through those hard feelings when they arise, then you will have a chance to grow through the hardship.

Invest and invite. If you really want to take the ultimate step in deepening your connection with Walter Hill, begin evangelizing today. As you invest in others and invite them to church, you can celebrate the way that God uses His church to disciple your friends. Nothing will cause you to appreciate your church more than watching a new believer be baptized, discipled, and welcomed into your faith family.

Arrive early and stay late. The ministry that takes place in the margins of your life is sometimes the most important ministry of all. Get there early enough to help and visit. Stay late enough to listen to a couple who is burdened over the decisions of their adult children. Stay late enough to watch the kids get grass stains on their Sunday pants while playing with other kids in the church yard, because those grass stains are shared experiences that help you to build community with others around you. When you take your time leaving church, you say to those around you, “Hey, I want to be here and I want to spend time with you.”

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Much Closer Than We Think

By: Justin Morton

This week I have been reminded of the brevity of life. Sadly, on Monday morning I read of the passing of a fellow minister who died as the result of a car accident; he was 60 years old. Then on Monday evening, a young and seemingly healthy college student passed away unexpectedly at the young age of 18. On Wednesday afternoon, I attended a funeral for a 79 year old Christian man. My heart breaks for these families and many others who are grieving such losses.

We all know death is an appointment we must keep (Heb. 9:27), we just do not always think that appointment could come at any moment in our lives. Very few people who meet their appointment with death know when that time is coming. Sure, the doctors sometimes can give us a general time frame based on our current health situation, but more often death comes to people when they least expect it.

During times like this week, I am mindful of David’s prayer when he said, “O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather! ” (Psa. 39:4).

David understood that his days were numbered, and the same is true for all of us. No matter how long we may be blessed to live on this earth, our days are but a mere breath. James, the half-brother of Jesus, would say, “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (Jam. 4:14).

Each one of us only has so many days left on this earth. And since we do not know when our appointment with death will come, we need to make sure we are fully prepared. Have you responded to God’s call to surrender your life to Him (Lk. 9:23)? Have you been buried with Christ in baptism (Rom. 6:3-4)? Are you living a faithful life following after Him (Rev 2:10)? I hope we are because our appointment may be much closer than we think.

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From Paul’s Pen

             As a child, I was small in frame. When you’re the little kid and they’re choosing sides for “cow pasture” football, it is so devastating to be chosen last – or not chosen at all! Probably all of us can identify with not being chosen for something we desired. But, as Christians, we have been chosen by God (1 Peter 2:4-5) – chosen to be His people (1 Peter 2:9-10). And, like the children of Israel, we were not chosen to be God’s people because of our merits (Deuteronomy 7:7-8). While the Bible has numerous examples of how God cares for His people, I want to use an example we might have overlooked. In this case, it is how God does not like for His people to be mistreated – even today.

            In Exodus 17, we read how the Amalekites fought with Israel in Rephidim as God’s people journeyed from Egypt to Mount Sinai. Joshua led the Israelites to victory over these descendants of Esau, but we normally focus on Aaron and Hur holding up Moses’ hands during the battle. However, notice verse 14 – Then the Lord said to Moses, “Write this for a memorial in the book and recount it in the hearing of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” God planned to destroy the Amalekites, but He allowed them to plague His people for several more years.

            The Lord eventually gave King Saul the responsibility of carrying out His promise as we read in 1 Samuel 15:2-3 – “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’ ”

            We are likely familiar with Saul’s failure to carry out his mission and Samuel killing Agag. Saul’s disobedience caused him to lose his kingdom. But the Lord had patiently waited to punish Amalek for mistreating His people. Twice in the New Testament we are reminded “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord (Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30). And He will!

            Two quick lessons. God still loves His people – His chosen ones – and does not want them to be mistreated. I believe that’s why there are so many “one another” passages in the New Testament to warn us to love and care for each other. Secondly, Christians are going to be mistreated in this life (James 1:2; 1 Peter 4:12). However, judgment day is coming, and God will take vengeance on those who did not care for His people (Matthew 25:31-46).

            As God’s elect or chosen ones, let’s be careful how we treat one another and remember the apostle Paul’s words in Romans 8:18 – “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”