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It's true. I went to my first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting last week. I didn't know what to expect. I had no idea who I might meet there, what I would hear or what I would say. I had no thoughts of how it would be organized, how the session would go, or if it would even have any personal benefit for me.

Truth is, none of that mattered. I wasn't there for me. I went to support a friend and to encourage this friend who has struggled with addiction for years.  

I learned that at A.A. it's typical for there to be a discussion leader, who has been sober for quite some time, to share his thoughts and experiences and then motivate the other attendees with words of encouragement and hope. Then, the other folks in the room would take turns sharing themselves. Many of those I heard from had been sober for years, but despite length of one's sobriety, everyone introduced themselves in the same way. They said, "Hello, my name is ______________________, and I am an alcoholic." It was as if they were saying, once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.

At the conclusion of the meeting one of the attendees, a leader within the local group I take it, handed out chips (looked like poker chips) to various individuals who were celebrating milestones in their path to coping with their addiction--1 month sobriety, 6 months, 1 year, etc. I'm happy to say that my friend received a six month chip last week.

Addiction is a terrible thing. It's deceitful, manipulative, and painful. "It takes you further than you want to go, and teaches you more than you want to know. It costs you more than you want to pay, and keeps you longer than you want to stay." 

The following remarks were made several years ago by a member of A.A. in a letter to Ann Landers.

  • We drank for happiness and became unhappy. 
  • We drank for joy and became miserable. 
  • We drank for sociability and became argumentative. 
  • We drank for sophistication and became obnoxious. 
  • We drank for friendship and made enemies. 
  • We drank for sleep and awakened without rest. 
  • We drank for strength and felt weak. 
  • We drank "medicinally" and acquired health problems. 
  • We drank for relaxation and got the shakes. 
  • We drank for bravery and became afraid. 
  • We drank for confidence and became doubtful. 
  • We drank to make conversation easier and slurred our speech. 
  • We drank to feel heavenly and ended up feeling like hell. 
  • We drank to forget and were forever haunted. 
  • We drank for freedom and became slaves. 
  • We drank to erase problems and saw them multiply. 
  • We drank to cope with life and invited death. 

The good book tells us that alcohol is something that hurts and does not help. 

Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder (Pro. 23:29-32).

You know what's interesting about this text? The writer transitions from those who are drunk to those who are just looking at it. What's the point you ask? God, through His penman, is not regulating the behavior of the drunk (not approving it to be sure) but is rather challenging those who are sober and thinking about taking their first drink.

As I listened to the group participants at last week's A.A. meeting, I got the impression that some if not most of them would have agreed with the Proverbs writer. 

Some will argue that drinking is not the problem, but drunkenness is. Do you think any one of these folks at the meeting thought, "I'm going to take my first drink so I can become an alcoholic?" Do you suppose some of them said, "I'm thankful that my drinking cost me my marriage, my kids, my job, and sent me to jail?" Not one spoke favorably about what alcohol did for them. Not one of them started out saying "I want to be an alcoholic." You know something else they had in common? Their problem with alcohol started by looking, and then taking their first drink. 

I have no idea what it's like to be drunk. I've never had a beer or glass of wine. I don't know what it's like to struggle with alcohol or drug addiction. I can't imagine what it's like to lose relationships because of addiction. However, my friend knows it better than most. Thankfully, my friend is doing so much better, but has a long way to go. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction of any kind, the best words of encouragement I can give you are these: love, patience, hope, positive re-enforcement, and friendship. Come to think of it, I can summarize it in one word--Jesus.

I hope you have a blessed day!

 
 
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On occasion I'll watch one of the morning news shows while I drink my first cup of coffee. The news personalities will go over various current events, as well as the weather, and will do several interviews. They will often have guests on their show who talk about what's going on in their world. Perhaps they'll visit with an author who has written a new book, or an actor who is starring in a new movie. 

This morning, the guest that was on this particular morning show was the comedian, Jeff Foxworthy. He was there to discuss his gameshow that was coming back called, "Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader?" If you ever watched the show then you know the premise. If you haven't seen it, then you really should watch it just once. The host will ask a guest (adult) questions. He writes down his answer. In the meantime, there are fifth graders who are also writing down their answers. Hence, the name of the show. At the end of the show, if the kids win and the adult loses, the contestant must say, "My name is ________________ and I'm not smarter than a fifth grader".

Though the Bible teaches us to grow and mature (Lk. 2:52; 1 Cor. 13:11), it likewise tells us that we should have the heart of a child. However, far too often we lose those childlike qualities as we grow older.

As a child, we learn to share, play fair, not to hit, to put things back how we found them, to clean up after ourselves, to not cheat, to say "I'm sorry", to watch for traffic, to stick with your buddy, and to obey. Yet, as we grow older we often become selfish, walk over people to get what we want, return evil for evil, abuse the benefits we receive from others, not accept responsibility for our own mistakes, demand that people pay attention to us, take advantage of friendship, and we don't want to answer to anyone.

My how we change when we "grow up". Jesus said that being like a child is a salvation matter. ". . . Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven" (Mt. 18:3). Maturing in the faith means that we have the heart of a child. Let's never lose sight of that.

If you lose on Foxworthy's game show, you have to proclaim that you're not as smart as a child. Maybe that's not necessarily a bad thing. Something to think about.

I hope you have a great day!

 
 
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Earlier this morning I read about a teacher who injured his back and as part of his rehab, he had to wear a plaster cast around the upper part of his body--it covered his entire upper torso, and around his back. The good news was that it was thin enough that he could easily conceal it under his shirt and no one knew that he had it on.

This teacher had a class that was made up of mostly disorderly and rowdy students--in point of fact, his students were the toughest in the school. He was slightly afraid of how the school year would go. One morning he entered the classroom and because of the heat, he opened a window to let in a cool breeze. He sat down at his desk and got busy with work. A rather strong breeze entered the room blew his papers around the desk, and flipped his tie over his shoulder. So, he took out a stapler, and stapled his tie to his chest. From that time forward, his students were some of the most disciplined in school. The teacher no longer feared his class because of their fear of the teacher. 

Like the teacher, we don't have to fear because of fear. That is, we don't have to be afraid of things, because we fear the Lord. Repeatedly in our Bible we read words like "fear Him", "fear God", "fear the Lord your God", and so on. When we have such a deep and abiding reverential fear of God, we do not have to live in a state of fear.

I don't have to fear death, because I fear the Lord. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,I will fear no evil:for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me" (Psa. 23:4). Death is not a curse, but a blessing.

I don't have to fear poor health, because I fear the Lord. Paul said, "For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day" (2 Cor. 4:16). My earthly body will give way, but my eternal soul will last forever.

I don't have to fear job loss, because I fear the Lord. Jesus said, "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on..." (Mt. 6:25). My current situation in life may change, but I'm only here as a "straying pilgrim". My hope and home is in heaven. In the meantime, I trust that God will provide.

I don't have to fear the uncertainties of life, because I fear the Lord. Again, if we turn to Jesus' words we find, "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (Mt. 6:34). It's like someone once said, "worry is a lot like a rocking horse. It gives you something to do, but you don't go anywhere." Who knows what may happen tomorrow. God is in control of my tomorrows, so I'll just concern myself with today.

I don't fear, because I fear.

I hope you have a  great day!

 
 
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Many years ago, I heard Leroy Brownlow (author of "Why I am a Member of the Church of Christ") use this illustration. "What are the two main problems in the church?" The question was answered with, "I don't know and I don't care." 

He hit the nail on the head. Indifference is a tool of the devil designed to rob Christians of diligence in duty. 

From a study of biblical history we learn that after some seventy years of Babylonian captivity, Judah returned in three stages. The first group was led back to Jerusalem by Zerubbabel and Jeshua. They then rebuilt and dedicated the temple. The second group was led by Ezra. It was marked by a great revival among the people—the revival was led by Haggai and Zechariah. The third group was led by Nehemiah. It was under Nehemiah’s leadership that the walls were rebuilt.

As you study the background material to the utter devastation of the city walls, you can’t help but be impressed with the fact that those walls were rebuilt in just fifty-two short days (Neh. 6:15). How did they do it? Nehemiah provides the answer: “So built we the wall; and all the wall was joined together unto the half thereof: for the people had a mind to work” (Neh. 4:6).

Though the people as a whole were characterized by great zeal, there were still others who were indifferent. Some were pictured as lazy, and others were just plain negative (Neh. 4:5,10). They needed a healthy dose of James 1:25: “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.”

There will always be those, even some Christians, who are indifferent--who don't care whether they (or you for that matter) succeed or fail. They will stand in the way of individual and congregational progress. But, don't be duped by this tool of the devil. Like those who returned from Babylonian captivity some 3,000 years ago to rebuild the wall around God's city in just fifty-two days, we too can do great things in short order if we'll have a mind to work.

I hope you have a great day!

 
 
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Which sounds more exciting? Dragon slayer or foot washer? The answer is obvious. But, God calls us to serve in the smallest of tasks. “Most service, even that which seems the most glamorous, is like an iceberg. Only the eye of God ever sees the larger, hidden part of it” (D. Whitney).

Slaying spiritual dragons is exciting and is service, but equal in serving is the one who sits with an elderly neighbor so the daughter who is her caretaker can have a day off. So is taking meals to a friend who has just had a baby, or lost a love one. Or, taking a stranger's car to the shop and paying to have a water pump replaced when she can’t afford to do it herself. Likewise, babysitting children so their parents can go out on a much needed date, and reconnect with one another.

We may not all serve in the same way, but we must all be servants. The Hebrews writer asked, "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God" (Heb. 9:14)? Add to that, we must serve with joy (Psa. 100:2).

Serving is a truly selfless act. It's doing for another without the anticipation of any notoriety. Here are some questions for you. "Can you serve your boss and others at work, helping them to succeed and be happy, even when they are promoted and you are overlooked? Can you work to make others look good without envy filling your heart? Can you minister to the needs of those whom God exalts and men honor when you yourself are neglected? Can you pray for the ministry of others to prosper when it would cast yours in the shadows" (Donald Whitney)?

In preparation for this lesson I preached on Sunday, I ran across an interesting story that discussed the selflessness of service.

Every young student knows of Isaac Newton's famed encounter with a falling apple. Newton discovered and introduced the laws of gravity in the 1600s, which revolutionized astronomical studies. But few know that if it weren't for Edmund Halley, the world might never have learned from Newton. It was Halley who challenged Newton to think through his original notions. Halley corrected Newton's mathematical errors and prepared geometrical figures to support his discoveries. Halley coaxed the hesitant Newton to write his great work, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. Halley edited and supervised the publication, and actually financed its printing even though Newton was wealthier and easily could have afforded the printing costs.

Historians call it one of the most selfless examples in the annals of science. Newton began almost immediately to reap the rewards of prominence; Halley received little credit. He did use the principles to predict the orbit and return of the comet that would later bear his name, but only AFTER his death did he receive any acclaim. And because the comet only returns every seventy-six years, the notice is rather infrequent. Halley remained a devoted scientist who didn't care who received the credit as long as the cause was being advanced.


Are you a Halley? Are you serving just because? Doing good to and for others without anticipating recognition for it? Paul said, "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves" (Phil. 2:3). Does that describe your heart? Think about it. 

I hope you have a great day!


If you'd like to watch the sermon, you may do so by clicking here.

 
 
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If we thought today, about Who the audience of worship is going to be on Sunday, would that change anything for us?

Would we enter the doors of the church house with anger or even hatred in our heart for another Christian who has come to the same place for the same purpose? Or, realizing that we've come with hypocrisy in our hearts, will we seek to rectify those personal offenses with our brother so that we can join our hearts together in praise to God? 

Would we wonder who would be mic'd as part of the praise team? Or, would we recognize that worship is not about one voice, or a few voices crescendoing above the others. Would we appreciate the fact that each and every faithful Christian's voice arrives into the throne room of heaven equally? 

Would there be any question as to the instruments we would use in worship? Would we use a piano, guitar, drums, voices, what? Or, would we simply use our hearts and tongues from which our words flow to edify one another and glorify the Father in heaven?

Would we glare at the song leader who leads a "new" song or two and bemoan the fact that he's not leading the "good ole faithful hymns of the past"? (Which, by the way, were once new as well.) Or, would we consider the words of the songs and feel joy over the fact that we get to honor Him by singing such beautiful lyrics? (Have  you paid any attention to some of those words?)

Would we look at our watch after a prayer goes a little long for our taste? Or, would we be honored for one more opportunity to pour out our heart to God, having been led by someone who clearly has a close relationship with his Father during the week?

Would we huff over the duration of the comments made by the one presiding over the Lord's table? Or, would our hearts be broken again this week when reflecting on the fact that Jesus "went through all of that" for ME!?

Would we debate as to whether or not we'd put in the collection plate that extra amount we planned? After all, Summer's coming and we could really use that toward our vacation fund. Or, would we revel in the fact that we get to support the Lord's work in this fashion and cherish the wonderful fellowship we enjoy with other givers around the world at that moment. After all, it's all His anyway.

Would we use preaching time as an opportunity to check the latest Facebook status, text a friend about lunch, play with the children, take a bathroom break, or find something "more interesting" to do? Or, with appreciation for the message (not the messenger, by the way), search for that one new grain of truth you have yet to hear or understand, and with anticipation think of ways you can apply it to your life?

I wonder, if we thought today about what we are going to do on Sunday, would it not aid us in worshipping Him "in spirit and in truth" (Jn. 4:24)? 

Let's think about it, pray about it, and apply it.

 
 
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The story was told about the old Indian poet who took one of his poems to the local preacher. It went like this:

Go on, go on, go on, go on,
     Go on, go on, go on, go on,
Go on, go on, go on, go on,
     Go on, go on, go on, go on,

I don't know, perhaps the poet felt like the preacher's sermons went on and on and on. One thing for sure about this poem though, it teaches that one should be persistent. 

Read the following statements about persistence.

"No one would have ever crossed the ocean if he could have gotten off the ship in a storm" (Charles Kettering).

"The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones" (a Chinese proverb).

"Failure is the path of least persistence."

"I'm a slow walker, but I never walk back" (Abraham Lincoln).

The Bible teaches us that we should be persistent in life. It took persistence for Moses to lead the Israelites to the border of the promised land. It took persistence for the Jews to rebuild the Temple and the Jerusalem walls. It took persistence for John the baptist to keep sharing the message of the coming Messiah, even to the point of death. It took persistence for Jesus to walk the streets of earth knowing that his human end would come on a cruel and lonely cross. 

As the apostle Paul challenged believers who were being led astray by those who denied the bodily resurrection, he said, "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unlovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Cor. 15:58). In short, be persistent.

We're called to endure faithfully unto the end (Rev. 2:10). Remember, "stopping at third base adds no more to the score than striking out." So, keep running the bases. Run all the way home. Be stedfast unto heaven's door--which will be open to every faithful and persistent child of God.  

Have a great day!

 
 
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Have you seen the commercials advertising for Ancestry.com? Every time that I watch those ads I want to sign up for their service to search out my family history. That kind of thing just fascinates me. I remember a few years ago being at Ellis Island in New York and seeing a book with the names of people who immigrated here years ago. There were four names in that book with the last name "Richey." I figure that they're my relatives.

This morning I read about a couple of guys that were talking about family histories when one of them said that he sure wished he knew more about his family heritage. He said, "I've always wanted to have my family history traced, but I can't afford to hire someone." He asked his friend if he had any suggestions. His buddy said, "Sure, I know an easy way to find out all about your family background. Just run for office."

If I decide to research my family tree, I think I'll just go down the website path.

Did you know that as Christians we have another incredible heritage. One that can be traced back with great accuracy? From Genesis to Acts we can read as the story of the faith unfolds from the creation of man to the appearance of Jesus the Christ on earth, to the birth of his church in the book of Acts. Then, we can read with great care how we can be part of that church, and be called Christians, tracing our spiritual family heritage back to Jesus. 

It makes for fascinating research. Too, you don't have to run for office and it doesn't cost you monthly internet fees. You probably have all the research material you need at home on a shelf--your Bible.

On these cold winter days, why not curl up with a good book and do some research on your "family tree." Be like those noble Berean's and search the Scripture (Acts 17:11). You'll be blessed by what you discover.

Have a great day!

 
 
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Emily and I recently had a young man to the house for Sunday lunch. He's one of the people that I've been studying with, and one whom I believe is close to obeying the Gospel. 

After lunch, we talked about his work. During our conversation I was impressed by the courage and perseverant attitude that it takes to go door to door to develop a client book for his livelihood--financial investing. There have been occasions when folks have called the police on him to escort him out of their neighborhood. I thought it humorous when he would then ask the police officer about his retirement plan and if he was ready. When the officer said no, my friend would hand him a business card and say, "let's talk." 

As I listened to him I thought, that's just not for me. I'm not sure I could do what he does. Then it hit me, that's exactly what we do (or should). We should be looking for opportunities to share the greatest retirement plan ever. Then, when one door closes, we should be looking for the next opportunity.

Last night I met a fellow at a restaurant that recently moved to the area from FL. He's a chef at one of our local restaurants. He's quite religious and even has Bible studies in his backyard. I asked if I could join him. I gave him a card, invited him to church, and asked him to give me a call. 

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a guy at the gas station about the spiritual. One thing led to another and now we have a standing midweek Bible study every week. 

Several weeks ago I started studying with a young lady in prison. About a month into the study she told me about three girls on her block that would like to study as well. So, I will be meeting with them this week for our first Bible study. 

One of my neighbors is going through a hard time right now and so we've been helping her out when we can. She's quite busy so it's hard to nail down an opportunity to sit and study together. So, I asked her if she'd read a book for me and then let me know her thoughts. She agreed, and I gave her Muscle and a Shovel. She's been reading it, and so far has enjoyed it. I'm anxiously waiting for her to finish it up so we can talk. 

I'm sure you have similar stories, and may God bless you for what you're doing for His glory. The opportunities to share Jesus with people are all around us. We just have to take advantage of them.

The point of all this is to encourage us and challenge us to build up that "client book"--to borrow the terminology from my friend above. Anyone of us could be busy with Bible studies, and spiritual discussions on a regular basis if we would but take advantage of the opportunities that are put before us each week.  

Several years ago I heard the story of a fifteen-year-old Christian young lady who invited her best friend to attend a revival at her home congregation. Night after night the Gospel was preached, and night after night this young lady's heart was touched. Finally, on the last night of the series of lessons, the invitation was extended to folks to obey the Gospel. The friend of the Christian young lady went down the aisle in tears and said, "I want to be baptized for the remission of my sins." And, she was.

A few years later, she went to college, all the while being faithful to the Lord. She found a Christian man to marry. Shortly thereafter they had two children (one a boy and one a girl). The boy became a Gospel preacher--and as I recall from the story, he converted hundreds. The girl married a Gospel preacher and was a faithful companion to her husband. 

Hundreds or more souls were saved because one young lady had the courage to take advantage of an opportunity to bring a friend to Jesus.

Let's resolve to do the same. If we really love Jesus, and if we're really grateful for what He did for us (Jn. 3:16), then I think we will. 

Have a great day!

 
 
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My Lord said, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Mt. 5:16). The best I can tell, there's no limitation to this. 

In other words, shining forth a good example is not restricted to the church building, or to Sunday service, or when just around church folks. Truth be told, where it's most important to let our lights shine is at home, on the job, at school, and even on social media sites. True Christianity radiates from within and is on display everywhere, and all the time. 

Question, do people know that you're a Christian? They shouldn't have to ask you. They should be able to witness it for themselves. 

William Barclay wrote:

Our Christianity should make a difference in the way we order a meal from a waitress or treat the shop assistant behind the counter.

Christianity should make a difference in the conscientiousness of our work, and in the courtesy with which we serve the public and in the consideration with which we live within our own homes.

Christianity is a full-time job. It's not a past time practiced only on Sunday. It demands our best behavior every day. 

George Bailey (not the "It's a Wonderful Life" guy) said, "Nothing is more contagious than an example." What kind of example are you setting? It's contagious. What are folks picking up from you? 

I hope you have a great day!

 

    Author

    Neil Richey is a native of Tennessee. He has preached full-time in Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia, where he now preaches for the Piedmont Road church of Christ in Marietta, GA.

    In 1995 Neil met Emily (Martin) and in 1997 they were married while attending Freed-Hardeman University. They have two children.

    He has been blessed to preach in several states and in a number of other countries including Brazil, England, New Zealand, and Tanzania. He holds numerous Gospel meetings and speaks on lectureships and youth rallies each year and makes annual mission trips outside of the United States. It's also his privilege to be one of the instructors for the Georgia School of Preaching and Biblical Studies.

    Neil enjoys sports of all kinds, especially a good round of golf. He has a passion for aviation and is a licensed private pilot. 

    When asked, Neil wants people to know that, "I'm a husband, father of two, and most of all, a Christian that's been saved by grace through faith. I'm trying everyday to live life with purpose for Him."

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    Speaking Schedule
    2015:
    April 8-12, Cambridge, England
    May 2, Marietta, GA 
    June 3, Monroe, GA 
    June 10, Salem, VA 
    June 17, Enterprise, AL 
    July 1, Duluth, GA

    July 8, Decatur, GA
    July 15, Woodstock, GA 
    July 22, Marietta, GA 
    July 29, Marietta, GA 
    August 5, Warner Robbins, GA 

    August 12, Marietta, GA 
    August 24-27, Severiville, TN 
    September 19, Denver, CO 
    December 7-19, Tanzania, Africa 


    2016:
    February 9, Henderson, TN 

    2017:
    April 16-19, Radford, VA 
    April 30-May 3, Point Pleasant, OH 


    2018:
    November 11-14, Salem, VA 

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