The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
September 11, 2011


1) Do We Ever Detract from God's Greatness, Based on Circumstances? (Tom Edwards)
2) Thinking About Eternity (Tom Edwards)
3) News & Notes


Do We Ever Detract from God's Greatness, Based on Circumstances?
by Tom Edwards

In thinking of the above title, do we tend to believe less in an answer to prayer, based on the more difficult the answer might seem to us?  For instance, do we feel more assured about God healing the person with a broken arm, more so than healing someone who is in critical condition in ICU, due to a serious car accident?  If so, have we not then detracted from God's greatness?  For regardless of how more "difficult" a situation might seem to us, does God view it the same way?  In other words, if it is God's will to heal a person, does it make any difference whether the healing be a broken finger or a brain tumor?  Would God find degrees of difficulty between the two, in answer to prayer?

What would be difficult for God?   For He is the One who spoke the universe into existence.  He said, "...'Let there be light'; and there was light" (Gen. 1:3).    He also said, "...Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seeds, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them'; and it was so" (v. 11).  He commanded the sun, the moon, and the stars all to be -- and they became (vv. 14-18).  By His word, He spoke into existence sea creatures and every winged bird (vv. 20-22).  By His word, He also commanded the earth to bring forth living creatures after their kind that would make up the animal kingdom -- and it was done (vv. 24, 25).  Lastly, God created man in God's own image (v. 27) and gave man dominion over everything else on earth that the Lord had made (v. 28).  What an astonishing ability God has to do these things!  The universe He has made exceeds what we can fully fathom -- even with our most advanced telescopes and technologies.   In a ratio-comparison, is not our awareness of the universe even smaller than the awareness a little one-celled ameba has of the vast ocean in which it drifts?  Yes, God's power and abilities are awesome -- and it is to Him, the Almighty God, that we, who are Christians, pray!

So whether the problem seems great or small, let us realize that it would appear that way only to us -- but not to God.  For with the Lord, "all things are possible" --  even those things that are impossible to man (Matt. 19:26).  Similarly,  the Lord said to Abraham, "Is anything to difficult for the Lord?..." (Gen. 18:14).  Jeremiah also answers that by saying, "Ah Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You" (Jer. 32:17).

Think, too, of some of the examples we have in the OT.  Paul says of it, "For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope" (Rom. 15:4).   Let us, therefore, focus on Jericho and Israel's overtaking of it.  It was the first city that Israel conquered when entering the Promised Land, under the leadership of Joshua, in that time known as "the Period of the Conquest."  What is really significant about this being their first victory is that it was also what would have seemed as the most difficult or challenging from a human standpoint because of the defense that Jericho had with their protective wall and mighty army.  So through this victory, God showed His people, right from the start, that with Him they would be able to triumph over all the enemy.  To realize even more of God's help at Jericho, think of how that city was taken.  The Lord's people had been commanded to march around the city once each day for six days, and then seven times on the seventh day.  They were to also blow trumpets and shout with a great shout at the appointed time, carrying the ark of the covenant before them, as we read of in Joshua 6.   By doing this which God had commanded, the wall of that city came tumbling down; and Jericho was taken.  Therefore, how could Israel look to anyone or anything, but to God, as to the reason for this great victory?   Clearly, they could see that it was not due to their own power; but, rather, because of the Lord that they were able to triumph over their foes.  Israel merely had to meet God's conditions in order for that to be so.  

We note, too, that the second city that Israel was to conquer was Ai, a place not as great as Jericho, weaker in defense.  I would think that Israel would see conquering them as being a cinch, after having just defeated those at Jericho.  But what happened at Ai?  Israel was defeated and lost about 36 men.  Why?  Because there was sin in the camp of Israel.  Achan had taken plunder for himself at Jericho, which had been under a ban by God.  Because of that transgression, God did not give His people the victory over Ai.  The matter was then resolved by putting Achan and his family to death; and, after doing so, Israel then had no trouble in defeating Ai in that second battle (Josh. 7, 8).  For they once again were back in God's favor.  

Throughout their history, Israel's victories were not due to the number of soldiers they had in contrast to the enemy, but to whether they were on God's side or not, that they might have His help in conquering their foes.  God, therefore, wanted His people to look to Him for victory.  Notice, for instance, in Isaiah 31:1 what the Lord says through Isaiah: "Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, and trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are strong, but they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the Lord!"

David truly understood this -- even when a youth.  For it was then when he faced the giant Goliath, whom the rest of Israel appeared to have been in fear of.  But David said to him, "You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. This day the LORD will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you. And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the LORD'S and He will give you into our hands" (1 Sam. 17:45-47).  It was also David who states in Psalm 20:7, "Some boast in chariots and some in horses, But we will boast in the name of the LORD, our God."  So with just a stick, a sling, and five small stones, David faced the giant Goliath and brought him down with just one stone.  

So the point is, as it was the Lord whom faithful Israel could look to in defeating their foes, regardless of how mighty, we can liken those foes to obstacles we need to overcome -- whether great or small.  For if they are obstacles that would hinder us in our service to God, then He will help us to overcome them (cf. 1 Cor. 10:13).  Also, if it be sicknesses, ailments, or physical problems that God wants to heal us of, then it doesn't matter whether they are minor or great.  For one is just as easy as the other for the Lord to heal -- such as whether it is a bad cold or a serious case of leukemia, a sprained ankle or lung cancer, etc.  So whatever the problem, let us take it to the Lord in prayer (and continue to do so), along with the use of medicines, doctors, and surgery, etc.  For the Bible indicates we should do that, too.  Jesus, for example, teaches that the sick need a "physician" (Mark 2:17); and in those days prior to modern medicines, Paul prescribed a little wine to Timothy for his stomach's sake and "frequent ailments" (1 Tim. 5:23), which, of course, was much weaker than today's wines (So I am not encouraging the use of alcoholic beverages for our time).  God, however, can also work today through medicines, doctors, and surgeries; and it is, therefore, to Him that the glory should go for every healing, regardless of whatever means used!   For though God has not chosen for our time to heal through miracles, we are still to pray to Him for the sick; and every healing is a divine healing.  The Lord working through His divine providence continues today and throughout time, and it is even more astounding than the miraculous.  For it is not really baffling that God, who spoke the universe into existence, could also with the same power command someone to be miraculously cured of any disease or physical problem; but what is really amazing is how the Lord can bring about His will through divine providence, without having to resort to miracles.  So though we are not looking for miracles today, we are looking for God's will to be done when we are praying for the sick. 

Though we might not always know what God's will is in a certain matter, we can still pray, knowing that God will do what is right and answer the prayer the way He sees best.  We can, therefore, be thankful for that.   For we do not always know what to ask.  But, still, we can have that complete trust and full assurance that the Lord will respond to prayer the right way; and no matter how impossible it might seem from merely a human perspective, true faith looks beyond that by trusting in the One in whom all things are possible and who loves and cares for us more than we can totally realize!   

So may we never detract from God's greatness, based on circumstances.


Thinking About Eternity
by Tom Edwards

On my way home from church Tuesday evening, I stopped off at the library (which the road I take goes right in front of) and picked up some music CDs.  As I was soon back in my car, heading down dimly lit roads (from East Baton Rouge Parish to Livingston Parish), I had been listening for several minutes to Ravi Shankar playing some Ragas on his sitar.  (It had been many years since I last heard his music.)  I don't think I had slept too well the night before and was somewhat tired.  So as I listened to this music, while driving through the darkness of the night, I began thinking, "Maybe all we have is now -- the future is just an illusion."  Trying to imagine that was very strange.  Do you think it was the music evoking such an idea?   

It made me also try to imagine what eternity is like for God.  For eternity is without time.  It is just "always."  For instance, do you remember what Jesus said of Himself in John 8:56-58?  He had been talking about how Abraham had rejoiced to see the Lord's day, "and he saw it and was glad."  The Jews then said to Jesus, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?"  Jesus then responded by saying, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am."  Isn't that a mind boggler?  The Lord does not say, "I was" -- but, instead, "I am."  That phrase expresses the eternal nature of God.  As you probably recall, when Moses asked the Lord how to refer to Him before the sons of Israel, the Lord said, "I am who I am...Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you."  

God is the great eternal One -- and Jesus is just as eternal as the Father.  Micah, for example, refers to Christ as being one whose "goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity" (Micah 5:2).

What is really interesting is that even in all eternity, God doesn't change, diminish, or grow old.  In speaking of Jesus, the Hebrew writer refers to Him as creating, in the beginning, the earth and the heavens; and though they will "become old like a garment" and "perish," yet the Lord "will remain."  So while they "will...be changed," the Lord will remain "the same," and His years "will not come to an end."   I would think the "years" is accommodative language for mankind, since time, as we know it, with its seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, etc., pertains to only this earth life -- and is regulated by the way God set up the universe, according to Genesis 1:14-18.  For the Lord put "lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night" and so that they would be "for signs and for seasons and for days and years...."  

So when the universe ceases to be (2 Pet. 3:10-12), time, as we know it, will also cease to be; but eternity -- apart from time -- will always be.  And we will also always be, so we need to be sure to end up in the right place -- heaven -- and to which Jesus is the only way.  

Therefore, how important it is for folks to submit their lives to the gospel plan of salvation.  For heaven can never be earned nor merited, but there are conditions that one needs to meet to be saved; and they are: 1) hear the gospel (Rom. 10:17; 1:16), repent of sin (Luke 13:5), believe in the deity of Christ (Jn. 8:24), confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38), be baptized in water (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; Rom. 6:3,4; 1 Pet. 3:21), and strive to live faithfully unto God (Rev. 2:10; Heb. 10:36-39).  

I write this last part especially for my friends who haven't become Christians yet -- and even for those I have never met.  For God wants all to be saved, and so should we.  

So we all have "right now."  Our past is past, our tomorrow has not yet come.  But if we make the best of now by giving ourselves to the Lord, we will one day really know what not only a duration of eternity is like -- but one that is ultimate bliss!  

Don't miss out on that!  For if you do, it will become your biggest regret -- and for all eternity.  

You cannot be forced to obey Jesus; but you can do so because you want to, out of your own love and appreciation for all that He has done for you.  He died for you -- suffering a horrible, torturous death -- so you can be set free from the bondage of sin (cf. Heb. 2:9,14,15,17).   

So here is the answer to your biggest problem -- your problem of sin.  No problem could be greater than that; and Jesus solved it for us, if we will now just accept what He has done by our faith and obedience to the gospel plan of salvation.

-- from my facebook site (slightly revised)


News & Notes

Louisa Jane Gillium Pitman, who went by the name "Lou," passed away Saturday, September 3, 2011, at the age of 87.   Her body was laid to rest at Parkland Memorial Gardens in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  She and her husband John, who preceded her in death in 2004 and with whom she had been married for 60 years, used to drive about 50 miles one way to worship with us in Ashland, Kentucky, after John had retired from full-time preaching.  This they did, even when they both had physical ailments that made it painfully difficult for them.  They truly showed their faith in the Lord, and their love for Him.  

Born in 1924, Lou had become the 14th of 16 children, of whom only her brother Frank has survived her.  She was also preceded in death by her first son Joseph (in 2004) and her 2nd daughter Deborah (in 2009). She is survived by three of her other children: Glenda, LaVone, and Phillip; by two sons-in-law, Richard and Mike; by six grandchildren; by six great grandchildren, and by many nieces and nephews (and some great ones).

We extend our condolences to all the family and friends.


On September 15, I also received much good news in an update on my sister (Helen Bott) who had been re-admitted to the hospital September 4 for acute kidney failure, a few weeks after having had surgery for stage 3 cancer. Her creatinine level had been up to about 6.3 (1.5 is normal), but now it is down to 0.6 to 0.8; and her kidneys are functioning normally again.  They have, therefore, removed the tube from her for dialysis, since she won't be needing it any more. 

Then after hearing this, however, I learned a few minutes later that Helen had to be taken into surgery, due to two blood clots in each leg.  One of the clots was causing a complete blockage from the groin area to the knee, and the other clot wasn't as bad.  The surgery was to install a filter to prevent the clots from being able to move to vital areas.

Helen also had some type of blockage to her kidneys, which is now kept open with stents (similar to what they use for arteries around the heart).

Her pulse is still a little high -- 101 (but it has dropped from 111).   So with normal being 60 to 100, Helen is just slightly over that.  

Her blood pressure fluctuates somewhat, but is about 101 over 55.  So that is a little low (with 90 to 140 over 60 to 80 being  normal).  Helen, therefore, falls in that range for the top number, and just slightly under for the bottom one.  

Helen has improved so much that they were going to let her go home September 15, before they had then discovered the blood clots.   But even if that problem hadn't arisen, she wanted to be transferred to a rehabilitation clinic for a little while, since she feels so weak.  

The nurse also thought that they might be able to begin Helen's chemotherapy and radiation treatments sooner rather than later -- maybe in a week or so.   But she'll still have to have the cat scan first to determine if cancer has spread elsewhere.  

I thank you for your prayers for my sister.  I was so glad to hear of how things have improved for her!  Please continue to pray that she will be healed completely -- from the blood clots and blockage; and if she has any cancer elsewhere, that it will all be totally eliminated!  Thank you!


Let those of us who are Christians also continue praying for the following people:

R.J. Evans, who began his treatment September 13 for a slow-developing prostate cancer, caught in its early stage.  The procedure is known as "seeding," and they placed 88 radiation seeds throughout the prostate.  Both his doctors thought that this would eliminate his cancer in about two months.  His wife, Jackie, has expressed appreciation for the thoughts and prayers of others.

Cheryl Crews, who continues to be having health problems, not feeling well, and undergoing treatment.   

Bill Barfield, an 85-year old with prostate cancer, whose mobility was also impaired several years ago, due to a stroke.    

Bill Holt, who had an endoscopy performed on his pancreas September 12; and this coming Monday, he will be having surgery.  

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
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