Earthen Vessels Archives 2006/2007

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  • How Important Are You? by Allan McNabb
  • Your Life A Mirror (poem) by Alma Norman
  • The Religious Necessity of Visiting the Sick by Jay Horsley
  • Neighbors Help Needy Family
  • Choosing to be a Refreshing Christian by Cindy Granke
  • When one of us is threatened, we are all at risk
  • The Encourager
  • Thoughts From a New Member (poem)
  • Serving the Lord in Weakness
  • The Clay Vessel (poem)
  • Brighten the Corner (poem)
  • What Keeps You Going? 
  • Do Something for Someone Else by Dee Bowman
  • Praying Hands (poem)
  • The Ten Commandments of Listening
  • What Does It Mean to "visit"? Is It More Than a Social Call? by Randy Blackaby
  • Helping the Sick by J. David Powlas
  • The Potter (poem) by John Foreman
  • The Cracked Pot


How important are you?

(Bible thoughts on the individual importance of every Christian)

by Allan McNabb


During the last few weeks, Andrea and I watched some young folks play organized sports. This got me thinking about an analogy between a sports team and a congregation. In a manner of speaking, a congregation is a team, "a number of persons associated together in work or activity." (Webster's Dictionary)

We Are Members of the Same Body: As Christians, we have been baptized into Christ (Rom. 6:3), and we're members of His body (Eph. 5:23). Therefore, we are individually members of one another.

Paul says, "For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another" (Rom. 12:4-5).

We are Equally Important: The body of Christ is composed of many members, not just one (1 Cor. 12:14). Therefore, each member is equally important and dependant upon one another (1 Cor. 12:15-19).

Paul uses the analogy of the human body. The body is not composed of only one member but many members. Each member needs the other members to function as a body; therefore, each member is equally important (1 Cor. 12:12-26).

As a Result, There is Unity: God created the body of Christ, which is the church (Eph. 1:22-23), so that there is unity (1 Cor. 12:23-25). Christians bestow more honor upon members the world may deem less honorable, "giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another" (1 Cor 12:24-25) — this results in unity.

In this respect, the church is different from a sports team, where more honor is given to the "best" players. This is especially evident with professional sports teams, where a few members are paid much more than the other team players, often resulting in division of the team.

Christians, "do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves" (Phil 2:3). They don't merely look out for their own personal interests, but also for the interests of others (Phil 2:4).

As a Result, There is Equal Care for Each Member: Since every member is equally important in the church, we equally care for one other.

Paul says, "And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it" (1 Cor 12:26).

This is one of the tests whereby we can judge ourselves as a congregation.

Do we equally suffer and rejoice with each member of the congregation?

Or, do we care for one member more than we care for another member?

Every Function of Every Member is Important: Since every member is equally important, every function performed within the congregation is equally important. There is no job within the congregation that is less important or more important than any other job. No matter what it is, from cleaning bathrooms to teaching Bible class to leading the flock, each job is equally important. No matter our function within the congregation, at the end of the day, our attitude is that we are unworthy slaves (Luke 17:10). We have just done what the Lord would have us to do, nothing more or less.

How Important Are You: You are as important to the congregation as everyone else, not more or less. Therefore, you are as needed as everyone else. Your value to the cause of Christ is incumbent with your abilities, and their use, which is determined by opportunities afforded and the desire on your part to fulfill them.

Without individual people, there wouldn't be a congregation. And without you, the congregation wouldn't be what it is today.

Via ~


Your Life A Mirror

Does your life mirror Christ
When others look at you
Do you glorify him always
In the things you say and do?

God made us special
His earthen vessels to be
His instruments to share his word
Full of truth, love and completely.

For if the gospel
Be hidden in you
How will others know
What they must also do?
His light must shine forth
By serving Him from our hearts

Teaching others about Jesus
Before we'll someday depart.
2 Cor. 4:3 "But if our gospel be hid,
It is hid to them that are lost."

Alma Norman 2003


The Religious Necessity of Visiting the Sick
by Jay Horsley

The sick, like the poor, are ever with us. This provides for us almost unlimited opportunities to put our Christian religion into practice. Every week this format and the announcements of the elders inform us as to who is in need of help and prayers. How do we respond to it? Do we ever offer prayer? Do we ever go see these brethren? If we don't - we must begin. If we do - we must continue. Consider these biblical reasons why.

The Golden Rule. The lofty goal of Christian behavior is “all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matt. 7:12). What would be our desire if sick? We would all hope that when we are aged or grossly infirmed that one would come and care tenderly for us. Yet if we do not now lay up the treasure of doing this good work for others in the time of our health how can we rightfully call for such care for ourselves later? Is it not the very definition of selfishness to expect others to do for you what you refuse to do for them? Instead we must “not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Phil. 2:4). This is the very law of Christ, “Bear one another's burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.” (Gal. 6:2)

A Sign of Familiar Love. Many of those that are sick among us in this congregation also have family here. In fact, there are very few sick anywhere who do not have relatives. If all relatives did their divinely ordained duties society and the church would be much less burdened. However among this congregation are many sterling examples of this love put into practice: spouses caring for the ones to whom they pledged to be faithful “in sickness and in health”; parents caring for children for whom they must provide, children “making a return” (1 Tim. 5:4) unto their parents, and grandchildren and grandparents showing an active love and concern that spans the generations. In fact this rightful love in action is an example to us, for as the scriptures point out, it only those most dilatory in their faith who are neglectful of this. “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Tim. 5:8) This is, as the pagans were, “without natural affection, unloving.” (Rom. 1:31)

An Exercise in Humility. One excuse often given by those who refuse to do their duty is how uncomfortable it makes them feel. To be in the presence of the seriously ill, those of greatly advanced age or serious medical condition is not pleasant. It is disconcerting to see bodies so weakened and distorted by time and disease. These bodies are not the way we wish them to be and they are graphic reminders of the approaching death that awaits every man. We naturally don't like to think about death - and disease is an extension of it. To face the one who is sick we must face within ourselves the real possibility that such conditions are to be our fate as well. Our response to this can be to become morose or to be thankful for the health that we do have.

A New Appreciation For Health. One of the greatest ways that we can be reminded of the blessings that we have is to deal with those who don't have them. Some things become much more obvious by their absence. If we have lived with something a long time we tend to take it for granted. A visit to the home of the poor helps us appreciate our wealth. A visit to the bed of the sick makes us appreciate our health. Who would not be moved to thanking God for their good health after spending time with those who lack it and so desperately want it?

A New Appreciation For Prayer. Many who are healthy and well supplied do not pray as they ought for they don't see the need. A visit to the sick - for whom grave danger of life is present or soon expected, or for whom medical science can offer no hope, or for whom pain and suffering attend their every movement and activity - helps us see that prayer is the only response possible. Prayer – for their spiritual security and encouragement as the physical fails. Prayer - for their physical comfort and relief. Prayer – for those who patiently and lovingly care for them that they might be blessed in and for their efforts and have the strength to continue. In all things - prayer. Also, having so closely prayed with them in suffering we are more likely to continue in prayers for them when absent. But if always absent where is the reminder of the need of prayer?

A Sign of True Faith. Many are Christians by loud profession having once made the good confession, but their obsession with self and their own interests is obvious when the continually absent themselves from sick beds and benevolent opportunities. It is not my decision that such faith it vain, it is the proclamation of the divine writer: “This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (Jas. 1:27) It not true religion if it continually shirks duty.

The Duty of Elders, Preachers and All Christians to Visit. Some see this duty is one primarily, or even only, for the leaders of the church. Let the elders (they're the ones appointed after all) and the preacher (he's on the payroll) or others go. By this same logic only the elders and preacher should pray, teach, sing or encourage (after all, they're appointed, he's paid). Do elders have a duty to visit the sick? Yes, the scripture says that the sick should call for them to pray with them (Jas. 5:13). Also they should go under the general heading of “caring for the flock.” (1 Pet 5:20) The preacher has no specific instruction to go “as the preacher” to the sick (if so, where is the passage?), only the general instruction to “strengthen and encourage” (2 Thess. 3:2). Every passage (save Jas. 5:13) that deals directly or by implication with visiting the sick is addressed equally to ALL Christians.

The importance of this duty to every Christian cannot be overstated – for eternal salvation hangs in the balance.

The Basis of Judgment. Jesus speaks of the separation of the goats and sheep to the left hand and to the right in Matt. 25.

37 "Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You drink?
38 'And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You?
39 `And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?'
40 "And the King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me....'
45 "Then He will answer them, saying, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.'
46 "And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

Which side of the divide do your actions put you on? 




Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Thursday, January 05, 2006
By Kathleen Ganster

Potluck suppers bring friends and neighbors together, but there is one in Shaler that is far from typical.

Instead of everyone bringing a dish to share, nearly 40 families are pitching in to bring a supper every weekday to their neighbors, Eric and Mary Lou Zydel, and their children.

Mrs. Zydel has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, more commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. The baseball great was the disease's most famous victim.

Her husband is her primary caregiver while also taking care of their two children, Courtney, 12, and Tyler, 8, and working from home at his engineering job.

"I call them the dinner club," Mr. Zydel said of his neighbors. "They bring us a complete meal every night, Monday through Friday."

Both Mr. and Mrs. Zydel are from the Pittsburgh area but were living near Philadelphia in 2001 when Mrs. Zydel began experiencing weakness in her right arm. The doctors discovered that she had had a mild stroke. Then 39 years old, Mrs. Zydel's condition was chalked up to a blood disorder.

"Mary Lou has Factor 5 Leiden, which causes the platelets in the blood to stick -- clot -- when they shouldn't. That is what caused the stroke," Mr. Zydel said.

After the stroke and through the spring of 2002, Mrs. Zydel progressed through physical therapy to regain strength and coordination on her right side when suddenly she began to experience even greater weakness.

"She was fumbling things, dropping them. Mary Lou was petrified," Mr. Zydel said.

At first, the doctors were puzzled and conducted tests from August to October of 2002. "At that point, the doctor said, 'I'm at a loss. I'm going to refer you to someone who I think can help you,' " Mr. Zydel said.

Since Mrs. Zydel was continuing to lose muscle strength the doctor prescribed medication to relieve some of the symptoms. "He gave her a prescription, and when I picked it up and read the literature that came with it, I saw that it was an ALS drug. That was a pretty startling moment for me," he said.

That December, the couple saw Dr. Terry Heiman-Patterson, a specialist, who told them Mrs. Zydel most likely had the disease. "It is a disease of exclusion," Mr. Zydel explained. "There is no real test to determine if someone has ALS. They more or less rule out every other disease."

ALS is a neurological disorder with no known cause and no known cure. As Mr. Zydel explained it: "The neurons are at the end of your nerves and ALS kills them. They are the connector from the brain to the muscle -- like a wire. When the brain signals the arm to move, the muscle can't get the signal as the connector, the neuron, is dead."

All of the voluntary muscles are affected. One by one, the person loses use of every muscle. The life expectancy after diagnosis, Mr. Zydel said, is two to five years. "You basically become a prisoner in your own body," he said. At any given time, about 22,600 Americans live with the disease.

The news was devastating to the Zydels. "Mary Lou is a wonderful person. She wears her heart on her sleeve and was very emotional at the time. She just didn't want to accept the news," Mr. Zydel said.

Once again, she went through a battery of tests. "It was somewhat comforting but somewhat sad all at the same time when it became clearer that she had ALS," he said.

As the disease progressed, Mr. Zydel told his wife that if there was anything she wanted to do, now was the time. "She told me that she wanted to move back to Pittsburgh," he said.

In December 2003, the family moved into their home in Wible Woods in Shaler.

Last October, as neighbors were setting up the car pool schedule, they realized how demanding Mr. Zydel's schedule had become. His wife's disease had progressed to the point that her total care was dependent on her home health aide and Mr. Zydel.

Neighbor Angela Quinn asked Mr. Zydel what could be done to help, and the dinner club was born.

"I put fliers out just once in our plan, and we have about 85 percent of the families participating," Mrs. Quinn said. "I told people, 'Just make more of what you are making for your own family for Eric and his kids.' "

Each family prepares a meal and delivers it to the Zydels on a rotating schedule.

"We are talking a complete meal here," Mr. Zydel said. "A salad, bread, main dish and dessert."

He also asks that neighbors visit for a bit, if their schedules allow. "It is important for people to know that Mary Lou isn't contagious. We want people to know what ALS is all about," he said.

The families have been providing dinner since early October and plan to continue indefinitely. On the weekends, the Zydels either eat leftovers or depend on others, such as Mr. Zydel's cousin, Mike Tysarczyk.

"I don't cook, so I pick up something on the way, then go visit," Mr. Tysarczyk said. "I call it the 'Pizza, Hoagie, Chicken Club.' "

Everyone is moved by the Zydels' story, Mrs. Quinn said.

"Eric is wonderful. He is so devoted to Mary Lou. And this has been good for the neighborhood as well. We are a fairly new plan and now many of us know each other, know our kids and have a common cause. We now have a connection to everyone."



Choosing To Be
A Refreshing Christian

By Cindy Granke

Encouragement is one of the most powerful things one person can share with another. A word of encouragement can heal someone who is broken and wounded, and it can give someone the courage to keep trying, and not give up. It doesn’t matter whether I am a caregiver, a patient, a parent, a child, a husband, a wife, a friend, a preacher, teacher, or a listener. We all need encouragement and we should willingly and lovingly give it to those we live with, or know

Unfortunately we all know folks who are so focused on their own selves that they can’t seem to muster the time or the compassion even to listen patiently to someone else’s problems, before interrupting with their own woes. Too often, such self-centeredness is even found within the Lord’s church. Such individuals fail to recognize that their own self-centeredness not only is detrimental to their spiritual growth, but also discourages their physical family members, brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ, and especially to those who are already overwhelmed with life-changing circumstances. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4)

Paul prayed for the church in Colosse that their hearts might be encouraged, being knit together in love (Colossians 2:2). We all need a little encouragement from time to time, especially when our lives become stressful or beyond our ability to control our circumstances. Likewise, we all need to feel appreciated sometimes. Statistics show that a person will remain employed in a low paying job if he knows he is appreciated. That says a lot about the need of human beings to feel like they are not taken for granted. Besides the workplace, marriage is an area where appreciation goes a long way to smooth over some of the shortcomings of spouses. And last but not least, the Lord’s church is a place where appreciation and encouragement will resolve a multitude of problems

And above all things
have fervent love for one another,
for love will cover a multitude of sins.

1 Peter 4:8

There is nothing like having someone come, “stand by our side,” when we are in need or when the going gets tough. Paul was old, imprisoned and ready to die when he sent for Timothy to come to him. He wrote, “At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me” (2 Timothy 4:16), however at the time of his writing, he was able to say, in verse 11, “Only Luke is with me.” How much it must have meant to him to have that one faithful friend who stood beside him in his hour of trial. Let us put ourselves in his shoes. If our friends, brothers, and sisters in Christ were all too busy shopping, having company come for supper, or so focused on a sports event, when they knew that we were at one of the lowest points in our lives, how dear would that one friend become to us who stayed by our side?

We find comfort and encouragement in God’s word, and that is the first place we should seek it. But it is God’s intention for Christians to provide those things to one another, too.

Paul tells his readers to put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another (Colossians 3:12-14); and to have genuine affection toward one another, in honor preferring one another (Romans 12:10).

Peter gives the same admonition, in 1 Peter 3:8. He reminds Christians to have pity and compassion for one another, and to show brotherly love. Isn’t it a wonderful feeling to know that wherever we travel or visit there are brothers and sisters in Christ there? We have family there! If you have ever lived in places where the nearest Christians were an hour away, or even further, then you can appreciate how precious our spiritual family is to us.

We encourage others when we tell them how much we appreciate them, and let them know why we have such esteem for them. Paul told Philemon that he thanked God for his love of the saints. He said, “For we have great joy and consolation in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed by you, brother.” (Philemon 1:7) If you have ever been told by another Christian, “I’m proud of you for standing firm in the faith,” or “I love you and pray for you always,” then you know how wonderful it feels.

It’s important to tell a person to his face that you are proud of him, or how much he has encouraged you, or helped you. But it’s even more precious for him to hear that you said the same thing about him to someone else. In one of his letters to Timothy, Paul talked of all those in Asia who had turned away from him, and went on to say, “The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: But, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me. The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well.” (2 Timothy 1:16-18)

This is another way that we can show our love and appreciation to members of our physical family. When someone tells me that my husband said something nice about me – it means even more to me, because I know he didn’t feel obligated to say anything about me at all. It’s sort of like a bonus word of appreciation coming through the side door.

Consider the Christians in Corinth who refreshed Titus. “Therefore we have been comforted in your comfort. And we rejoiced exceedingly more for the joy of Titus, because his spirit has been refreshed by you all.” (2 Corinthians 7:13)

Paul took the time to show his appreciation to others. How often have we neglected to tell another person how much we appreciated something they said, or did? How often have we forgotten to tell someone how encouraging they have been to us? Remember the story of the ten lepers? They begged Jesus to heal them. He did. How many of them thanked Him afterward? See Luke 17:12-18.

These things are applicable in our physical, as well as our spiritual, families. Think about your brothers and sisters in Christ; your husband, your children; your caregiver, or your patient.

When was the last time you expressed courtesy, by saying, “Thank you,” “Please,” or “Excuse me,” to them? Those words seem to be some of the first words we erase from our vocabulary in our homes. When stressful times come upon us, it is even more important that we practice kindness, compassion, and appreciation for each other.

And when was the last time you told them that you are proud of them? This is particularly important when things don’t go well, and they feel like they have failed. Remind them of their accomplishments, or how proud you are of the way they handled themselves in a difficult situation.

These are some of the things refreshing Christians say and do, by choice. Let each of us endeavor to be a refreshing Christian


 When one of us is threatened, we are all at risk.

A mouse looked through the crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife open a package. "What food might this contain?" the mouse wondered. She was devastated to discover it was a mousetrap.

Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed the warning,
"There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!"

The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said,
"Mrs. Mouse, I can tell this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it."

The mouse turned to the pig and told her,
"There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!"

The pig sympathized, but said,
I am so very sorry, Mrs. Mouse, but there is nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured you are in my prayers."

The mouse turned to the cow and said,
"There is a mousetrap in the house! There is a mousetrap in the house!"

The cow said,
"Wow, Mrs. Mouse. I'm sorry for you, but it's no skin off my nose."

So, the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected, to face the farmer's mousetrap alone.

That very night a sound was heard throughout the house - like the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey.

The farmer's wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she did not see it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught.

The snake bit the farmer's wife. The farmer rushed her to the hospital, and she returned home with a fever. Everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup's main ingredient.

But his wife's sickness continued, so friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock. To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig.

The farmer's wife did not get well; she died. So many people came for her funeral, the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide enough meat for all of them.

The mouse looked upon it all from her crack in the wall with great sadness.

So, the next time you hear someone is facing a problem and think it doesn't concern you, remember -- when one of us is threatened, we are all at risk.


We know love because
Christ laid down His life for us.
Likewise we ought to have
The same love for each other.
When we see our brother in need
And we have the ability and wherewithal to help
Yet we withhold compassion from him ~
How does the love of God abide in us?
Let us not love with word or with tongue,
But in deed and truth.
1 John 3:16-18


A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart. Proverbs 18:2

Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath. James 1:19

The Encourager

If I really cared:

Who you are would be more important to me than who I am.
Where you hurt would be more important to me than the fact I'm well.
What you feel would be more important than what I know.
I'd look you in the eyes when you talk to me;
I'd think about what you are saying rather than what I'm going to say next.
I'd hear your feelings as well as your words.
I'd listen without defending.
I'd hear without deciding whether you are right or wrong.
I'd ask you why and how, not just when and where.
I'd allow you inside me;
I'd tell you my hopes, my dreams, my fears, my hurts;
I'd tell you when I've blown it and when I've made it.
I'd laugh with you, and not at you.
I'd talk with you, and not to you, and
I'd know when it's time to do neither.
I wouldn't climb your walls,
I'd wait until you let me in the gate.
I wouldn't unlock your secrets,
I'd wait until you handed me the key.
I'd leave my solutions at home and put away my scripts; the performances would end.
If I really cared about you,
I'd be myself with you
And give you the right
To be the same.

-author unknown


I don't know the author who wrote this, and it was not written for Christians. I changed the last line to make it fit the thought. The original line read, "I joined to be your friend." Read this from the viewpoint of a visitor that came for Sunday worship, or a new member at worship service or at a get-together, a weak Christian who needs encouragement, or the chronically ill Christian who misses out on most get-togethers, but finally is able to attend one.
Much too often I see ones who need encouragement be ignored. There is no excuse...not even fear or "I don't know what to say," is a good excuse. Get over it and put forth the effort to be kind.



I see you at the meetings,
But you never say hello.
You’re busy all the time you’re there
With those you really know.
I sit among the members,
Yet I’m a lonely gal.
The new ones feel as strange as I,
The old ones pass us by.
You urged us to join
And talked of fellowship,
You could just cross the room, you know,
But you never make the trip.
Can’t you just nod your head and smile
Or stop and shake a hand,
Then go sit among your friends?
Now that I’d understand.
I’ll be at your next meeting,
And hope that you will spend
The time to introduce yourself,
I want and need a friend.



For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?...
And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others?
Matthew 5:46-47

Love is kind. 1 Corinthians 13:4


But now, O Jehovah, thou art our Father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand. Isa 64:8

Serving the Lord in Weakness

For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. Seeing it is God, that said, Light shall shine out of darkness, who shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the exceeding greatness of the power may be of God, and not from ourselves; we are pressed on every side, yet not straitened; perplexed, yet not unto despair; pursued, yet not forsaken; smitten down, yet not destroyed; always bearing about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be manifested in our body. (2Cor 4:5-10)

And he hath said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my power is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Wherefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. (2Cor 12:9-10)

My body is weak. What can I do?

Search out those who are weakened by trials. A simple hug, a note or phone call coming from someone who understands trials help strengthen them to persevere.


The Clay Vessel

The Master was searching for a vessel to use.
Before Him were many, which one would He choose?
"Take me," cried the gold one. "I'm shiny and bright,
I'm of great value and I do things just right.
My beauty and luster will outshine the rest.
For someone like you, Master, gold would be best."

The Master passed on with no word at all.
And looked at a silver urn, grand and tall.
"I'll serve you, Master, I'll pour out your wine.
I'll be on your table whenever you dine.
My lines are so graceful, my carving so true.
And silver will always complement you."

Unheeding, the Master passed on to the brass,
Wide-mouthed and shallow and polished like glass.
"Here, here!" cried the vessel, "I know I will do,
Place me on your table for all men to view."

"Look at me," called the goblet of crystal so clear,
"My transparency shows my contents so dear.
Though fragile am I, I will serve you with pride,
And I'll be happy in your house to abide."

Then the Master came next to a vessel of wood,
Polished and carved, it very solidly stood.
"You may use me, dearest Master," the wooden bowl said.
"But I'd rather you used me for fruit, not for bread."

Then the Master looked down and saw a vessel of clay.
Empty and now broken, it helplessly lay.
No hope had the vessel that the Master might choose,
To cleanse, and to make whole, to fill and to use.
"Ah! Now this is the vessel I've been hoping to find.

I'll mend it and use it and make it mine.
I need not the vessel with pride of itself,
Nor one that is narrow to sit on the shelf,
Nor one that is big-mouthed and shallow and loud,
Nor one that displays his contents so proud,
Nor the one who thinks he can do things just right.
But this plain vessel filled with power and might."

Then gently He "lifted up" the vessel of clay,
Mended and cleansed it and filled it that day:
He let the vessel know -- "There's much work to do...
You are to pour out to others, as I pour into you."

-Author Unknown

COMFORT OTHERS WITH THE SAME COMFORT GOD GIVES US: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

WHAT DID PETER'S MOTHER IN LAW DO WHEN SHE FELT BETTER? Now when Jesus had come into Peter's house, he saw his wife's mother lying sick with a fever. And He touched her. Then she arose and served them.






We cannot all be famous
or be listed in "Who's Who",
But every person, great or small,
has important work to do.
For seldom do we realize
the importance of small deeds,
Or to what degree of greatness
unnoticed kindness leads.
For it's not the big celebrity
in a world of fame and praise,
But it's doing unpretentiously
in an undistinguished way.
The work that God assigned to us,
unimportant as it seems,
That makes our task outstanding,
and brings reality to dreams.
So do not sit and idly wish
for wider, new dimensions
where you can put into practice,
your many good intentions.
But at the spot God placed you
begin at once to do,
Little things to brighten up
the lives surrounding you.
If everybody brightened up
the spot where their standing,
By being more considerate,
and a little less demanding.
This dark old world would very soon
eclipse the evening star,
If everybody brightened up
the corner where they are!


What Keeps You Going

The following is reported to have been seen in the window of an English company:

"We have been established for over one hundred years and have been pleasing and displeasing customers ever since. We have made money and lost money, suffered the effects of coal nationalization, coal rationing, government control, and bad payers. We have been cussed and discussed, messed about, lied to, held up, robbed, and swindled. The only reason we stay in business is to see what happens next."

As I read that sign, I couldn't help but think of the apostle Paul who listed all the trials that he experienced in his Christian life:

"I have worked much harder than they. I have been in prison more often. I have been hurt more in beatings. I have been near death many times. Five times the Jews have given me their punishment of thirty-nine lashes with a whip. Three different times I was beaten with rods. One time I was almost stoned to death. Three times I was in ships that wrecked, and one of those times I spent a night and a day in the sea. I have gone on many travels and have been in danger from rivers, thieves, my own people, the Jews, and those who are not Jews. I have been in danger in cities, in places where no one lives, and on the sea. And I have been in danger with false Christians. I have done hard and tiring work, and many times I did not sleep. I have been hungry and thirsty, and many times I have been without food. I have been cold and without clothes. Besides all this, there is on me every day the load of my concern for all the churches." (2 Cor. 11:23b-28).

You almost expect Paul to say, "The only reason I keep serving Christ is to see what happens next." But, a more accurate statement would be: "The reason I keep serving Christ is out of appreciation for all he has done for me."

I raise the simple question: Why do you keep serving Christ, even in the midst of trials and hardships? When things get tough and nobody seems to understand why you persist in your commitment, what keeps you going? Just something for you to think about!

Have a great day!

Alan Smith


Do Something For Someone Else

by Dee Bowman

The human character never functions at a higher level than when it is involved in doing for others. In what is often described as the Golden Rule, Jesus spoke of doing for others as you would have them do for you. In His great commandment concerning discipleship, Jesus spoke of self-denial as the key element. The so-called greatest commandment of all, says that love your neighbor is like unto the love of God.

Giving is the highest essence of human endeavor. “Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend” (John 15:13). The Epistles are replete with charges that Christians should place the good of others before themselves (Philippians 2:4; Romans 12:10, etc.). Selflessness is a fitting description of our Savior who gave Himself for our sins.

Conversely, all sin is in some way connected to selfishness. Commands are disobeyed out of a selfish intention and that results in sin. Selfishness is at the root of all sin.

Care for one another is a sign of love. Looking past warts and imperfections toward usefulness and concern is a sign of love. Love promotes cooperation between those who genuinely care for Christ and His cause and prohibits useless wranglings and senseless quarrels.

Two elderly women suffered incapacitating strokes. One’s left side was paralyzed, the other’s right. Each had before been an excellent pianist, but was denied the privilege of playing on account of the stroke. The director of a nursing home where they were lodged knew of their common interest in the piano and introduced them. Soon they were making beautiful music—together, one playing the left hand, the other the right. Unselfishness promotes unity, makes bad situations good, brings happiness out of adversity.

There is no better way to actualize selflessness than to do something for someone else. It gets you outside of yourself. It projects you into the situations around you and, if motivated by love and concern, makes every circumstance and every situation better. And most of the time it costs nothing. And even if it does cost something, more often than not, it’s worth the expenditure.

I ran across this years ago. Let me share it with you.

“The word is encumbered with sorrow and care,
With longing for happiness everywhere.
If then you could lighten the burden of life
And lessen its toil and its worry and strife,
Do something for somebody else.

We rush madly on in our daily careers,
And each take his measure of smiles and tears.
We flippantly mingle the bad and the good,
Nor seemingly care for the fact that we should,
Do something for somebody else.

Each play his small part in life’s feverish game,
And scrambles for honor and riches and fame;
Grows selfish and craven and full of distrust.
Yet if we could truly be happy, we must,
Do something for somebody else.

Oh, you who are full of complaining and fears,
Who think but of self through the slow-moving years.
Pray let me describe for life’s fevers and chills,
Its mental and moral and physical ills,
Do something for somebody else.

Do something for somebody else and forget
Your own petty troubles—why worry and fret?
Let love in your heart be forever enshrined;
He loves most who gives most of self to mankind.
Do something for somebody else.” (Anonymous)

And could I add something else? It doesn’t have to be something big. Sometimes just a smile to say “I care.” Sometimes just a hug or a pat on the shoulder to say, “You’re special.” Sometimes just a simple smile or a “hello” or an “I understand” will do. Do something for somebody else. It all adds up. It all adds up to good.

Copyright (C) 2002-2004 Southside Church of Christ
All rights reserved


Praying Hands

There are hands that help and comfort,
Hands that plan and teach,
Hands that rest and hands that strive
For a goal just out of reach,
Hands that grasp and hands that give,
Hands that work and play,
Friendly hands and loving hands
That soothes life's cares away.
But praying hands are dearest
In the sight of God above
For in their sweet and earnest clasp
Are reverence and love.
No hands can do an unkind act
Nor cause another care
Nor sin against Our Father's love
When they are clasped in prayer.

Author Unknown

God has given us two hands – one to receive with and the other to give with. 

The following was given to a friend as she trained to work for Hospice. These are excellent suggestions, not only in listening to someone who is ill, but in any situation when someone needs a listening ear (including our children).


The Ten Commandments of Listening

  1. Stop Talking. They cannot speak and you cannot listen if you are talking!
  2. Let them see you listening. Be genuinely attentive. Display your attentiveness and get rid of distractions.
  3. Empathize. Be aware of their frame of reference. Put yourself in "their shoes" so you can better understand their point of view.
  4. Concentrate. Actively focus your attention on their words, body language and feelings.
  5. Ask Questions. Asking questions will encourage the speaker while assuring them that you are in fact listening. Questions should help the speaker to clarify or further develop their points. Restate in your own words the meaning of what the speaker has said (I.e. "IF I understood you correctly, you feel...") Be careful not to probe for additional facts or change the focus to something which might interest you.
  6. Focus on the main point(s). Focus on the main ideas and not the illustrative material; for example, stories, statistics, etc., are important, but are usually not the main idea points. Examine them only to see if they prove, support, or define the main ideas.
  7. Be patient. Don't interrupt the other person. Give them time to say what they have to say.
  8. Don't argue mentally. It is a handicap to mentally argue with a person as they are speaking.
  9. Put the speaker at ease. Help them feel free to express themselves and to show emotion.
  10. Share responsibility for communication. Only part of the responsibility in communicating rest with the speaker.


New Testament Word Studies: Episkoptomai

What Does It mean to "visit"?
Is it more than a social call?

By Randy Blackaby

Some preachers, elders, and members of the Lord's church are particularly known for "visiting" the brethren. Others are criticized because they do not visit. Some of these accolades and criticisms are justified. But sometimes, brethren have the wrong view of visiting, or at least a limited view.

The importance of visiting those who are sick and troubled is not the issue. It is imperative that all Christians take this responsibility seriously. Jesus made that clear in Matthew 25:41-46 where He equated failure to visit our brethren with failure to visit the Lord. He said, "Then he will say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food; I was thirsty and you gave me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take me in, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison and did not minister to you?' Then He will answer the, saying, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

"Pure religion" is defined, in part, as "visiting" the widows and orphans (fatherless) in their afflictions (James 1:27). But, just what does it mean to "visit" a brother? A few years ago, Brother Tom Hamilton, an excellent student of the Greek language and a preacher in Muncie, IN, wrote an article on the Greek word episkoptomai, which is translated "visit" in our English Bibles. Following is a portion of that article.

The word episkoptomai means far more than Webster's definition: "to go see someone socially; to stay temporarily." As the word is used throughout the Old and New Testaments, it conveys the idea of a physical going, but a going (visit) attended by some particular purpose or action.

Sometimes it referred to the visitation of God that meant punishment; at other times, God's visit meant salvation. But the point is that there was always some service rendered by the actual visit.

Social calls and idle chat do not fulfill the meaning of episkoptomai. Notice further that this word is closely related to episkopos, the word for bishop or overseer. Certainly, we understand that the elder does not derive this designation from social calls or mere physical visits, but from those purposeful administrations of service that are demanded by episkoptomai.

In other words, to biblically "visit the sick" is not to drop in on a patient at the hospital and say "Hi," but it is to nurse the person back to health or to support them financially while they are unable to work and earn a living.

Remember, in the first century, there were no hospitals, health insurance programs, sick days, etc., such as we have. Folks were extremely dependent upon one another for help during sickness and other emergencies. Our own society has lessened the chances for us to do biblical "visiting" in this sense. There are few physical needs that are left uncared for by the government, hospitals, insurance companies, personal prosperity, etc. However, there are still some opportunities. To give a current, simple example, many of us have greeted one another at services or dropped by to see folks at their homes. This is known as a "social call" or "social visit." On the other hand, when Sarah (Tom's daughter-RB) was born, Lucy Hurst came to the house to watch the children for us. We didn't get to socialize with her very much, but this is known as a "biblical visit." She is the true picture of a Christian who visits in the biblical sense.

Brother Hamilton's point is good. He is not trying to discourage Christians from spending time with one another. There are great advantages to doing so. We need to get to know one another well, and I can't think of better people with whom to spend our time than faithful Christians. But the biblical idea of "visiting" should not be limited to social fellowship.

We do not always have to change a bandage, or provide food, or give money to a saint in need to have "visited" them. If we encourage the faint-hearted, console the troubled or mourning, or provide some other service for the spirit or soul, we have “visited.” Biblical visiting can take the form of supplying any physical, emotional, or spiritual need. It is true that sometimes a person who is lonely just needs company, someone with whom to talk. But, as Christian "visitors," we need to look for opportunities to visit with other helps and aids. We need to give some thought to the things about which we talk, and what we say, when we visit.

The key is knowing those whom we visit. If we know they are discouraged, our conversation should be designed to encourage. If their faith is weak, we should go with words to strengthen. Tell them of days when you were weak and how you grew stronger. Read them a passage from Scripture. Many of our older saints would dearly love to hear God's word read to them. Yet, we often talk about relatively meaningless matters when we go to visit.

Physically, we need to be prepared to mow grass, clean windows, prepare meals, and do other necessary things, as they are needed, for older widows and widowers and the sick of all ages.

Spiritually, preachers, elders, and members need to make those "difficult visits" to instruct, exhort, admonish, and rebuke the weak. Elders, in particular, have a responsibility in this regard, since they have the maturity and spiritual qualifications to do this sort of work.

We get some of the terminology for the work of elders from the same root word from which we get the term "visit." Elders are bishops (overseers), and that function involves the work of teaching, encouraging, and correcting. They oversee or look after the affairs of others. Thus, they are also "visitors."

That doesn't mean elders and preachers are the only ones who can or should do this type of visiting. But it certainly is a big part of their work. Interestingly, while elders are primarily commissioned to do the spiritual visitation, deacons are men sanctioned to carry out physical visitation on behalf of the church. These forms of visitation are special expressions of love that knit a congregation ever closer together and show the world our "badge of discipleship."

What plans do you have this week for visiting your brethren or others who could use your help? Get out your church directory and go down the list of members, one at a time, and make notes about their needs. You'll find there is lots of "visiting" to be done. And as you make your list, you'll also create an outline for your personal prayers on behalf of your brethren.


Helping The Sick
J. David Powlas


During our assemblies for worship and/or Bible study, the announcements usually include the names of members who are sick. Some of the folks whose names are written on the “prayer board” (the whiteboard on the back wall of this building) are also sick. Do you and I take any kind of follow-up action after we hear those announcements and look at that board? In other words, what do we actually do to help the sick? This lesson will point out some scriptural teachings and practical suggestions about helping the sick.


1. Scriptural Teachings -

a. We should pray for the sick - James 5:14-16; 3 John 1-2

b. We should sympathize and empathize with the sick - Luke 6:31; 1 Corinthians 12:26-27; Romans 12:15

c. We should comfort and encourage the sick - 2 Corinthians 1:3-4; Job 2:11-13

(This can be done via e-mail, regular mail, telephone, and/or personal visit!)

d. We will be judged according to whether we did or did not help the sick -

Matthew 25:31-46

2. Practical Suggestions -

a. When visiting the sick, do not worry/fret about what you should say to them. (Your presence can be comforting/encouraging to the sick even if you say very few words!)

b. When writing and/or speaking to the sick, do not tell them about all of your problems. (They do not need any more “burdens” added to their present “load” of concerns!)

c. Do not ask the sick: “Is there anything that you need for me to get or to do for you?” -- unless you seriously intend to supply or to do what is needed. (To ask such a question with no real interest in their needs is hypocrisy!)


What happens after we learn (via the announcements and the “prayer board”) who is sick? All of us probably intend to do something to help them; but, do we follow up on our good intentions? What are you and I actually doing to help our brethren and others who are sick? Are we willing to be judged according to those actions (or lack of them)?


My body is weak.

What can I do?

David's article, above, is just right for everyone, for those of us with weakened bodies can do at least one of the suggestions David mentioned, if not all of them.




Stay still in the hand of the Potter
Lie low 'neath His wonderful touch,
He shapeth and mouldeth in mercy,
The clay that He loveth so much.

Surrender thyself to His working,
The curve, the hollow He wills,
Nor shrink from the pain and the pressure,
For the vessel He fashions, He fills.

My life goes round in empty dreaming,
Never being, always seeming,
Neither day nor night redeeming -
O weary, weary life!

Double in my dreams I'm feeling;
Brain with brain confusion reeling;
Now well, now ill sensations stealing
Across my weakened frame.

Golden Sol's rich rays are telling
Morning joy to many a dwelling;
Here no darkness e'er dispelling
O weary, weary morn!

O ease me of my weary load;
Lay me beneath the soft green sod;
Ashes to ashes, the life to God,
And let me rest in peace.

Hush! saith the still small voice, repining;
He purifies, all good designing;
'Each dark cloud has its silver lining,'
To cheer us in the gloom.

Soon He comes, all ills redressing;
Bearing healing, bearing blessing;
Sufferings ease, and hearts' distressing-
Thou great physician, come!

Past the long, long night of weeping,
Life its harvest now is reaping,
Earth its jubilee is keeping
In universal song.

John Foreman
(written several days before falling asleep after a long illness)



A water bearer in India had two large pots, each hung on each end of a
pole which he carried across his neck.  One of the pots had a crack in
it, and while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full
portion of water at the end of the long walk from the stream to the
master's house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering
only one and a half pots full of water to his master's house.  Of
course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect to
the end for which it was made.  But the poor cracked pot was ashamed
of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish
only half of what it had been made to do.  After two years of
what it perceived to be a bitter failure,
it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream.

"I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you." "Why?" asked
the bearer.  "What are you ashamed of?" "I have been able, for these
past two years, to deliver only half my load because this crack in my
side causes water to leak out all the way back to your master's house.
Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don't
get full value from your efforts,"  the pot said.
The water bearer felt sorry for the old cracked pot, and in his
compassion he said, "As we return to the master's house, I want you to
notice the beautiful flowers along the path." Indeed, as they went up
the hill, the old cracked pot took notice of the sun  warming the
beautiful wild flowers on the side of the
path, and this cheered it some.  But at the end of the trail, it still
felt bad because it had leaked out half its load, and so again it
apologized to the bearer for its failure.
The bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice that there were flowers
only on your side of your path, but not on the other pot's side?
That's because I have  always known about your flaw, and I took
advantage of it.  I planted flower seeds on your side of the path,
and every day while we walk back from the stream, you've watered them.
For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to
decorate my  master's table.  Without you being just the way you
are, he would not have this beauty to grace his house."

Each of us has our own unique flaws.  We're all cracked pots.
But if we will allow it, the Lord will use our
flaws to grace His Father's table.

In God's great economy, nothing goes to waste. So as we seek ways to
minister together, and as God calls you to the tasks He has appointed
for you, don't be afraid of your flaws.

Acknowledge them, and allow Him to take advantage of them, and you,
too, can be the cause of beauty in His pathway. Go out boldly, knowing
that in our weakness we find His strength, and that
"In Him every one of God's promises is a Yes.

November 2017