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      Nurturing people in the image of God since 1868.                                                                          POB 397/520 Dry Creek Rd./Smithville, TN

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RELIGIOUS RUINS!

Archaeologists and tour guides are getting big bucks these days to guide tourists through sites of old ancient cultures and civilizations. But we don't need experts to tell us that the world's ancient ruins are ancient. In early 1998 1 was blessed to be with a group of twenty or so other Christians on the site of an ancient synagogue in Capernaum on the northwest side of the Sea of Galilee in Israel. Exactly how old the synagogue was our guide could not say. However, he did conjecture   that it could be the very site of the synagogue in which Jesus healed and taught (Mark 1: 21-38).  Two things were very clear, the ruins were ancient... and they were ruins! Fascinating as it was to think we might be in the actual place Jesus once frequented on Sabbath days, the structure we sat and stood in was nowhere near as, glorious and beautiful as it originally was. The forces of time and nature had taken their toll. There is no nice way to say it. Ruins are the remains of things that have been, well, ruined.

We must be careful to maintain the Christian faith or it, too, can be reduced to ruins. The apostle Paul warns about religious ruins in 2 Timothy 2:14 (New King James Version)--- "Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no prof it, to the ruin of the hearers." The Greek word translated "ruin" in this verse (-subverting' in the King James Version) is the word katastrophe (pronounced 'kat-as-trof-ay-). Notice the similarity to our English word "catastrophe." Words we bear can save us (Acts 11: 14) or they can bring spiritual ruin and catastrophe. The original faith as preached by Christ and His apostles declared that there is "one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God" (Ephesians 4:4-6). The New Testament proclaims one Man of salvation who is "the way, the truth, and the I ife" (John 14:6), and it proclaims one plan of salvation as announced by Jesus Himself in Mark 16:16- "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned." But that original faith has been reduced to ruins in many places. A spiritual catastrophe has occurred as millions of people have bought into the very popular but still very wrong idea that all roads lead to Heaven and that truth is like beauty-in the eyes of the beholder. The church must remember her sacred trust from God. Preaching and practicing the truth may ruin our popularity, but not preaching and practicing it will in the end ruin our souls.

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ