Thursday, February 13, 2020

Our Need for Grace

By David Bragg

    On Father’s Day in 2003 Brian (10) was innocently playing with a pair of old handcuffs that his father, a former security guard, had laying around. Brian decided to “attach” himself to his father, who was glad to play along until he realized that the key was missing. After an exhaustive search the police were contacted to help remove the cuffs, which they did, and replaced them with new ones. As a result of routine background checks they discovered two outstanding warrants on Brian’s dad (Des Moines Register, June 17, 2003). He thought he had escaped his past. Justice is not very forgiving!
    The sad reality of life is that we all struggle with sin. Not only do we struggle, we consistently lose that battle. Two familiar verses burn this reality into our minds: "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23) and "the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23). Therefore, we need God's grace.
    Grace has been described in various ways. It is “God’s unmerited favor,” or "God's Riches At Christ's Expense." But no matter how you define it, grace is essential. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).

- David Bragg serves as one of the ministers at the Northwest Church of Christ in Greensboro, NC and is co-editor of BulletinGold. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.nwchurchofchrist.com/ or his blog: http://davidbragg.blogspot.com/



You Care

By J. Randal Matheny

You care for me I know,
And daily watch the flow
  of history;
The whole of man you guide
And with the meek reside —
  With even me.

For glory comes the call,
From him who knows us all
  And loves us more;
Believe, obey, and trust —
Take all these steps we must
  To enter the door.

We pray for Christ to come,
To judge by word and plumb —
  For him we wait.
We're eager to hear our names,
Receive our heavenly claims,
  Forever celebrate.

- J. Randal Matheny edits and writes UPLift, an inspirational ezine. He
may be contacted here: <http://randalmathenycom/>. When reprinting this
material, please include the following: 

Copyright (c) 2019 J. Randal Matheny
All rights reserved. You may forward the
email to friends as is. You may not alter
it in any way or remove any text or
attributions.



The Glorious Church

By Ron Bartanen

    Among the descriptive terms used in the New Testament with reference to that body of people that we generally refer to as the church, none is more descriptive of our close relationship to Christ than that of a bride. In Ephesians 5:22-33 Paul, while admonishing wives to be submissive to their husbands, and husbands to love their wives, illustrates their relationship to one another as a reflection of the relationship between Christ and the church. The husband is to be “the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church” (v. 23), but this headship is to be exercised in the spirit of Christ, as he further writes, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it” (v. 25). He anticipates the time when, at the return of Christ, He presents His bride to Himself as “a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish” (v. 26). 
    The beauty and glory of the wedding-attire of the bride of Christ is not of her own doing, but of her husband’s. He has so designed the church that in spite of the deficiencies of those composing the church, it will, in that day, be seen as “a glorious church.” We would do well to consider why and how this could be so. 
    First, the church owes its existence to Christ. The passage in Eph. 5 declares that Christ “gave himself for it” (v. 25b). He purchased the materials that compose the church (the redeemed) with His own blood (Acts 20:28). Had Christ not shed His blood at Calvary, the church would be non-existent. Under another figure, He is the church’s builder (Matt. 16:18; Heb. 8:2). The church’s glory is a reflection of the glory of its builder.
    Second, the glory of the church is seen in its head, Jesus Christ. The Lord’s church has no mere human, or council of men, as its head. As Paul wrote in Col. 1:18: “He is the head of the body, the church…that in all things he might have the preeminence.” 
    Third, the glory of the church is evident in the church’s foundation. “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11). 
    Fourth, the church is glorious because of its glorious purpose. Paul wrote of its purpose when he said, “Unto him (Christ) be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end” (Eph. 3:21). Through Christ, the redeemed glorify God as the people reconciled to God “in one body by the cross” (Eph. 2:16). Returning to Eph. 5, Christ is both the “head of the church, and he is the Savior of the body” (v. 23). The purpose of the church is to exist in this world as that body of people called out of the world to show forth the good news of salvation in Christ.  

    While the church is commonly vilified in the world, its glory will one day be evident. Among the closing visions of John on the Isle of Patmos is that of “the bride, the Lamb’s (Christ’s) wife” (Rev. 21:9). She is portrayed as a city, “the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God…” (21:10b-11a). A city is identified most of all by its inhabitants. The mansions in which we shall dwell (John 14:1-4) will be glorious, but also what we suffer for Christ’s sake personally is “not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). 
    Those who shall partake of this glory are identified as those who are first sanctified and cleansed of sin “with the washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:26). Have you surrendered yourself to Christ, and been added by the Lord to His glorious church?  (Read Acts 2:36-47)

 - Ronald Bartanen preaches for Arthur Church of Christ, Arthur, IL.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://arthurcoc.com/



Eat Right!

By Edd Sterchi

“Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy?  Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance.” (Isa. 55:2).
    Let’s admit something up front: There is food that is good for us and there is junk food. There is food that builds the bones and muscles, and there is food that clogs the arteries. There is food that provides energy, and there is food that adds fat. In short, there is good food and bad food.
    Now, understanding that, let us ask this: Why would people spend good money on bad food? I know the answer, because I have done this (and so have you). We do it because we like the way it tastes.
    God asked a similar question twenty-seven hundred years ago about how His people were feeding their souls. They seem to have been more interested consuming spiritual junk food than in eating a healthy spiritual diet. They were doing this by disobeying God and living in ways that dishonored Him. As a result of consuming the wrong spiritual diet, they were bringing spiritual sickness and harm to themselves.
    But God did not just give the warning of what would happen if they continued eating spiritual junk food, He gave them a dietary plan that would bring them back to spiritual health. They were to “forsake” their wicked ways and thoughts (Isa. 55:7) and “return to the LORD” (Isa. 55:7). And they were to consume the food that was good for their souls – the word of God (Isa. 55:11). Doing this would cause spiritual health which brings joy and peace (Isa. 55:12).
    There’s a great analogy in this for us. When the arteries of the soul are clogged through a bad spiritual diet, cardiac arrest of the spirit can happen. Instead of beating regularly and powerfully with love for God, the heart becomes cold and heavy and spiritual activity stops.
    Christian, do you desire a spiritually healthy life? Then hunger for His word. Feed on it, digest it, and allow it to generate spiritual strength and energy for your life. Eat some “soul food” every day.

- Edd Sterchi preaches for the Broadway Church of Christ in Campbellsville, KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.broadwaychurchofchrist.net/



I Will be Forever in His Debt

By Gerald Cowan
                                   
In Christ I’ve learned to give as well as take.
In serving others, I serve for his sake.
But it is also for my own soul’s sake.

His love has given me new life to live.
I’m giving back what Christ gave me to give.
By sharing him I earn the right to live.

The truest gift I can give is my life.
But I am his. He bought me with his life.
I give what is already his – my life.

What I am giving, Christ my Lord will keep
Until I wake from death’s long dreaded sleep.
He, through eternity, my soul will keep.

Although my debt to him is never paid,
In life or death I will not be afraid,
Secured by what the Lord and I have paid.

- Gerald Cowan, a longtime preacher and missionary, is retired from full-time pulpit preaching. Gerald publishes an e-mail newsletter entitled GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICAL WRITINGS. He is available for Gospel Meetings and he may be contacted at Geraldcowan1931@aol.com



Easter

By Ron Thomas

    The significance of Easter to a great many people is in relation to the Lord’s resurrection from the grave. The importance of the Lord’s resurrection is in the message of hope to a people lost in sin (all are lost in sin; Romans 3:23). With this message of hope, is a message of warning. Paul spoke to those in Athens, saying, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead" (Acts 17:30-31, ESV).  A coming day of judgment is something people understand as a matter of justice, but some confusion surrounds the idea of justice and precisely how it will be applied. For what will one be judged, what standard will be used to judge and what happens after the judgment is rendered?
    Briefly, let us address each question. For what will one be judged? The things done in this life. Paul wrote about this in his letter to the church in Corinth (2 Corinthians 5:10). “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” The words “good” and “evil” are understood exclusively in relation to the Lord’s express will. 
    The standard used to judge us is the standard of God’s holy will as spoken by the Lord Jesus Himself (John 12:48). “The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.” This means the life we have chosen to live will be measured against the life the Lord wants us to live. If one chooses poorly, then on that day of judgment, the one who chose poorly will not hear pleasant words (cf. Matthew 25:37-43). 
    At Judgment, what happens? “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:31-32, KJV). There is no chance we can escape this day, but there is an opportunity to escape the Lord’s disapproval. 
    Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God? If so, change your way of thinking, confess Him as your Lord, be buried (immersion) with Him in baptism (Romans 6:3-7). Do this and live faithfully for Him (Rev. 2:10), and you will hear words that are most pleasant (Matthew 25:44-46). Before you know it, judgment day will arrive! For the faithful Christian, judgment day will be a grand day, but for the one who refuses to obey, judgment day will be a day of horror! Brighten your day and to Jesus obey. 


- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website. http://sunrushchurchofchrist.com/


A Strong Sense of Family

By Neal Pollard

    Trevor Matich was being interviewed on ESPN radio, asked about why he thought that Clemson had built such a strong football program in the last few years. His quick response was, "They have built a strong sense of family." He talked about how Head Coach Dabo Sweeney and his staff wanted players to see their coaches not just as coaches but also as husbands and fathers. Consequently, the coaches' families spend a lot of time around the athletic facilities or hanging out with the players. They have intentionally built a strong family environment that doesn't compartmentalize but rather coalesces. Recruits talk about sensing it when they make a visit, but, more importantly, players on the roster speak just as strongly about it. 
    How many teams make such an emphasis isn't clear, but you don't seem to hear that said often enough. While I find such human interest stories heartwarming, it makes me wonder, "Do people describe our congregation with similar terminology?" Are we creating, developing, and nurturing a strong sense of family?
    The early church definitely majored in   that priority. From the time the first church of our Savior was established, we find this emphasis (Acts 2:42-47). Often, New Testament writers spoke of the church with family terminology (Eph. 2:19; 3:15; 1 Tim. 3:15; 5:1-2; Ti. 2:1-8; etc.). The church exists as a subcommunity within the broader community around them. People from that broader community are looking for greater intimacy and meaningful relationships. One place they often turn is to various churches. Whether through our efforts to evangelize or through their seeking that brings them within our walls, we have an opportunity to expose them to a "strong sense of family." 
    But, by being faithful to New Testament teaching, we offer this in the context of truth rather than error. We cannot settle for simply offering truth, as eternally vital as that is. Along with it, we must love, embrace, and work to incorporate them into our family. God has His church designed to follow His written will in the context of a tight-knit, spiritual family. A true sense of family will draw them into a relationship with us. It will better open their hearts and minds to being drawn into a relationship with Christ. The net effect will be greater than a national championship. It will be many, many souls won to eternal life. We cannot afford to miss the opportunity to be spiritual family!

- Neal Pollard preaches for the Bear Valley church of Christ in Denver, CO. He also publishes an e-mail newsletter, Daily Bread. You can visit their website at http://www.bearvalleycofc.com/