Tuesday, December 1, 2020

He Grew Up

By Adam Faughn
    Our world is in the hurry and bustle of the final days and hours before Christmas. Presents are being bought and wrapped, baking is being done, traveling is going on, and all sorts of other late-minute things are being completed so the holiday can be enjoyed by as many as possible.
    In the midst of all that preparation, many are also focusing on the birth of Jesus Christ. Certainly, we do not know the date on the calendar on which Jesus was born, but so many in our world are thinking about that event this time of year that it is to our advantage to speak even more openly and boldly about our faith. There is, in some ways, a clearer pathway to speak to people about Jesus when they are thinking about His birth during this time.
    What is difficult to get across to people, though, is that the baby in the manger grew up. Then, when that same baby was a man, He demanded so much of people and said things that are not always popular in our world. He told us that we have to guard our heart, or we are guilty of the most heinous of sins (see Matthew 5:23; 5:28; 5:44). He told us that families would be torn apart for following Him (Matthew 10:34-37). He made it clear that there is only one way to heaven (Matthew 7:13-14), and that only following Him would be that way (John 14:6).
    Ultimately, Jesus gave His life on the cross, but also demanded that we be willing to take up a cross each day, that we live in order to follow Him (Luke 9:23). Part of the life and teachings of Jesus is simply not what people want to hear, but we dare not shy away from the entirety of Who Jesus was (and is), and what He demands of people if they would be counted faithful and live eternally with Him in heaven.
    While so many are thinking about the baby Jesus in the manger, may we have the boldness to take this opportunity to boldly, yet lovingly, remind people that He grew up and that He is to be the Lord of all our lives. But we must also take every opportunity to show and remind people that following Him as Lord is not drudgery, but joy.
- Adam Faughn preaches for the Central Church of Christ in Paducah KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.centralchurchofchrist.org Visit the Faughn Family blog, A Legacy of Faith.                   

Urgency in Making Resolutions for the New Year?

By Johnny Hester

    Stress and pressure is building. Here I sit at my computer on the last day of year, and Linda still hasn’t told me what my New Year’s Resolutions are. It momentarily occurred to me that perhaps I should resolve to give up all of my annoying habits developed over the past seven decades, but then I remembered my old football coach once telling me: “No one respects a quitter.” An obvious dilemma, but I’m not going to worry.
    For multitudes of people, deciding to develop a healthier lifestyle is a common resolution with which to begin the New Year. However, to my pleasant surprise my annual yearend physical indicates that my weight is perfect! However, it seems that I am approximately two and a half feet too short in height. My carefully considered response is, in the words of one of my all-time favorite philosophers, Alfred E. Neuman: “What—Me Worry?” After all, years ago I memorized the New King James Version of Jesus’ question in Matthew 6:27, “Which of you, by worrying, can add one cubit to his stature?” So worrying would be a waste of time and it wouldn’t make me any taller.
    Now—if you detect a grinding noise, it’s my brain trying to switch gears. On a more serious level it should be observed that there is a difference between profitless anxiety and legitimate concern. Worrying about things over which we have no control brings frustration to the mind and negativity to the spirit. On the other hand, legitimate concern—if rightly directed—can produce noble resolutions and significant improvements in the life one lives.
    In Proverbs chapter six God warns us about the folly of indolence, discourages procrastination and commends to us the wisdom of acting with resolve and energy in our own best interest.
Go to the ant, you sluggard!
Consider her ways and be wise,
Which, having no captain,
Overseer or ruler,
Provides her supplies in the summer,
And gathers her food in the harvest.
How long will you slumber, O sluggard?
When will you rise from your sleep?
A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to sleep —
So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler,
And your need like an armed man.
    As we approach the new year we need to appreciate the need for urgency in setting worthwhile resolutions or goals.
    Love and Happy New Year to you and yours.
- Johnny Hester preaches for the Matthews Church of Christ in Matthews, MO. He may be contacted at johnnyhester@yahoo.com

The Value of Time

By Ron Bartanen
    Every turn of a calendar-page and every tick of a clock tells us that what has passed we will never undo, and we are responsible for what we have now. I have heard time described as “a section cut from the great circle of eternity.” We should view time as a priceless gift from God. As we soon go into the New Year of 2021, we should remind ourselves of time’s value. Once past, it can never be retrieved. It is ours now, but whether it will be ours one moment from now is in God’s hands. We have no binding claim upon time.
    The apostle Paul spoke of the value of time when he spoke of “redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). Time is not just the accumulation of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years, but everything that time offers to us, including opportunities and privileges, and Paul, by inspiration, urges us to redeem such. Paul uses the language of the market-place  In the days, and even weeks, prior to Christmas, shoppers have been fervently in search of bargains, taking advantage of sales in stores and online, searching for best-buys  Should we be any less fervent in the pursuit of spiritual blessings that God has graciously made available to us?
    One opportunity that is overlooked by too many is the most valuable of all—the opportunity time offers us for salvation. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 6:2, reminds us, “Now is the accepted time: behold, now is the day of salvation.” Here is truly the “best buy” of all—salvation, a gift already paid for with the blood of Christ, as Peter reminds Christians: of the fact that we are redeemed (purchased) “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).
    The opportunity of salvation is ours as God’s gift to man, but the acceptance of this gift rests with us. As Paul said, “Now is the accepted time…day of salvation,” but multitudes pass by this priceless gift as they seek the pleasures and treasures that will one day be no more. May all of us be reminded, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:16-17). As we conclude the present year, and enter into the New Year, may we accept the gift that abides forever, “redeeming the time.”
- Ronald Bartanen preaches for Arthur Church of Christ, Arthur, IL.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://arthurcoc.com/

Do You REALLY Trust God?

By David Bragg

    Under normal circumstances most people who profess to believe in God would probably not hesitate in answering the above question with a resounding YES! But what about when life takes us into difficult circumstances?
    On April 16, 2017 Robert Godwin Sr., 74, was approached by a stranger on the streets of Cleveland, Ohio. Within seconds not only was Godwin killed but the crime was brazenly streamed live over Facebook. In the aftermath of this shocking crime Anderson Cooper interviewed members of the Godwin family on CNN. At a time in which most people would be focused on retaliation and vengeance, viewers saw something altogether unexpected. Godwin’s daughter, Tonya, made this proclamation on national television: “Each one of us forgives the killer … (my father) taught us about God, how to fear God, how to love God and how to forgive” (www.huffpost.com).
    It is easy to trust God when all is good and life is going our way. But can you fully trust God when your heart is broken, and you feel like your life is collapsing all around you? Hopefully none of us will ever be in the situation that Robert Godwin’s family found themselves in, but when we face whatever hardships are bound to come our way, may we always be able to place our unwavering trust in God.
- 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/ 

On Giving The Perfect Gift

By Joe Chesser
     It’s the week after Thanksgiving, and you know what that means – shopping for Christmas is now officially open, and at a frenzied pace.  We may not be spending quite as much this year as in years past, but that only makes shopping for just the right gift that much more important.  For some people, gift giving is simple.  They always know just the right thing to buy, and always in just the right size and color.  They just have a knack for buying gifts.  Others are more like me.  I struggle with what to buy, finally make a decision, and a week later find something that would have been better.  So now, do I take back the first gift and buy the second, or do I just give what I already have (I’m asking for help here!)?  I wish I knew the perfect gift to give each person on my list.
     Actually, I do.  I know the perfect gift, and it’s something I can give to everyone, whether on my list or not.  The best gift I can possibly give cannot be purchased at WalMart or order online.  This gift is not something I have to save for, nor is it like any gift anyone else can give.  It’s unique, it’s one of a kind, and I am the only one who can give it.  That gift, of course, is me – myself!
     I am the best gift I can give my wife, my children and my grandchildren. I am the best gift I can give my neighbor and co-worker.  I am the best gift I can give those I know and even those I don’t know, those who are poor and those who are wealthy, those who are young and those who are old.  I am even the best gift I can give my Lord.  I know this is true because I learned it from Him.
     From Paul’s words in Galatians 2:20 we learn: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  I crucify myself because he allowed himself to be crucified.  I love him because he first loved me (1 John 4:10, 19).  Giving ourselves to God and others is the absolute best gift we can possibly give.  Nothing is a close second.  Would my wife prefer a new watch more than my time, my affection, my attention?  Not in a hundred lifetimes!  Would my children, grandchildren, fellow Christians – anyone – prefer gifts from Target?  No.  And neither would God.
     The Corinthians are forever remembered because “they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with the Lord’s will” (2 Cor. 8:5).  Nothing you can buy will ever substitute for giving yourself.  It’s fun to exchange wrapped presents at Christmas, but never forget that the gift that most people truly need and want, the perfect gift, is you.  Give yourself wrapped in love!
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com


By Ed Wittlif

     "The secret is not to give up hope. It's very hard not to because if you are doing something worthwhile I think that you will be pushed to the brink of hopelessness before you come through the other side." (George Lucas)
     There are times in my walk with God that I have felt like throwing in the towel and giving up. I have struggled with the same temptation and given in and sinned. When the light at the end of the tunnel cannot be seen, why not just quit? There were times that I felt it was hopeless. I would never change.
     I have learned that the feeling of hopelessness comes from viewing God primarily as a judge. That has changed over the years. I have found that I cannot leave God's word alone. I had a hunger for reading His word that persisted even when I wanted to give up.
     One thing that changed the way I thought about God was the parable of the talents. I realized that the one talent man was condemned for not trying (Matthew 25:14-30). The first letter of John also helped me to persist in light of my hopelessness. God desires to forgive me and will if only I will confess my sins to Him (I John 1:9).
     The second chapter of I John reminded me that if I sin, then Jesus is my Advocate. This ties back to the simple fact that I must be honest and admit my sin.
     My Father wants me to persist in my struggle with sin. The greater my persistence, the easier it becomes. However, if fleshly desires are less of a temptation, then perhaps pride becomes a greater problem.
     Paul said, "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14). Trust in Jesus and His cleansing blood and in the proven love of the Father. That is what my hope is based on.
- Ed Wittlif is from Denver, CO; via the Church of Christ in Justin, TX. Joe Slater serves as minister and he may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://justinchurchofchrist.com

Surpass and Survive

By Gerald Cowan

What any person says or does           One may do good without intent --
And what a person gives                     No credit to him then.
Will have a great effect upon              But what he plans to do and does
The world in which he lives.               Should draw the praise of men.
To seek with all-observing eyes         Just make the best of what you have
Determines what one finds.                While You are still alive.    
Things stumbled on by accident        All others you may ten surpass
May not impress the mind.                 And death you will survive.  
- 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