Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Beyond the Mask

By Joe Chesser

    The title of this article comes from the title of a 2015 movie I recently watched. The hero of the story, William Reynolds, had to overcome an evil (but deserved) reputation in his attempt at redemption. To establish a better character he had to wear a mask, otherwise people who knew his past would not accept the changes he was trying to make. They wouldn’t be able to separate his present good life from his evil past. Bad reputations will sometimes mask repentance from those unwilling to look beyond the past (Acts 9.19b-27). In the meantime, Charles Kemp, his primary adversary and the true villain, wore a mask of a different kind. He portrayed the false appearance of being a just and good man when beyond that mask he was thoroughly corrupt. Truly a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
    The ancient Greeks had a word for it: ‘hypocrite.’ Originally the word ‘hypocrite’ meant someone playing a role in the theatre. Even today we sometimes find it difficult to separate an actor’s real life from the roles he plays in the movies. But as they often do, words tend to take on different meanings over time. Today, the word ‘hypocrite’ has mostly negative overtones. Like Charles Kemp, hypocrites wear masks to hide their true nature.
    The movie made me think about the masks we wear. Oh yes, we all wear them. We like to pretend everything is ok with us, when in fact we are hurting inside. We like to act like we are strong, when in fact we really need the strength of others. We like to give the impression we love God and the church, when in fact we are only going through the motions.  We like to arrogantly pass judgment on others, when in fact we are no different. We like to pretend we are patient, joyful and loving, when in fact we are not.
    We often hide behind a mask because we are afraid of showing others what we are really like. We are afraid of what they might say or think or how they might treat us if they found out the truth about us. And that deception often gives us temporary comfort.
    What we urgently need to know and  remember is that God can see beyond our masks, and He challenges us to look beyond them also. In warning his disciples about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, Jesus warned them (and us), “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs” (Luke 12.1-3).
    Our masks may at times prevent others from seeing who we really are, but they will never keep God from it. Our masks may offer us temporary, but false comfort. Our masks may give us temporary, but false courage. The more we hide behind our masks, the easier it will be to believe that is who we really are, and the more difficult it will be for us to look beyond these masks to see ourselves as God see us. But we must. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12.1). “Woe to you … hypocrites!” (Matthew 23.1-33).  We must learn to look beyond the masks to see the truth as God does.

- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com

Take Heed Lest You Fall
By David Bragg

    In May of 2017 a 67-year-old woman in Plainfield, NJ was caught on surveillance video walking down the street focusing on a cell phone. Her walk turns tragic as she bumps into, and then falls over, an open basement access door. She was ultimately lifted from the basement with serious injuries (mcall.com).
    As we walk through this world our focus must be on Christ and His Word because otherwise, we are in danger of falling spiritually. The inspired warnings echo from our Bibles.

  • 1 Cor. 9:27 - lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
  • Galatians 5:4 - who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
  • 1 Timothy 4:1 - Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith
  • Hebrews 3:12 - Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God
    Knowing that we CAN fall away is a vital realization in making sure that we DON’T fall away.

- 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/

Uncertain and Unprecedented”

By Bill Brandstatter

    Two words I am hearing a lot are “uncertain” and “unprecedented.” Simply put, this means the times we are in with COVID-19 are unlike anything that came before. Yet, as I am thinking about these words, every day has always been unprecedented and uncertain.
    No one knows what tomorrow holds. The phrase, “Here today, gone tomorrow” is very real to many of us. James stated that life is like a vapor (James 4:14). Moses wrote in the 90th Psalm, “The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; and it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” (NKJV) Every day we live is uncertain and unprecedented. Today is given to us. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is not certain. Since life is that way, let us live each day. Jesus said, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matt. 6:34) I don’t know about you, but I am still working on this.
    No one knows when our Lord will return. Since tomorrow is not certain, our Lord could come back at any time. The rest of today may not remain. Preparing ourselves for that day is vital. I am convinced that if the Lord told us the exact day and exact hour when He would return that some people would wait till the last minute to make the necessary preparations; however, He does not tell us. He tells us of the uncertainty. He stated, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” (Matt. 24:36) Then He states, “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour you Lord is coming.” (Matt. 24:42) After illustrating that if the owner of the house knew when a thief was going to break in, he wouldn’t have allowed it to happen, Jesus states, “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Mt. 24:44 NKJV).
    No one knows what will happen after death. The Bible tells us some of what will happen. Paul tells us it is a mystery. In 1 Cor. 15:51, he writes, “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.” Then he writes about the uncertainty. He continues, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must but on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (1 Cor. 15:52, 53) He had already indicated the body we are in will be changed ( 1 Cor. 15:42-44). John helps us to understand the uncertainty of this by indicating, “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is (1 Jn. 3:2). So, our bodies will be changed. What exactly will we be like? We don’t know yet, but we will someday. It is uncertain now but will be certain one day.
    Based on the uncertainty of life and each day being unprecedented, let us live our lives looking toward heaven. Let us want to be with the Lord one day by living for Him now knowing that every moment we live is uncertain and unprecedented. Let us look, anticipate, and prepare for our Lord’s return.

- Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://marionchurchofchrist.com/

One Thing We Must Never Cancel

By Adam Faughn

    Over  the  last  few  months,  the  word  “cancel”  has  been  heard more times than I can remember. Young people had graduations cancelled. Youth groups across the country had Lads to Leaders cancelled.  Camps,  vacations,  dentist  appointments...cancelled, cancelled,  cancelled.  Even  worship  services–either  in-person  or even all together–were cancelled.
     Then, of course, the term leapt into our social world with the so-called “cancel culture.” As political and social unrest have seemingly  come  in  waves,  everything  from  actors  to  cartoons  have been “cancelled.”
     It  seems  as  if  everything  around  us  has  been  cancelled  in  some fashion  over  the  past  few  months  or  has  threatened  to  be  shut down  anyway.  Some,  in  the  long  run,  don’t  matter  all  that much, while others are extremely important.
     As the time wears on and the frustrations mount, though, there is one thing we dare not cancel. With the virus, what started off as  “a  couple  of  weeks  or so”  has  now  turned  into months,  and now, we are being told that we have no idea how long we’ll be dealing  with  these  shutdowns  and  confusion.  With  the  “cancel culture,”  it  seems  as  if  that  will  be  around–at  least  in  fits  and starts–for a long time.
     And, as those things go on and on, we seem to be growing more and more testy. Our frustrations mount. We are becoming a little more entrenched in our beliefs, and a little more willing to get not bolder, but harsher, in what we say. Our language becomes more accusatory.
     But there is one thing missing from that, and it is the one thing we simply cannot cancel.

Compassion.

     As  we  grow  more  testy,  we  have  to  have  compassion  for  those with  whom  we  may  disagree.  For  example,  we  have  to  have compassion for those who are angry because people are wanting to  get  back  to  normal  and  on  those  who  are  taking  this  virus  a little more seriously than we might think they should. Both have valid arguments, and both are worthy of our respect.
     We must have compassion on those who are doing their best to make  decisions,  from  politicians  to  business  leaders  to  elders  to parents. They are trying to continually deal with various ups and downs and conflicting data while trying to make many different people happy. It’s an impossible place to be in, and we need to feel for them.
     In  what  we  say  and  in  what  we  share,  does  compassion  show through, or is it just shared in a way that tries to show that people  with  whom  I  disagree  are  foolish  and  backward  and  uncaring? A little compassion, by the way, might help you with your argument, as well as simply be the Christian way to do things.Let’s not cancel compassion. If it was ever needed, it is now.


- 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 From the Faughn Family blog, A Legacy of Faith.

Fearing God is Obeying God

By Rob Albright

    Proverbs 1:7 reads, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” A wise person will simply take the teachings (doctrine) that come from the Bible and make them a part of his or her life.
    Unfortunately, some choose to reject or ignore the teachings of Jesus. He is the Savior and Lord and is the perfect example of right living (John 8:24; Luke 6:46-49; Acts 4:12). Jesus is the only one who can bring us into a right relationship with God (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). It is a sad situation when people reject the only hope they have. Some feel His teachings are too restrictive so they shop around for a church that fits the way they feel about things. You hear them say things like, “This is my life and I can live it any way I choose.” Choosing our own way instead of following the way of God and His Son brings tragic consequences (Mark 7:9; Luke 10:16; 1 John 2:17b).
     Jesus came to save us from sin (Acts 4:10-12) and bring those saved into His church (Acts 2:47; 1 Corinthians 12:13) where we become “the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:17, 21). It’s all because of Jesus that we can become right in the sight of God. We have the Word of God where we can come to know about Jesus, learn to love Him, obey His words and follow His example. He is the perfect pattern for our life.


- Rob Albright serves as one of the ministers at the Northwest Church of Christ in Greensboro, NC. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.nwchurchofchrist.com/

Saturday, August 1, 2020

It Takes Two of a Kind

By Gerald Cowan

If all of the gossipy tongues could be stopped,
I doubt they would ever be missed.
Of all the most unwelcome things in the world,
The gossipy tongue tops the list.

A gossip can take the most harmless event
And, if he is evil at heart,
He can clothe it with many imagined details,
With rumors that linger and smart.

He may season his story with envy and spite,
Then whisper, “They say” or “I’ve heard,”
And tell you in most sanctimonious tones
The tale he’s distorted and blurred.

A life is dishonored, stained, and destroyed
By rumors with no shred of truth
Which one person dreams in a feverish brain
And another accepts – without proof.

Now the gossipy tongue can never succeed
In causing such heartache and tears
Unless it is helped by the misguided soul
Who possesses the gossipy ears.

For the acid that drips from the gossipy lips
Would tarnish the purest of gold.
But its power depends on the gossipy ears
Which believe and repeat what they’re told.


“Have you heard?” and “They say,” which go floating about
Spreading envy, injustice, and fears
Would lose all their force were they quickly shut out
By the one with the gossipy ears.

So whenever someone with a gossipy tongue
Tells his stories of evil and strife,
And says, “Have you heard?” look him straight in the eye
And say, “Just what is your mission in life?”

Don’t give him a chance to tell and retell
The false empty rumors he hears.
He ought to be locked in a small narrow room
With someone who has gossipy ears.
                               
- 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

Your Identity in Jesus Christ

By Jeff Arnette

    Do not forget these words: You are not who people say you are and not even who you feel you are! You are who God says you are!
    Few things in life shape a person like the words used to describe them. I will never forget the first time someone called me a preacher. I almost panicked and was visibly shaken by those words. I will always remember being told that I was a loser and would never amount to anything. Words have a way of changing the way we see ourselves that is both good and bad.
    To make matters worse, we cannot unhear the things that people have said about us, but we can choose to replace those words with what God says about us. As soon as you can, take some time and meditate on these passages. Each one speaks powerfully to your identity in Jesus Christ.
    You are royalty – 1 John 3:1-2. In this passage, we see our new standing given to us in Jesus Christ. You are the Child of God, who has been lavished with all of His love and blessings. Do not ever accept that you are anything less than royalty, meant to rule this life as conquerors (Rom. 8:37).
    You are righteous – 2 Corinthians 5:21. Maybe people do not see you as special, as this great, holy Christian. Perhaps you don’t see yourself as some great Christian. Perhaps you’ve had a long history of being less than Christ-like (join the crowd), but God looks at you and says that you have become His Righteousness. He sees you as special, righteous, and holy.
    You are wonderfully made – Psalm 139:13-16. When God looks at you, He sees you as beautiful and perfect in every way. You do not need to impress anyone with your looks or accomplishments. You are His creation, and that makes you the most important person in this world. Do not let anything take that away from you.
    You are His masterpiece (Eph. 2:10), Heirs to God’s Kingdom (James 2:5), and have been given every Spiritual Blessing in Christ Jesus (Eph. 1:3). You have been gifted and empowered by God (1 Peter 4:10-11) so that you lack nothing in this life. You have everything needed to be a great Child of God (2 Peter 1:3-4).
    You have invaluable in Christ, not because of what you have done but because of what Jesus did for you. When it comes to understanding and owning your identity in Christ, the biggest roadblock will be your own feelings. Just remember…
                You are not who people say you are!
                You are not who you feel you are!
                You are who He says you are!

- Jeff Arnette preaches for the Central Haywood church of Christ, Clyde, NC.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: https://centralhaywoodcoc.com/