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

Persistence

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


Faith Healers & Pandemics

By Steve Higginbotham

     While a student at Freed-Hardeman College in 1983, I took my “wife-to-be” on a date to an Oral Roberts “healing service” in Jackson, TN (she still razzes me about our exciting dates). At the conclusion of this “healing service,” Oral Roberts told everyone present that God had completely healed every single person in the assembly, “from the top of our heads to the bottom of our feet.” As the meeting came to an end, and people were exiting, I told my wife-to-be to take note of how many people were still wearing their glasses. Seems that no one in the assembly was healed of that malady.
     Fast forward 20 years. The year was 2003 when Richard Roberts, son of Oral Roberts, was scheduled to hold a “healing-meeting” for more than 2000 followers at the Elmer S. McVety Centre in Toronto, Canada. However, Roberts canceled the event due to a travel advisory for Toronto because of the number of SARS cases reported there. Does it not seem to you that if Roberts had the power he claims to have, rather than canceling the event, that's exactly where he needed to be?
     Fast forward nearly another 20 years and we are in the midst of the COVID pandemic. However, Kenneth Copeland, another alleged “faith-healer,” stated that as a prophet of God, he commanded COVID to leave the USA and that it would harm no one else. That statement was made three months ago and more than 100,000 people have died from COVID since this “prophet” banished it from the United States.
     Are you seeing a pattern? Friends, if a silver-lining can be found in this terrible pandemic, it might be to trust more in God, and less in men who claim to be his representatives and to spend more time in God’s word, and less time listening to the words of men (1 Timothy 4:1-2).
- Steve Higginbotham preaches for the Karns Church of Christ in Knoxville, TN. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at http://www.karnschurch.org Copyright © 2019 MercEmail 


Your Duck is Dead

By Larry Pasley

     A woman brought a very limp duck into a veterinary surgeon. As she laid her pet on the table, the vet pulled out his stethoscope and listened to the bird's chest. 
     After a moment or two, the vet shook his head and sadly said, "I'm sorry, your duck, Cuddles, has passed away."
     The distressed woman wailed, "Are you sure?" "Yes, I am sure. Your duck is dead," replied the vet..
"How can you be so sure?" she protested. "I mean you haven't done any testing on him or anything. He might just be in a coma or something."
     The vet rolled his eyes, turned around and left the room. He returned a few minutes later with a black Labrador Retriever. As the duck's owner looked on in amazement, the dog stood on his hind legs, put his front paws on the examination table and sniffed the duck from top to bottom. He then looked up at the vet with sad eyes and shook his head.
     The vet patted the dog on the head and took it out of the room. A few minutes later he returned with a cat. The cat jumped on the table and also delicately sniffed the bird from head to foot. The cat sat back on its haunches, shook its head, meowed softly and strolled out of the room.
     The vet looked at the woman and said, "I'm sorry, but as I said, this is most definitely, 100% certifiably, a dead duck."
     The vet turned to his computer terminal, hit a few keys and produced a bill, which he handed to the woman. The duck's owner, still in shock, took the bill. "$150!" she cried, "$150 just to tell me my duck is dead!"
     The vet shrugged, "I'm sorry. If you had just taken my word for it, the bill would have been $20, but with the Lab Report and the Cat Scan, it's now $150."
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     A $20 bill turned into $150. She should have left well enough alone. Have you ever felt like you should have left well enough alone?
     The writer of Ecclesiastes tells of a situation similar to this:
"Also do not take to heart everything people say, Lest you hear your servant cursing you. 22  For many times, also, your own heart has known That even you have cursed others. " (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22)
Why does he make this strange statement? Why would you not want to know if you servant has cursed you. He indicates the answer in verse 22, “Even you have cursed others.”
     It reminds us of what Jesus said about seeing the fault of others and not your own. Luke 6:41-42  And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? 42  Or how can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother's eye.
     There is another reason we might not need to know that someone has cursed us. We may act rashly and do something we regret later. The one cursing us might have done so and regretted it later just as you might have done in the past. It would have been best to leave well enough alone.
     May we be careful about thinking we need to do something when it is better left alone.
- Larry Pasley serves as a minister with the Jackson Street Church of Christ in Alexandria, LA. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at http://www.JacksonStAlex.com 

Celebrate the New

By Travis Robertson

     We like to celebrate with friends and family when we receive something new. The most precious is, of course, a new baby. We throw baby showers, and want to hold the new beautiful bundle of joy. New cars also attract attention. New car smell is so appealing that it has been manufactured into a scent for old cars to make them smell new. New gizmos of every type flood the market every year. Consumers brave the cold, even camp out in front of stores to be the first to purchase the newest version of the latest product.
     We even celebrate the “New Year”. We get together and remember all about the old year, some of it with laughter and some with tears, but we celebrate the new. “Out with the old and in with the new!”
     If we are going to celebrate “new”, let us celebrate the new life that has been granted through the gracious gift of forgiveness and reconciliation and eternal life. Let us also resolve to live as light and salt so that reconciliation will spread throughout the world starting here and starting now.
     “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
- Travis Robertson preachers for the Lake Norman Church of Christ in Huntersville, NC. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at http://lakenormancoc.org/


A Place to Call Home

By David A. Sargent

     Nine-year-old Jordan wants to be a police officer when he grows up.
     “Why do you want to be a police officer?” asked Reporter Lacey Lett.
     “Because they’re fun and they protect people,” he said.
     But there’s something that Jordan wants even more: a family.
     Jordan has a brother, Braison.  Braison has been adopted and Jordan does not get to see him very often.  Jordan is living in a group home; he has been in the care of the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) for six years.
     Jordan longs for a family of his own.
     “If you could go anywhere – anywhere in the whole wide world – where would it be?” Lett asked.
     “To an adoption party for a home,” Jordan replied.
     And if he were granted three wishes?
     “To have a family, and family, family.  Those are the only wishes I have,” Jordan said.
     “The reason it’s important is because -- so I could have some people to talk to anytime I need to,” Jordan explained.  “I hope one of y’all pick me.”
     After his interview was aired on KFOR, families from several different states reached out to the news station, wanting to adopt him, according to The Daily Mail.  Lett reported that OKDHS has received thousands of online inquiries and countless phone calls to their hotline with people wanting to adopt Jordan.
     There is Good News for everyone: there IS a place that everyone can call home.  There is a Father that wants to adopt every person who will accept His invitation.  His family is the church – “a place to call home,” a people to call family.
     God wants YOU to be a part of His forever family.
     The Father paid a great price in order to adopt you.  Peter reminded some in God’s family of that great price: “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:18-19 NIV).
     God will save from sin, adopt into His family, and give eternal life to those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ (Acts 2:38).  Those who accept His offer receive the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), and they are adopted (or “born again”) into the family of God.
     The Apostle Paul wrote to some who accepted God’s offer of adoption: “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’  The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together” (Romans 8:15-17 NKJV).
     Borrowing some words from Jordan, “I hope ALL of y’all accept God’s offer!”
- David A. Sargent, minister for the Church of Christ at Creekwood in Mobile, Alabama, is also the editor of an electronic devotional entitled "Living Water." To learn more about this excellent resource contact David via their website: http://www.creekwoodcc.org

* Information gleaned from “‘I hope one of y’all pick me,’ 9-year-old boy desperately wants a place to call home” by Lacey Lett of KFOR, www.kfor.com, and “Oklahoma boy gets 5,000 adoption inquiries in 12 hours after heartbreaking interview in which he pleaded for a family” by Nick Givas, www.foxnews.com.


Oh For The Good Old Days!

By Joe Slater

     I remember when working on my own car was standard operating procedure. When I popped the hood, everything was easily accessible (well, relatively easily anyway). Today it’s a maze of wires and hoses. Nearly everything is computerized. My shade-tree mechanic days are long since gone. Oh, for the good old days!
     But would I really want to go back to the days when I had to change oil every 2000 miles, and do a complete tune-up every 12,000 miles? Was it really better when a vehicle was sent to the junk yard before it reached 100,000 miles?
     King Solomon wrote, “Do not say, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For you do not inquire wisely concerning this” (Ecclesiastes 7:10). Is this teaching needed in the church today? Assuredly so!
     Some remember the “protracted meetings” that lasted several weeks and resulted in dozens of baptisms. Now we have mostly week-end meetings. A Sunday-through-Wednesday meeting is a major event. We feel fortunate if the local brethren attend. Community visitors are rare, and conversions are the exception rather than the rule.
     Our culture has changed. We can pine for the good old days, or we can adapt and move forward.
     I also remember when it was commonplace for brethren to step outside for a smoke between Bible class and the assembly. I remember when it was presumed that the preacher would move every couple of years. In some congregations people of color were not warmly welcomed, or at best were patronized. Those “good old days” really weren’t so good. Thank God for improvement in these and other areas! May He continue to help us to become more Christ-like every day. 
- Joe Slater serves as minister of the Church of Christ in Justin, TX. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://justinchurchofchrist.com


Monday, November 30, 2020

Rewarded

By Larry Pasley

    One dark night outside a small town, a fire started inside the local chemical plant. Before long it exploded into flames and an alarm went out to fire departments from miles around. After fighting the fire for over an hour, the chemical company president approached the fire chief and said, "All of our secret formulas are in the vault in the center of the plant. They must be saved! I will give $50,000 to the engine company that brings them out safely."
    As soon as the chief heard this, he ordered the firemen to strengthen their attack on the blaze. After two more hours of attacking the fire they couldn’t get close enough to put out the fire and get the files, the president of the company offered $100,000 to the engine company that could bring out the company's secret files.
    From the distance a long siren was heard and another fire truck came into sight. It was a local volunteer fire company composed entirely of men over 65. To everyone's amazement the little fire engine raced through the chemical plant gates and drove straight into the middle of the inferno. In the distance the other firemen watched as the old timers hopped off their rig and began to fight the fire with an effort that they had never seen before. After an hour of intense fighting the volunteer company had extinguished the fire and saved the secret formulas. Joyous, the chemical company president announced that he would double the reward to $200,000 and walked over to personally thank each of the volunteers. After thanking each of the old men individually the president asked the group what they intended to do with the reward money.
    The fire truck driver spoke right up and said, "First off - fix them brakes!"

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    Have you ever rushed into something too quickly and regretted it later? It may have been a job, a decision to buy a house/car or something else, a marriage, a divorce, anger, an accusation or something else.
    Haste makes waste. Proverbs 21:5  The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty, But those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.
    Haste leads to sin. Proverbs 19:2  Also it is not good for a soul to be without knowledge, And he sins who hastens with his feet.
    Haste leads to shame. Proverbs 25:8  Do not go hastily to court; For what will you do in the end, When your neighbor has put you to shame?
    Haste will not bring blessings. Proverbs 20:21  An inheritance gained hastily at the beginning Will not be blessed at the end.
    Haste is foolish. Ecclesiastes 7:9  Do not hasten in your spirit to be angry, For anger rests in the bosom of fools.
    Patience is truly a virtue. Ecclesiastes 7:8  The end of a thing is better than its beginning; The patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.
    We need to be patient to the end. James 5:7-8  Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. 8  You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
    May we all stop to think about our actions and what the future results of those actions might be.
- Larry Pasley serves as a minister with the Jackson Street Church of Christ in Alexandria, LA. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at http://www.JacksonStAlex.com


The Real Thing

By David Bragg

    Almost 400 years ago much of Europe, Asia and Africa were devastated by the bubonic plague. When the outbreak erupted among the villagers of Oberammergau, Germany, according to tradition, they made a vow that if God spared them from this terrible disease, they would stage a portrayal of the death of Christ on the cross. The plague passed and they kept their vow.
    Starting in 1634 the citizens have staged their Passion Play every ten years. It was delayed in WWI, cancelled in WWII, and rescheduled in 2020, because of COVID-19, until 2022.
    The story is told of an American tourist attending the play. He really wanted his picture made holding the cross used by the actor portraying Jesus. But when he tried to lift the wooden cross to his shoulders the man was surprised at its weight. He asked the actor, “Why is it so heavy?”
    The actor’s reply: “If I did not feel the weight of it I could not play the part” (Don Cox, Jackson, MO Church of Christ).
    When contemplating the cross of Jesus, we need to feel the weight of it. The burden of sin carried on His innocent shoulders. The weight of MY sins that, if just for a moment, separated Him from His Father, our God. That is no superficial love. It is the real thing.
- 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/


What Happens When God Forgives Us?

By Edd Sterchi

    Some amazing things happen when God forgives our sins. Several are well expressed and implied in Col. 2:13: “And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses.”
1) We go from dead to living.
2) We go from separation to being with Christ.
3) We go from trespassers to belongers.
    Do you want to be alive, in a relationship with Christ, and have an eternal home in heaven? Then make sure you have contacted the blood of Christ and are in constant contact with it (Rom. 6:3-5; 1 John 1:7-9). It is the only way God grants His forgiveness. It’s the only way we go from death to life.
- 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/


Faithfulness

By Joe Chesser
 
    I haven’t heard it in a long time, but one of the standard wedding songs when I was much younger was Faithful and True. Can you hear the tune? Although the lyrics speak in language of old, the idea of being faithful and true is just as important today as it has ever been. Faithfulness is important in all areas of Christian lives, not just in our marriages. Why? Because faithfulness is a quality Jesus expects in his disciples.
    Faithfulness is simply living up to the expectations of what you believe. If you believe a husband and wife should never have a sexual relationship outside of their marriage, being faithful is putting that belief into practice 100%. However, believing it is one thing, doing it is another. Faithfulness is practicing what you believe.
    The same principle is true in our “marriage” to Christ. Faith is believing in God and in what God says. Faithfulness is putting that faith into practice. We will not please God without believing that He exists and without earnestly seeking Him (Hebrews 11.6). There is an important distinction between having faith and being faithful. Jesus pronounced a curse on the teachers of the law and Pharisees (people who believed in God) because they “neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness” (Matthew 23.23). The fruit of the Spirit that needs to be produced in those who belong to Christ Jesus includes faithfulness. “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5.22-25). God blesses those who both listen to His word and do what it says. We deceive ourselves if we believe simply listening to Him is ok (James 1.22-25).
    Among the last things Jesus taught before his death was the parable of the talents. It’s a story about faithfulness. Three guys were given some money. It’s not important how much. What’s important is what they did with their money. Two of them used their money to make more money, and the master commended them: “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25.21, 23). Because of their faithfulness, they were invited to share in the master’s happiness. But one of the servants was not so blessed. Not because he didn’t believe in the master, for he did. He knew a lot about him. He feared him. As a result, instead of using the money he was given, he hid it so he wouldn’t lose it. The master was livid: “You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gathered where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. … throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 25.26-30). Unfaithfulness: wicked, lazy, worthless.
    Jesus calls on his church to be faithful, even to the point of death. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Rev. 2.10-11). Be faithful.
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com


How Forgiving and Forgiven Are You?

By Gerald Cowan

    Let’s get right to the point: If you are unforgiving you will be unforgiven.  Jesus said it: (Ask God to) forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us....  If you forgive others your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will not forgive your sins (Matthew 6:12, 14-15).
    This principle applies in many ways.  If you are not merciful to others you will not receive mercy – at least not from God (James 2:13). One who refuses to hear the cries of a needy brother will not be heard when he himself cries out in need or distress (Proverbs 21:13, compare James 2:15-17, 1 John 3:17). If you are not doing for or to others as required it will not be done to or for you when you require it. Don’t stop with Matthew 6 – continue without break into Matthew 7. The kind of judgment (reasonable, harsh, hypocritical, double standard, etc) you give others determines the kind of judgment you will receive.  For example: Matthew 7:1ff.  Those who judge with strict judgment, without mercy, without consideration of extenuating or mitigating circumstances, etc. will receive no mercy, etc when they are judged (compare James 2:13).

    WHAT FORGIVENESS IS NOT.

     It is not just ignoring the sin and those who wrong us, turning a blind eye or refusing to notice, refusing to hold others  accountable.  God does not overlook sins and neither should His people – God does not tell us to do so. Forgiveness does not mean sin somehow becomes invisible, to God or to any others. God’s omniscience means He always knows, without mistakes and without gaps, what was, what is, and what will be. At every moment He knows even the future as if it were the past (Isaiah 46:8-10).  He knows what has been done, whether error has been corrected, whether any necessary thing remains to be done, whether and when it will be done.  He does not close His eyes to anything.
    God does not refuse to see or become unable to see sin once it has been forgiven.  He does not remove it from his ledger, His book of remembrance, once He forgives it – nor does He ask us to do so. Like any good accountant God has separate parts to His ledger: (1) Accounts Receivable/Payable (what is still owed and must be paid);  (2) Accounts Paid – payments made are duly noted and recorded so that one does not become charged again for debts already paid and therefore closed to further transactions.
    God sees and knows constantly and always debts incurred, payments made, and amount still owed.  When it is marked “truly and fully paid” it will not be remembered or charged against the person again. That is the extent of God’s forgetting: He will not bring a forgiven matter against the forgiven person again (Hebrews 8:12, 10:17).
    Forgiveness is not a refusal to retaliate with  a blow for a blow, eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, or life for a life. One can refrain from retaliation but still harbor bitterness, ill will and resentment, holding the guilty accountable and rejecting the offending person. Jesus said if your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he then repents, forgive him (Luke 17:3).
    It is not putting the offender on probation while we adjudicate and consider how inexcusable his behavior was, and then promise to forgive if and as long as no further offenses are forthcoming.
   
    WHAT FORGIVENESS IS.

    Since we are urged to forgive in the same way and to the same extent and with the same attitude as God displays in forgiving us (Ephesians 4:29-32), we can better understand what forgiveness is by observing what God does when He forgives.  He does not remove  the notation of wrong from His record. The blotting out of sins that accompanies conversion (Acts 3:19) is nothing more than moving the item from accounts payable to accounts paid and no longer to be charged against the convert.  His actions toward the forgiven are as if the sin had never occurred at all. As in the case of the “prodigal son” (Luke 15:11-24) the once-away once-spiritually-dead son is restored to his rightful place, home again and alive to his father again. In God’s forgiveness the guilt is lifted, certain (though perhaps not all) consequences are removed, one is not bound in place as a current transgressor but is free to move forward toward the goals and rewards of the restored transgressor.  

    TAKE THE “HAVE I REALLY FORGIVEN MY OFFENDER” TEST

    Do you  secretly rejoice when some misfortune happens to the one who offended or sinned against you?  Does it please you to think “karma” has bitten your offender?
    Do you purposely avoid contact, or being present where he is? Do you speak to him only when necessary, never initiate conversation?
    Do you remember and can’t forget the wrong committed and how it hurt you, how it made you feel? Do you brood over it, silently meditating and still resenting the wrong done to you – perhaps even  over-dramatizing the trauma and reliving the experience?
    If your offender needed help or asked you to pray for him, would you do it?  Would you do good for him or pray for him without being asked?  
    Have you talked with the one who sinned against you, telling him his fault and asking about your own fault – perhaps you caused him to sin against you?  Have you asked him to repent and accept your forgiveness – have you asked him to accept your repentance and forgive you for your improper attitude and actions against him?
    Do you ask God, when praying for yourself, to help you find a way to be reconciled and restored to fellowship with your offender or one you have offended?  Do you even want to be reconciled with him and in fellowship with him, serving and worshiping God together with him?

    FORGIVING YOURSELF CAN BE A PROBLEM?

    Be careful not to forgive yourself too easily for unforgiven and unforgivable sins against God, others, and  yourself. You are not the final arbiter, judge, or jury. Refusing forgiveness offered to you by others, or by God, is a form of unforgiveness – which will not be forgiven (Matthew 6:14-15), as we noted at the beginning of this essay. Refusing to forgive, refusing to be forgiven or to accept forgiveness is also a form of unforgiveness. I recall vividly a man who told me, “I have been such a bad person and my sins are so terrible that I cannot forgive myself, and I could not respect anyone, not even God, who would forgive me for the things I’ve done.” Refusing to forgive yourself is also unforgiveness.  Forgiving yourself is a matter of acknowledging the wrongs and accepting forgiveness, then letting them and the associated guilt go and moving forward in the new direction you are allowed to take. You can’t change your past nor can you live in it. You can let it be the past – by God’s grace the forgiven past – and thankfully reach toward the promises of the future with Him. The principle applies to anyone from whom you are estranged and want to be reconciled.

THE ONE WHO IS AWARE OF THE SEPARATION MUST TAKE THE INITIATIVE IN EFFECTING FORGIVENESS.

    Don’t insist that the other person take the first step. If you are an offender you should take the first step (Matthew 5:23-24). If you are the offended don’t wait for the offender to take the first step. Let him know you are open to reconciliation and that you are seeking renewed fellowship with him (Matthew 18:15-17) and are willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish that. Both the offender and the offended are hindered from proper worship to God until the separating matter has been corrected.
    When you sinned against God who took the first step to make a way back to Him?  He did, by supplying a redeemer savior and opening a path for you to Himself in Jesus Christ (John 14:6).
    The reason for seeking and giving forgiveness is not to find an excuse for condemning and destroying others but to save them, and to save yourself (Acts 2:40, Philippians 2:12-13).

    HOW DOES “WALKING IN THE LIGHT” FORGIVE SIN?

    Walking in the light (1 John 1:5-10) means you are doing what you know is right and avoiding what you know is wrong. “Walking in the light” is not synonymous with “being a  Christian.”  Nobody is perfect,  making no mistakes, committing no sins. But if one finds he is wrong then repents and corrects it and seeks God's forgiveness he will be forgiven.  If one finds he is wrong and does not repent it, correct it, and seek forgiveness for it he is no longer walking in the light.  Forgiveness is not automatic. Grace is not forgiveness – it is a way toward forgiveness. When one becomes aware of sin it must be repented and whatever else is necessary must be done in order to secure forgiveness. Walking in the light means growing in faith and knowledge and grace (2 Peter 3:18) – as one learns one adapts, one changes if necessary to comply with the new understanding of God’s will.
- 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


Monday, November 23, 2020

Returning Thanks

By David A. Sargent

     Many years ago two boys were working their way through Stanford University. Their funds got desperately low, and the idea came to them to engage Paderewski, the great Polish pianist, for a piano recital. They would use the funds to help pay their board and tuition.  The great pianist’s manager asked for a guarantee of $2,000. The guarantee was a lot of money in those days, but the boys agreed and proceeded to promote the concert. They worked hard, only to find that they had grossed only $1,600.
     After the concert the two boys told the great artist the bad news. They gave him the entire $1,600, along with a promissory note for $400, explaining that they would earn the amount at the earliest possible moment and send the money to him. It looked like the end of their college careers.
     “No, boys,” replied Paderewski, “that won’t do.” Then, tearing the note in two, he returned the money to them as well. “Now,” he told them, “take out of this $1,600 all of your expenses, and keep for each of you 10 percent of the balance for your work. Let me have the rest.”
     The years rolled by -- World War I came and went. Paderewski, now Premier of Poland, was striving to feed thousands of starving people in his native land. There was only one man in the world who could help him - he was in charge of the U.S. Food and Relief Bureau. He quickly agreed to help and soon thousands of tons of food were sent to Poland.
     After the starving people were fed, Paderewski journeyed to Paris to thank the man for the relief he had sent....
“That’s all right, Mr. Paderewski,” was his reply. “Besides, you don’t remember it, but you helped me once when I was a student at college, and I was also in trouble.”  The man’s name? Herbert Clark Hoover, 31st President of the United States of America.” *
     Paderewski, with great generosity and kindness, was able to help a couple of struggling college students. Years later, one of those college students was able to say “Thank you” by assisting Paderewski and his people in a great time of need.  It is a wonderful thing to be able to return thanks for a noble action done on behalf of another.
     Friend, something has been done for YOU!  You didn’t ask for it, but you desperately needed it.  It happened long before you were born, but you may still benefit greatly by the action of a loving, generous Person.
     "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Because of OUR grievous condition due to our sin, the kind and loving Heavenly Father gave us His Son to die on the cross for our sins (Romans 5:8).  Because of this great Sacrifice, we may have forgiveness from our sins (Ephesians 1:7) and the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23).
     How can we return thanks for this indescribable Gift and receive those blessings?  By our humble submission to His will: believing and trusting Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turning from our sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confessing Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and being baptized (immersed) in His name for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38).  Then we can continue to show our gratitude by seeking to live obediently to His will for the rest of our lives (John 14:15).
     Friend, a great thing has been done for you: Jesus died for you so that you might live.  Won’t YOU “return thanks”  by giving your life to Him?

* Bits & Pieces, August 22, 1991
- David A. Sargent, minister for the Church of Christ at Creekwood in Mobile, Alabama, is also the editor of an electronic devotional entitled "Living Water." To learn more about this excellent resource contact David via their website: http://www.creekwoodcc.org


Being Thankful in Everything and Anxious for Nothing

By David R. Ferguson

    Paul wrote, "In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7)
    "Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus to you-ward." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
    Surely Paul could not mean what he wrote here, could he? How can we be expected to be thankful for everything, and anxious for nothing? Didn’t Paul know that I was looking forward to mowing my lawn today, and planting some flowers in my garden? How could I be thankful that all my plans are now ruined because of this incessant rain and unseasonably cold weather?
    Jesus said in Matthew 6:31-34, "Be not therefore anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ Or, ‘What shall we drink?’ Or, ‘Wherewithal shall we be clothed?’ For after all these things do the Gentiles seek; for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first His kingdom, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof."
    One’s attitude, it seems, is the key. It is a matter of one’s perspective. If one chooses to be unhappy and miserable when life’s arrows are shot our way, then one will be just that. But if one chooses to be happy, grateful and thankful, then one will be content, no matter how Satan buffets us.
    What about the person who has just been robbed? Could this individual be thankful, too? Matthew Henry, English nonconformist minister and Bible commentator (1662-1714), was robbed one night. After this dreadful encounter, he went back and wrote in his diary, "I want to first thank God that I was never robbed before. Second, I thank God that they took my wallet and not my life. Third, because, although they took everything I had, it was not much. And fourth, because it was I who was robbed and it was not I who robbed."
    Now this is being thankful in all circumstances and being anxious for nothing! This is surely making lemonade when life gives us lemons!
    May God bless you today and always!
- David R. Ferguson preaches for the Mentor Church of Christ in Mentor, OH.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://mentorchurchofchrist.com/ or davidferguson61@yahoo.com


The Importance of Sharing

By David Bragg

    There are a number of humorous stories associated with Abraham Lincoln. One story first appeared in a February 1864 issue of The New York Post. It arose out of the large group of office and favor seekers that seemed to constantly follow in the President's wake wherever he went. When Lincoln was struck with the feared typhoid fever, the disease that took the Lincoln's young son Willie in 1862, he reportedly told a friend that at last he now had something "that I can give to everybody" (www.washingtonpost.com).
    This time of year is sometimes referred to as "the season of giving." We look forward to any opportunity to giving gifts to family and friends. But as Christians we possess the most precious gift anyone can give: the Good News of Jesus Christ.
    Jesus’ great commission to His disciples is truly “great” because it contains the ONLY hope that lost humanity has to spending an eternity with God in heaven (Matthew 28:18-20). The apostles clearly understood this, as Luke confirms in Acts 4:12: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
    We must take the good news to the lost and give them the opportunity to accept. There is nothing that we can share that’s more needed, and no other message as crucial as the precious and loving message Jesus placed in our hands.
- 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/


How to Show Gratitude to God

By Gerald Cowan

    There are four levels of gratitude that one may reach. The level of the lips – saying “thanks,” or some words that convey gratitude. But if the words are insincere they are not valid – they are lies. Lying words may sound good to the one addressed, but they are a discredit to the one who speaks them. The level of the hands – doing something to show gratitude, in response to something done for you or given to you. But if the action is forced or coerced and is not an honest reflection of feelings it too is a lie. The act is good but the motive behind it is not. The level of the heart – actually being grateful. When the gratitude is heartfelt it will show up in the lips and in the hands, sincere and genuine words and acts of appreciation which is the level of the life – one lives a life of gratitude.

    STEPS TO A POSITIVE GRATEFUL CHRISTIAN ATTITUDE.

    One: Guard your own mind and thoughts (Prov. 4:23).  Look for the good in everything, no matter what (Rom. 8:28).  Bar all suggestive, lustful, and immoral things from your mind.  Fill your mind with positive things (Phil. 4:8).  Do not surrender to negative emotions.  Avoid all selfishness.
    Two:  Be other-person-centered (Phil. 2:4, Mt. 7:12).  Acknowledge and respond to the good in others.  Do good: return good for good, but also return good for evil (Rom. 12:21).  Allow others to give to you and do things for you. Acts 20:35 does not mean one should not receive. Others cannot have the blessing of giving if there is no receiver. Giving and receiving build up the church and its individual members (Phil. 4:15-16).
    Three: Practice positive praise and prayer. God is worthy of our praise. Praise Him. Prayers of petition and intercession should be offered in faith, believing in God who is able to help and able to give – and willing to do so when asked (1 Tim. 2:1, James 1:6).  Just remember that prayer is incomplete and may not bring the desired or requested result if it does not include thanks-giving (Phil. 4:6-7, Eph. 5:20).
    Four: Focus on what you have and not what you don’t have, on what you have received from others and not just what you have done for yourself. If you are inclined to compare your blessedness with that of others, here are a few points to help you move in the right direction. If you have nutritious food and safe drinking water, you are better off than about two thirds of all the people in the world. If you have adequate clothing, a house to live in, and easy transportation about half of the world will envy you. If you have, or have had, parents who love you and love each other – what a blessed treasure that is! Even if you don’t get what you want or what you ask for, you can probably be grateful you don’t get some things you deserve, “what you’ve got coming to you.”  If your soul has been saved by obedience to Christ, you have something only about one in 7,000 can claim with any reasonable assurance.  All the other things you may be thankful for are as nothing if you are not among those saved by Christ.
- 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


“Be Thankful to Him” Psa. 100:4

By Bill Brandstatter

    Thanksgiving means a lot of turkey for a lot of folks. There is too much of an emphasis on the  material and not the spiritual. This Thanksgiving our emphasis should be on the spiritual aspects of  Thanksgiving, not so much the physical.
    I am thankful for all the physical possessions that I have, but what would happen if I lost them  all? (Job 1:14,15) If it were not for God, I would have nothing. (Acts 17:28) Is there anything you are so  thankful for that you would shout about it? The Psalmist did.
    I am thankful for what God gives and has given me.
    This seems to be the point of this  Psalm. In spite of the fact that Israelites were provided for by God; nonetheless, they were not grateful,  but complained. (Numbers 20:1-13) Ps. 107:1 says: “O, give thanks unto the Lord.” Today, as members of  the church, the Israel of God, we should be very thankful. (Gal. 6:16)
    I am thankful for what God can do for me in the future. Psa. 100:5 
God's Word condemns the sin of ingratitude. To be like Christ we must be thankful. He offered  thanks for food in Luke 24:30. At the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus said, "Father, I thank you that you have  heard me.” (John 11:41) This is the whole point of this Psalm…thanksgiving. (vs 4)
    I am thankful for Who God is. Psa. 100:2, 3
    Webster says: "Forgetfulness of or poor return for kindness received: ungratefulness." Nine of  ten lepers whom Jesus healed did not return "to give glory to God." (Luke 17:11-19) Paul stated that some  would be unthankful. (2 Tim 3:1,2) Lack of proper training has caused ingratitude, leading some to  mistakenly believe that the world owes them a living. (Gen. 3:19; 2 Thess. 3:10)
    I am thankful for who we are.
    "We are his people and the sheep of His pasture” (Psa. 100:3b) God has a people who are His. (Heb. 8:10)
    I am grateful for being a child of God. John writes, “What manner of love the Father has bestowed  upon us, that we should be called the children of God.” (1 Jn. 3:1)
    I am grateful for the privilege and honor of being a member of the church for which Christ died  and purchased with his own blood. (Acts 20:28) I am thankful for being a part of the family of God (Eph.  3:15). What about you?
- Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://marionchurchofchrist.com/


Friday, November 20, 2020

Whose Kingdom is Still Here?

By Joe Chesser
 
    What a glorious morning it must have been for the Jewish leaders. Early that morning, after an all-night “trial,” they led Jesus to the palace of Pilate, the Roman governor. They must have felt confident as they stood outside of the palace having convicted Jesus by their “laws”. These pious leaders would not enter the palace to speak with Pilate because they would then not be able to eat the Passover (John 18.28). But they had a plan. In order to get the Roman governor’s attention, they accused Jesus of “subverting our nation,” of opposing paying taxes to Caesar, and claiming to be a king (Luke 23.2). But the fact that they were lying in order to have the guiltless Jesus executed didn’t seem to bother them at all. Their inconsistency is glaring to anyone on the side of truth and integrity. Even Pilate eventually saw through it and declared Jesus innocent of their charges (John 18.38).
    But before that, Pilate took Jesus inside the palace to question him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” At this point Jesus answered indirectly. He spoke to Pilate about his kingdom. Jesus explained that his kingdom was not of this world, but was, in fact, from another place. Of course, Pilate was thinking of one kind of kingdom and Jesus spoke of a different kind.
    The kind of kingdoms Pilate thought of had risen and fallen for millenniums. The Bible speaks of many of these kingdoms: Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, Syria, and Greek.  Major world powers that all rose and fell over the course of history. Pilate himself was a part of such a kingdom, the Roman Empire, one of the greatest of all time. But Jesus was speaking of a kingdom based on truth not power, a spiritual kingdom not a political one.
    It was prophesied by Daniel (Daniel 2.44) that in the days of the Roman kingdom the God of heaven would set up a kingdom that would never be destroyed. Even though Rome was described as “strong as iron” that would crush all the others, it too would one day fall (Daniel 2.40-43). Pilate had to feel even more confident than the Jews were feeling that Jesus could not threaten the Roman Empire. He had no idea that God’s spiritual kingdom could and would crush the mighty Romans, especially if this guy standing before was its king.
    But, as Mike Ireland asked in his devotional book, From Morning to Evening, “Well, whose kingdom is still here?” Though it took almost four centuries from the time of Jesus for the Roman Empire to fall, fall it did. During those years, while the Rome was crumbling, the kingdom of God kept growing and expanding into nation after nation, city after city.  And it’s still growing as men and women all over the globe are learning about Jesus the King and are surrendering their hearts and lives to him.
    Are we sometimes tempted to think more like Pilate than like Jesus? Are we tempted to trust in governments and authorities of this world more than in the rule of Jesus? For which kingdom are we giving our time, money and effort? Hopefully, we will listen to the truth Jesus brought and hold it in higher regard than anything else. Yes, we are to  honor the king (1 Peter 2.14). But Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of  lords (Revelation 19.16)!
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com