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/

Love People; Use Things

By Joe Slater

    I expect you’ve seen the title of this article practiced in reverse, as I have: “Use People; Love Things.” Sad, but true. King Solomon observed, “The poor man is hated even by his own neighbor. But the rich has many friends” (Proverbs 14:20). Now, why would a poor man’s neighbors hate him? And why would a rich man have many friends? The poor man doesn’t have much to offer materially, so his neighbors can’t use him. The rich man’s “friends,” however, see opportunity to use him to their advantage. “Many entreat the favor of nobility, and every man is a friend to one who gives gifts” (Proverbs 19:6).
    Solomon’s half-brother, Absalom used people to acquire the power he wanted. See how he buttered up the citizens who came to King David with legal issues: “Look, your case is good and right; but there is no deputy of the king to hear you . . . Oh, that I were made judge in the land, and everyone who has any suit or cause would come to me; then I would give him justice” (2 Samuel 15:3-4). In short order, he conned them into proclaiming him king!
   The Pharisees in John 8 used the woman taken in adultery to try to put Jesus into a dilemma. They cared nothing for her soul. All they wanted was to have an excuse to criticize the Lord. By contrast, Jesus loved her and sought her redemption.
  The “good Samaritan” in Luke 10 loved his neighbor and used his money and other possessions to help him.  Love people; use things. The man who had been robbed and beaten could do nothing materially for the Samaritan. But he needed help, and the Samaritan provided it.
  As Jesus said, “Go and do likewise” (Lk. 10:37).

- 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

Baptism in Water

By Ron Thomas

    One of the hallmark teachings of the Lord’s church that separates it from churches that have their origin in man is the teaching of the necessity of baptism in water for salvation. This is something the Bible very plainly teaches. At the time of the Great Commission the Lord gave to His apostles the command to preach and declare, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16, ASV). There are two components to salvation in this verse; they are the words believeth and baptized. In the Greek New Testament, the verse literally reads, “The one having believed and having been baptized will be saved” (Greek-English Interlinear, Tyndale Houses, p. 192). There is an initial response of belief and trust, but after the initial response, there is a continuance of the same. The word baptized is associated with the death of one’s old life, a burial of that old life in water, with the subsequent resurrection coming up out of the water. The death, burial, and resurrection is connected with Jesus. Notice what Paul wrote, “We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (Rom. 6:4-5). Thus, without baptism in water, one is not and cannot be saved. 
    There are some who falsely accuse Christians who accept what the Bible teaches as teaching a “works salvation.” This is false because 1) the ones who so accuse have failed to understand the New Testament and how it speaks against “works salvation.” It is false, 2) because there is a failure to understand that obeying God’s commands can’t be properly interpreted as “works salvation” when one obeys from the heart what the Lord said because the Lord said it. It is false because, 3) because to attribute to a humble believer what the Scripture plainly teaches is to attribute to the Lord the same guilt since He is the One who said it. It is false, 4) because it is a plain denial of what the New Testament says. 
    Generally, an objection raised to those who insist on baptism in water for salvation is because, they assert, “The thief on the cross was not baptized.” This is an effort to negate what the Lord said elsewhere on the topic and it is a failure to understand something quite significant. Under the New Covenant, a cornerstone belief one must have is a belief in the resurrection of Jesus. Notice: “because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Rom. 10:9). Under the New Covenant, the thief could not have believed this. Also, since the Lord’s authority is what it is, He only is in position to address His words in ways that are different than what He revealed— and He revealed that baptism in water is necessary for salvation. It was Peter who said, “which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21). 
    Wouldn’t it just be easier to accept what the New Testament says rather than trying to dismiss it because of a man-made doctrine? 


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

A Plan That Actually Works

By David Bragg

    In 1923 Otto Schnering came up with a plan to promote his new chocolate bar, Baby Ruth. He settled on a candy drop. A pilot was recruited for a plane, complete with the Baby Ruth logo, to perform some trick flying over Pittsburgh. As crowds gathered and curiosity rose hundreds of candy bars with little parachutes attached began falling from the plane. What happened next was not part of Schnering's plan. Office workers reaching dangerously out of windows trying to catch the candy. Children ran into the streets to catch or retrieve their prizes. And when some of the parachutes failed to open people were struck on the head and car windshields were broken by falling bars. Drivers, taking their eyes off the road, looked up instead as they crashed into other cars (The Memory Palace; Mental Floss).
    There are other seemingly good ideas that failed to come off exactly as planned (remember the Ford Pinto?). Unlike mere mortals, when God comes up with a plan, He is always successful in making it work. Isaiah said it best when he said that God’s word “shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper ...” (Isaiah 55:11).
    God has a plan that includes you. We should feel confident in conforming to the New Testament plan and design of Christ’s church. It is a kingdom of servants, joyfully serving their Lord and Master while sharing their hope with the lost. That is God’s plan.  Any plan of human origin is bound to have problems, but God’s plan actually works.

- 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/

God Is Listening

By Ed Wittlif

     "It came about after the Lord had spoken these words to Job, that the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, 'My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends, because you have not spoken of Me what is right as My servant Job has'" (Job 42:7 NASB). When you read the book of Job you see that his three friends began well. They sat with Job for seven days and seven nights without speaking (Job 2:13). They must have been good comforters just by their presence. However, then they opened their mouths and spoke of things about God and His purpose that they didn't understand.
     God said, "You have not spoken of Me what is right." Have you ever considered that God is listening to what you say? I will admit that sometimes it seems that when I open my mouth, I disengage my brain. James tells us to be "slow to speak" (James 1:19c). We have a saying, "Think before you speak."
     Jesus warns us, "But I tell that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned" (Matthew 12:36-37).
     It isn't just angry words that James was dealing with, or careless thoughtless words, or words that hurt. It is also what we say about God, like Job's friends. Misquoting God's words, or twisting His words like Satan, or presenting an untrue picture of God misrepresents God. God is listening to us even before the words come out of our mouths. "Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O, Lord, You know it all" (Psalm 139:4).
     God not only hears us, but He knows our motive for saying it. Therefore, think carefully before speaking and let your words be seasoned with grace knowing that God is listening.

- 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

Another Crisis Looking?

By Bill Brandstatter

     It appears we have become crisis oriented. There is always some big crisis looming. If it is not an oil crisis, it is a health crisis. It could be a crisis in the Middle East. The crisis could political or social. There seems to be no end. The problem with some of the so-called “crises” is that people stay in a constant state of uncertainty and anxiety over what the future holds. I believe we ought to be Christ-centered, not crisis-centered. Then, we need not worry about the future.
     We need to be Christ-centered regarding salvation. Today many will talk about the “Sinner’s Prayer”. Did you know that no one in New Testament times was ever saved just by praying? One man that was praying, Saul of Tarsus, was told to, “Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord. ” (Acts 22:16) Christ stated “He that believes and is baptized will be saved. ” (Mark 16:16)
     We need to be Christ-centered regarding the church. There are a number of groups today all claiming to be part of the church that we read about in the New Testament. Jesus is the head of the church according to Eph. 1:22, 23. Any church that does not have Christ as its center (head) is not Christ’s church.
     We need to be Christ-centered regarding our lives. Paul stated, “ I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me .” (Gal. 2:20) When we become Christians we are new creatures. (Rom. 6:4; Cor. 5:17)
     We need to be Christ-centered regarding His second coming. Twice in 2012 individuals were talking about dates for Christ’s second coming or the end of the world. Both predictions were wrong. Whenever man forecasts these events, they will always be wrong. Jesus stated, “ But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only .” (Matt. 24:36 NKJV)
     If we are Christ-centered in all the areas mentioned above, the man made “crises” of today will have little or no effect on us since our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20)

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

Building RESPECT FOR AUTHORITY in Your Children

By Jim Faughn

     “No!” – Some who will read this article will remember a time that now seems so long ago when that simple two-letter word put an end to misbehavior on the part of children. When that word was spoken by a parent, a teacher, or any other authority figure, it was typical for no further action to be necessary. On those occasions when further action was necessary, that action was carried out, usually without much delay. 
     How the tables have turned! In today’s world, it is not uncommon to hear that word spoken loudly, defiantly, and forcefully by a child to a parent, teacher, and/or some other authority figure who is attempting [in vain, it seems] to guide or correct the child. While one Christian or one family may not be able to change an entire society, Christian parents are concerned about instilling in their children a healthy respect for authority. They recognize that many of the ills of our society can be traced to a lack of respect for authority. They further realize that this is a matter of eternal importance. If a child does not learn to respect earthly authority figures, how can he or she learn to respect the One before whom all of us will stand in judgment (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10)?
     Hopefully looking at some key words in the above title will be helpful to parents and others. 
     Authority – Whatever else one may say about the God whom we serve, it must be recognized that order is a fundamental concept. Fundamental to order is the concept of authority. We well remember the condition that existed in the days of the Judges when it was reported, “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25; see also 17:6). 
     Respect – Multiple citations could be given from the Scriptures to demonstrate God’s desire for His people to honor the elderly, governmental officials, elders, and other faithful servants of the Lord, parents, etc. A good summary statement of this concept may be found in Romans 13:7: “Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.” 
     Children – While not inspired, there is more than a grain of truth in the statement, “As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.” Proverbs 22:6 still advised the reader to “Train up a child...” [emphasis mine]. How sad it is for parents to recognize far too late that they should have been trying to instill in their children a respect for authority from the earliest months of their lives onward. 
     Your – One of the “life lessons” that some parents and all children need to learn is that it is irrelevant what other families are doing with regards to honoring God and obeying Him. Christian parents in today’s society need to have the same attitude that Joshua of old had: “...as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). 
     In – Our Lord told us that thoughts, attitudes, and actions come “from the heart” (Matthew 15:18). It is to be remembered that true conversion takes place when one obeys "from the heart" (Rom. 6:17). Respect for authority must be instilled. 
     Building –
Just as there are certain things that are helpful in building a physical structure, there are similar things that are helpful in building a respect for authority in children. It is hoped that the ones discussed here will serve as a "springboard" for further study and discussion. While the following are not presented as being comprehensive, they are some of the things that are necessary.
     Time – No building of any significance is built in a day or two. Respect for authority begins to "take shape" over days, weeks, months, and years of effort. 
     Blueprint – We have the perfect blueprint. It has the words Holy Bible on its cover. Every parent needs to strive for consistency in applying its teaching. 
     Teamwork – Fathers and mothers [often with the help of some good brothers and sisters in the Lord] should work together—not pull in opposite directions—to achieve the worthy and eternally important goal of building respect. 
     Example – In human relations, a popular term today is "mentoring." In the building trades, a similar term and concept is that of being an "apprentice." Responsibilities are gradually "handed off" to the next generation which has learned much of what it knows from observation. We need to make sure we are "handing off" a healthy and proper respect for authority. 
     Foundation – None of the other things mentioned or any of the others that could be mentioned are of any value without a proper foundation. While we primarily think in terms of the church, it should be true as well with regards to families and individual lives that "other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:11). 
     Purpose – Why is the proposed structure being built? That will go a long way in determining how it is built. Parents should "build" respect in their children because they realize that the purpose for our existence is to bring glory and honor to our Father and to our Savior. 
      May God help all of us to strive for that in our own lives and to do all we can to instill that desire in those who are coming along after us.

- Jim Faughn, a retired preacher, serves as an elder for the Central Church of Christ in Paducah KY.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.centralchurchofchrist.org 

The Best of Friends

By Travis Robertson

    The book of Proverbs is filled with wise sayings covering a gamut of topics. One topic that it covers quite well is that of friendship. Let’s note four qualities of friendship from the book of Proverbs that will help us discover the best of friends.
    First, the best of friends is one who is always in your corner. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17). That doesn’t mean they will always agree with your actions and decisions, but they will never give up on you. They love you and desire the best outcome for you.
    Second, the best of friends offers you strength and wisdom. Solomon instructs us, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” (Prov. 27:17). If we are without good friends, we will soon discover how dull we truly are, and that we are in need of sharpening.
    Third, the best of friends is one who tells the truth. He will be open, honest, and sincere. Solomon said, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy” (Prov. 27:6). We feel good when everyone agrees with us, but we need a true friend to be candid at all times.
    Fourth, the best of friends is one who is thoughtful and considerate. We are told, “Like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, or like vinegar on soda, Is he who sings songs to a troubled heart.” This friend knows when and how to say or do things to help their friends.
    Let’s do our best to become a friend like this, and seek out friends that fit these qualities.

- 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/

Are You Searching for the Truth?

By Ron Bartanen

    Are you searching for truth? Some are not searching because they don’t believe in absolute truth—everything to them is relative.  Others are not searching because their church tells them what the truth is,  These feel they already have the fullness of truth.  All should heed Paul’s warning: “Of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things” (Acts 20:30).  Others seek the truth in their own hearts, though the Bible warns, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9).  The importance of seeking truth is emphasized in Scripture.  The wise man Solomon advised, “Buy the truth and sell it not” (Prov. 23:23).  In the marketplace of ideas one must be careful to distinguish the true from the counterfeit.  Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32).  
    How will we know the truth when we see it? Ultimate truth is found in Jesus, who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No man comes to the Father but by me” (John 14:6).  Truth is found in His word, the Scriptures, of which Paul wrote, “All scripture is inspired of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
    Where are you searching for truth?   

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

Live Or Die?

By Steve Higginbotham

     In times past, it was much more difficult to be a Christian than it is today, well, at least in the United States. In times past, and even today but in different nations, being a follower of Jesus could cost you your life. But for those of us living in the United States, Christianity comes easy. Because we live in such a permissive and pluralistic society, no one really cares what we believe and practice. It's all good.
     Consequently, we find it easy to answer such hypothetical questions such as, "would you be willing to die for the Lord?" We can quickly respond by saying, as did Peter, "Sure, I'd die for the Lord." However, because we probably will never be asked to do such a thing, it's easy for us to say. So let me challenge you with this thought...
     If you can say that you'd be willing to die for Jesus, that's wonderful. But until you're called upon to do so, would you at least be willing to live for him? Give it some thought.

- 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 

Praise the Lord

By Larry Pasley

     Today's funny: A preacher trained his horse to go when he said, "Praise the Lord," and to stop when he said, "Amen." The preacher mounted the horse, said, "Praise the Lord" and went for a ride. When he wanted to stop for lunch, he said, "Amen." He took off again, saying, "Praise the Lord." The horse started going toward the edge of a cliff. The preacher got excited and said, "Whoa!" Then he remembered and said, "Amen," and the horse stopped at the edge of the cliff. The preacher was so relieved and grateful that he looked up to heaven and said, "Praise the Lord!


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     Stop is an important work in Christianity. We are to stop sinning when we become a Christian. Twice Jesus used the phrase, “Sin no more”:

  • The paralytic who Jesus healed - John 5:14. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, "See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you."
  • The woman taken in the act of adultery - John 8:11. She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more."
The apostle Paul points out that we should not continue in sin after we have been baptized into Christ.

Romans 6:1-4 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2  Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3  Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4  Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
But, Christianity is not just what we have stopped doing. Sometimes we say things like, “I’m a Christian, I don’t drink, I don’t cuss, I don’t smoke, I don’t gamble etc. Lots of people who are not Christians don’t do those things either.
     Christianity doesn’t just involve what you have stopped doing but it also involves what you have started doing.

  • Are you living a godly life? - Titus 2:11-12. For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,
  • Are you meeting the needs of those around you? - Matthew 25:41-46. Then He will also say to those on the left hand, 'Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42  for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; 43  I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.' 44  Then they also will answer Him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?' 45  Then He will answer them, saying, 'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' 46  And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
  • Are you always trying to please God? - Colossians 1:10. By doing so "you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God."
     May we all determine to stop sinning and start living godly lives. Both are necessary.

- Larry Pasley serves as a minister with the Jackson Street Churc
h of Christ in Alexandria, LA. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at http://www.JacksonStAlex.com

Others Who Have No Hope

By Jim Faughn


    Please read the following words found in the English Standard Version of 1 Thessalonians 4:13 very carefully: 
But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others who do not have hope.
    I believe that most of us readily understand that the “sleep” being referred to here is the “sleep” of death. I believe it is also fairly obvious that the use of the word “brothers” means that these words are addressed to Christians.  
  • Does this verse teach us that Christians are not to grieve (mourn, sorrow, etc.) at all when a loved one passes from this life? 
  • Are Christians supposed to just act as though nothing had ever happened and go on with their lives? 
  • Does a Christian’s confidence in an eternal home make him or her immune to feelings of loss?
If you did, in fact, read that verse carefully, you should realize that the answer to those questions is, “NO.” The sorrow of a Christian is not to be “…as others who have no hope.” (In reality, it did not take a very careful reading to notice that, did it?)
    More often than I really care to remember, I’ve been in more homes, hospital rooms, nursing home rooms, etc. when death has taken a loved one from family members and friends. Sometimes death has occurred after a long and serious illness. Sometimes the death is sudden and unexpected. In all reality, no two deaths and no two families are ever exactly the same.
    However, I’ve noticed that many of the situations in which I’ve found myself can broadly fit into one of two categories. Both of these categories are linked to the fact that I’m a preacher (and an elder) and that I often get called on during trying times like this.
    I’ve been in situations when people just want a preacher around. Any “brand” will do. Often, these people are confused. In fact, “panic” might not be too strong a word. These people want somebody --- anybody --- that has some sort of religious credentials to calm them and assure them in some way. They may not even be aware of what way they have in mind. They just want a preacher around. His presence seems to have some sort of calming effect on them (sometimes).
    The other people I’ve been with are just as sad and feel their loss just as much as the first group. Depending on the circumstances, they may even be as confused as the people in the first group. Through tears they express words that convey their grief to the preacher and to one another.
    While, they also appreciate a preacher being with them, their actions and words convey a quiet confidence that the other group does not have. Their confidence is not dependent upon the presence of a preacher. Their confidence is in God and His promises.  
    It is my prayer that all of us could be a part of this second group of people. It is also my prayer that each of us will live our lives in such a way that those who are left behind can have that quiet confidence that is needed so much during very trying times.

- Jim Faughn serves as an elder and preacher for the Central Church of Christ in Paducah KY.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website.


An Honorable Discharge

By Donna Richmond Wittlif

    In order to receive an honorable discharge, a service member must meet or exceed high standards, both in his duty requirements and in his conduct. He must also finish his tour of duty unless he is physically or mentally disabled because of his service.
    Christians might say that we seek an honorable discharge from this life. Our stay on earth is a time of testing. Will we stay true to our leader, Jesus Christ, or will we desert Him and go AWOL? Do we read God's commandments in the Bible and obey them? Does our conduct give glory to God and a good name to His church? If we fall, can we fix our eyes back on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, and follow Him?
    A bad conduct discharge is the most severe type of military discharge. Usually a person who gets a bad conduct discharge serves time in prison. He is not eligible for any service benefits such as health insurance. God, too, has a bad conduct discharge. Those who do not obey Him get no benefits. They are unprofitable servants, and are cast out into the outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25:30).
    Jesus has promised a rich reward to those who faithfully serve Him. May we, like Paul, be able to say, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day; and not to me only, but to all them that have loved his appearing" (II Timothy 4: 7, 8). Only then will we have an honorable discharge.

- Donna Richmond Wittlif, the founder and first editor of BulletinGold, lives in Denver, CO. Donna is also a writer of fiction. Her novels, World Eternal: Promises and World Eternal: Proselytes, are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other book outlets. Her third book, World Eternal: Perils, should be out soon. For more information visit her website.


O Boundless Love

By J. Randal Matheny © 2016

O boundless Love, to those who hate
Show mercy, kindness to the cruel;
To them who rail, insult, berate,
Let humble goodness be our rule.

To vengeful foes who strike our face,
Make us disciples turn the cheek,
To calls for rights, let us show grace,
Toward haughty noses make us meek.

For we, above all else, desire,
In all affairs, in peace and strife,
To show your Self — to this aspire —
Like Christ who gave his perfect life.

- J. Randal Matheny edits and writes UPLift, an inspirational ezine. He may be contacted here: <http://randalmathenycom/>. When reprinting this material, please include the following:
Copyright (c) 2016 J. Randal Matheny
All rights reserved. You may forward the
email to friends as is. You may not alter
it in any way or remove any text or
attributions.

Are We Willing to Listen?

By Alan Smith

    Here's another message on the importance of listening, from a little different perspective:
    Tommy Bolt, winner of the 1958 US Open, tells the story of an incident he had during one of his golf tournaments. Bolt arrived at the golf course for the tournament and was approached by a youngster, “Mr. Bolt, do you need a caddy, sir?” Bolt went to the caddy master and asked about the youngster. The man said, “He’s a real good caddy, knows the course, the greens, and the rules of the game. But he talks a lot.”
    So Bolt went back to the youngster and said, “You can caddy for me on one condition: Don’t say a word.” The young man accepted and carried Bolt's bag. The first three rounds went well, and Bolt was in contention in the fourth round, when an errant tee shot landed in the rough. The ball was sitting down in a bad patch of turf, with a difficult shot to the green which was well guarded by water on the right.
    Bolt asked his caddy, “You think a five iron will do the trick?” The kid shook his head no, but never said a word.
    “What, you want me to hit a six iron?” Again, the kid shook his head no, but did not speak. Bolt grabbed a six iron and lashed the ball out of the rough and landed on the green, rolling to within three feet of the hole.
    As they walked to the green, Bolt said, “Aren’t you going to say something now, after seeing a shot like that?” His caddy then replied, “Mr. Bolt, that wasn’t your ball.”
    Many of us go through life like that.  We don't want to hear what anyone else has to say. In fact, we don't even want to hear what God has to say. And when we become intent on doing things our way without listening to the voices of wisdom around us, we are headed for disaster.
    Solomon advised us to, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths." (Proverbs 3:5-6)
    He also encouraged us to: "Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge; For it is a pleasant thing if you keep them within you." (Proverbs 22:17-18)
    If you're inclined to tell others, "I don't want to hear anything that you have to say", you may want to reconsider. The time may come when you wish you had listened.
     Have a great day!

- Alan Smith, author of the popular "Thought For Today," and minister for the Cruciform Church of Christ in Spring Lake, North Carolina, may be contacted at alansmith.servant@gmail.com or through the congregation's website.


Be Safe—Not Sorry

By Ron Bartanen

    There are innumerable uncertainties in life, but there is one thing we cannot afford to be unsure of —our salvation. The apostle Peter admonished people of faith, “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10a, ESV). He was writing these words, not to alien sinners, but to those who had once been “cleansed from (their) former sins” (v. 9). They were baptized believers, washed in the blood of Christ. Were some of those he addressed becoming assured that because they had once accepted Christ, they could now relax in their commitment to godliness and still be granted “entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (v. 11)? Evidently so.  At least Peter saw the need to “remind” them of the spiritual qualities that are to characterize those called of the Lord to share “His glory and excellence” (vs. 12, 3b). These qualities are described as supplements to their initial faith: virtue, knowledge, self control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection and love (vs. 5-8). He further describes any who ignore these qualities as being “so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins” (v. 9). He later compares those who continue in their former vices to the dog who “returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire” (2:22). In these verses, Peter is evidently saying that such are not making their “calling and election sure.” He would that they would be safe—not sorry in the day they would face the Lord in judgment.
    There is one way, and one way only, in which we can be assured of our standing with the Lord. It is through a personal knowledge of Christ as both Savior and Lord in our lives. Peter’s warning to believers was, in effect, saying that while they may had once taken seriously their need for Christ as Savior, they had not been as serious in making Him Lord. Jesus had said, “Not everyone that says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). He went on to explain, in the parable of the building of two houses—one on solid rock, and another on sand—that simply hearing Jesus’ teachings, without submission to them, would result in the soul’s destruction. It’s not safe to build a life on the sands of this world—not even the sands of humanly devised religion. Some build on the sand of emotion and feeling, without regard for a “thus says the Lord.” Such are not given assurance from God.     Peter was not expecting, nor demanding, perfection. In no way can we live our lives so perfectly that we could, in any sense, merit salvation. But, while it is true that “by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing: it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:9), v. 10 is equally true: “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” We can be safe—not sorry only when our works manifest the reality of our faith. With Jesus as the sure foundation for our lives, and guided by His word as revealed in Scripture (the Bible), we can be truly safe—not sorry.

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