Saturday, January 25, 2020

Somewhere to Belong

By David Bragg

    A doctor was enjoying lunch in a room full of people. Without a word he slowly got up and walked out of the room. No one there was aware of the danger this doctor was facing until his lifeless body was discovered a few minutes later. A morsel of food had lodged in his windpipe, and he choked to death (David Gibson, The Challenger, Carbondale, IL).
    What makes this story even sadder is the fact that this doctor was eating lunch in a room filled with other doctors any one of whom could have likely saved his life. He didn’t ask.
    The church consists of the saved. We know what it is like to languish in sin. We know what it is like to be redeemed. We know what it is like to have a place where we belong: the church. It is here that we can serve, encourage, and bear one another's burdens (Gal. 6:1). Because of what Jesus did, purchasing us with His own blood (Acts 20:28), we are family (1 Tim. 3:15).
    The Christian who belongs to the world has turned his back on the marvelous gifts of God. He is like that doctor who died in solitude while those who were willing and able to help stood by unaware. Because of what Jesus has done for us, we love and care for each other and share the Good News with those yet lost in sin. In Jesus they can find a place to belong now and forever.

- 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/


Identifying What’s Important

By Joe Slater

    We place a higher importance on some things than on others. Aside from simply asking, how can people know what’s really important to us? Here are four ways:
    Talk. We talk about the weather. We talk about our family. We talk about sports. Why? Because these things are important to us. They aren’t bad things, and it’s fine to talk about them. But how much do we talk about God? about the Bible? about the church? “My tongue shall speak of Your word, for all of Your commandments are righteousness” (Psalm 119:172).
    Time. Each of us has exactly the same amount of time each day. It’s up to us how we use it. It takes time to sleep, work, and eat. Most of us have at least several hours of discretionary time each day. Perhaps we watch some television or read a book. Would that book happen to be the Bible? Do we spend time in prayer and actual study (not just reading) of God’s word? What about church attendance? Compare the time spent meeting with fellow-Christians to what you devote to recreation. Rest and relaxation are important, but so are spiritual matters.
    Treasure. Paying attention to the way we spend our money requires diligent discipline. We might be shocked at how much we fritter away on arbitrary things. I challenge you to compare what you spend on recreation and vacations with what you contribute to the work of the Lord. You estimation of the importance of His work will certainly be reflected by your material support of it.
    Talent. Your talents are not the same as the next person’s, but each one has abilities. We use our talents to earn a living, maintain a home, enjoy a hobby, etc. All of those are good things. What about serving God by helping other people and working on projects for the church? Here again, your use of your talents demonstrates your estimation of the importance of the cause of Christ
    What is really important to you?

 - 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


Top Ten Christian Myths

By Steve Higginbotham

1. If you’re growing, you must be doing something right.
2. One is in good standing with God so long as He can find his name written in the book The United Church Directory.
3. God wants you to be happy more than he wants you to be holy.
4. Teenagers must have a Youth Minister and be a part of an organized Youth Ministry to grow spiritually.
5. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it or change it.
6. If it’s new, we shouldn’t do it.
7. If it’s old, we shouldn’t do it.
8. If a person is struggling spiritually, give them a Bible class to teach or some other responsibility that will keep them attending.
9. Making sure we have a Bible class for all ages is more important than having qualified teachers in those classrooms (in other words, the church is a slave to the Bible class arrangement rather than the Bible class arrangement being a servant to the church).
10. Choosing to be a compassionate church or a doctrinally sound church is an “either or” proposition. These are a few myths that I have heard or witnessed through the years.

—taken from Seven Oaks church of Christ bulletin, February, 2013
- 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 


Blessed Are the Pure in Heart

By David R. Ferguson

    In Psalm 24:3-5, the psalmist wrote, "Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of his salvation."
    We know that the One Who ultimately ascended the hill of the LORD and stands in God's holy place is Jesus Christ. He is the only One Who has perfectly clean hands and a pure heart, the only One Who can save us from our sin! As Christians, it’s our desire to be pure and clean as is our Maker, but as hard as we may try, we will never be able to achieve this goal. That is, not by our self. The good news, however, is that we can stand pure before the Lord! Not because of our own good works, but because God promised us in His word that He would send His Spirit to transform our hearts and cause us to love God and His Law. And in Jesus Christ that transformation begins.
    “And I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep Mine ordinances, and do them” (Ezekiel 36:25-27).
    We see God as He has revealed Himself to us in His word and through the eyes of faith. One glorious day, however, we shall see Him as He is on that Last Day! John wrote in 1 John 3:1-3, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure.” When we are clothed in Jesus Christ in baptism (Galatians 3:27), we are purified as our sins are washed away (Acts 22:16).
    Moses wanted to see the Lord face to face, but he could not do so and still live (Exodus 33:20). However, when we are in Jesus Christ, we no longer have to be fearful, for Jesus promised that, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8). What a promise, indeed, that is in which we can look forward: To see the Lord face to face! And in fact, in the end it is only those who can look the Lord in the face who will live eternally!

- David R. Ferguson preaches for the Lakeland Church of Christ in Mattoon, IL.  He may be contacted through the congregation's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lakelandchurchofchrist/ or davidferguson61@yahoo.com


Sunday Morning

By Larry Pasley

    A woman knocks on her son's door early Sunday morning, to wake him up for church. The son groaned, rolled over, went back to sleep... and had to be called two more times.
    "Tell me," he said, "Why do I have to get up? Give me three good reasons."
    "Well for one thing," the mother said, "It's Sunday and we always go to church. Two, you're 55 years old and should know that by now. And three, you're the preacher!"

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    There are many reasons we should attend the assemblies of the church. We will discuss three of those reasons.
    First, we should attend because we are commanded to assemble for our encouragement: "And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:24-25).
    Second, we should assemble because it is an opportunity for us to be with Jesus. "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:20).
    Third, we should assemble together because it gives us an opportunity to encourage and build up others. We can only do that if and when we come together. "And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head--Christ-- 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love" (Ephesians 4:11-16).
    May we always understand the importance of our being in the assemblies and always make it our desire to attend every assembly we possibly can.

- 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 


Death – Burial and Resurrection of Jesus (Luke 24:1-7)

By Rob Albright

    The resurrection of Jesus from a brutal death back to life, is the evidence all Christians need. The resurrection is evidence of His claims of deity. False claims have been made for centuries and still abound today. The Koran (Surah IV, 156-157) even claims Jesus did not die and actually fled to India.       Others say His body was stolen or that He just fainted and was revived in the coolness of the tomb.
    The truth is recorded in the Bible. Jesus said He would rise from the dead (Mt. 16:21; 27:63). Jesus died (Mt. 27:50); was buried (Mt. 27:57-61). His tomb was sealed (Mt. 27:62-66) and three days later, the tomb was empty. Jesus was raised from the dead (1 Cor. 15:3-4, 20; Mt. 28:6).
    Jesus is alive because a dead Savior does us no good. But, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead proves He is both the Son of Man and the Son of God. The message of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus must be preached.

- 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/


Husbands, Love Your Wives

By Kevin V. Rutherford

    “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.” (Ephesians 5:25). The basic idea behind the word “love” in this text is that of wanting what is best for one who is loved. Husbands must want what is best for their wives. They must seek the well-being of their wives. Husbands who obey this command of God will not hurt their wives, nor will they want anyone else to hurt their wives. Further, if a husband is desiring what is best for his wife he will be doing what he can to help her spiritually so that she will live eternally in heaven.
     “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.”  (Ephesians 5:25). Men, we must love our wives in the same way Jesus Christ loved the church when He gave His life for the church (cf. Acts 20:28). This is a love that will cause a husband to put the needs of his wife above his own. The husband who obeys this command is willing to make sacrifices for his wife. When a man spends so much time with hobbies and friends that he is neglecting his wife, he does not have this kind of love. 
     “So, husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself” (Ephesians 5:28). Typically speaking, men do not deliberately harm their own bodies. It is normal for a man to avoid receiving pain and injury to his body when possible. We are not to deliberately inflict injury upon our own bodies, but rather we are to be good stewards and take care of them. When a man loves his wife as he does his own body, he will never ever beat her, and in fact will seek to defend her should someone else try to harm her.
    “So, husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself”  (Ephesians 5:28). Did you notice that it says, “their own wives”? When sitting in a classroom during an exam, one will likely hear the teacher say something to  the effect of “keep your eyes on your own page.” Do the same with marriage, men. Don’t develop relationships with other women that go too far. Treat other women with respect and kindness, but don’t treat them in such a way as to develop a relationship with them that is closer than it ought to be. The love a husband has for his wife must be unique. His relationship with her must be special. He is not to give that relationship or love to any other woman.
     “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your payers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). Dwell with your wife. Live with her. Your life with your wife must be intertwined. You need to be with her. You need to spend time focused on her so that you can live with her in an understanding way. We don’t want to develop an antagonistic relationship with our wives. We don’t want to develop a relationship that is simply tolerant of the marriage. We want a living relationship with our wives that involves a commitment to communication, with an effort to listen carefully.

    “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your payers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). The word “honor” translates a Greek word that can be used in different ways depending upon the context. Some of the ideas discussed by Thayer’s Greek Lexicon that fit this context are; that which is of a great price, highly valued, or precious. In other words, men, we must treat our wives in such a way that shows they are very special and important to us. This we are to do as to the “weaker vessel”. The picture here is of someone taking that which is precious and valuable and treating it with great care because it is also that which can be broken or damaged. Treat your wife in such a way that is befitting of one who sees his wife as precious and as one he does not want to see get hurt. The term “grace” can carry with it the idea of joy. Joy that comes because of a special gift. The special gift we have is the relationship with our wives. The joy of the gift of a life together comes from a very special relationship that is precious to us. 
    “Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your payers may not be hindered” (1 Peter 3:7). Men, if we do not treat our wives in the manner here described, God will not hear our prayers. Our prayer will be hindered by our own attitudes. Our prayers will be hindered by the ruining of our relationship with our wives. Our prayers will not be heard by God if we are not going to treat our wives as He has commanded. God is, in essence, telling us that if we don’t treat our wives right, He is not interested in hearing what we have to say to Him. Therefore, a man must have his relationship right with his wife before he can have his relationship right with God.

- Kevin V. Rutherford preaches for the Warners Chapel church of Christ in Clemmons, NC. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://warnerschapelchurchofchrist.org/


The Gospel in Five Seconds


By Edd Sterchi

    The Gospel is About the Second Adam. “The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven” (1 Cor. 15:47). Jesus Christ is the second Adam.  Paul also makes the contrast between Adam and Jesus in Rom. 5:12-21. Adam is the one who brought death into the world. The gospel message is about how Jesus died for us and overcame death (1 Cor. 15:1-4).
    The Gospel is About the Second Covenant. “If the first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second” (Heb. 8:7, see also Heb. 10:9). When Jesus died on the cross, He nailed the Old Law to it (Col. 2:14). In doing this, He brought in a New Law for us to live under – a law of grace (Heb. 8:8-10; John 1:17). It is a better covenant (Heb. 8:6).
    The Gospel is About the Second Birth. When Nicodemus asked Jesus about how to be “born again” a “second time”, Jesus answered with these words: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3-5). Jesus was referencing baptism, obeying the gospel call for salvation (Acts 2:38; Rom. 6:3-5; 1 Cor. 12:13).
    The Gospel is About the Second Coming of Christ. “Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” (Heb. 9:28). Jesus is coming back to take the faithful home to heaven with Him (1 Thess. 4:1318). The gospel message is about how we can be saved and be with Jesus.
    The Gospel is About Avoiding the Second Death. “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God...And they were judged, each one according to his works...Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” (Rev. 20:12-15). Following the gospel can keep us from experiencing hell-fire (2 Thess. 1:3-8).
    The gospel of Jesus Christ may only take “five seconds” to obey, but it is designed to carry us through eternity (Rev. 14:6).

- 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/



Take Advantage of the Opportunities

By Travis Robertson

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” – Hebrews 10:23-25
    This passage is often used to guilt people into attending all services by saying, “if you are not here, then you are forsaking the assembly!” That is using this verse in a way that the author didn’t intend. Forsaking the assembly is more than not being in attendance one week. However, I don’t want to spend our time on that part of this passage. I want you to focus on, “how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds.”
    We need to take advantages of all the opportunities we have every week to be with one another, and not just on Sunday and Wednesday. Keep track of all the events the church has planned throughout each week, night men and women Bible studies, work days, youth hangouts, etc. The problem comes when we don’t take advantage of those opportunities to encourage one another to love and good deeds. We may not be able to be at everything, but when we can be present, we should, knowing that our presence can help stimulate one another.

- 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/



Our Lord is Always There

By Gerald Cowan

When your day is dark and dreary,
You see no light, anywhere.
Beyond the clouds the sun is shining,
For it always shines somewhere.
Just because you cannot see it,
Doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Beyond the clouds our God is working,
Giving strength that we may bear
The griefs and sorrows that beset us,
Giving grace through all our care.
Just because you cannot see Him
Doesn’t mean He isn’t there.

When your life is filled with heartache,
Each day brings a load of care
And no one else can lift your burden,
Christ will all your sorrow share.
He will work together with us,
Helping all our load to bear.

Take your troubles all to Jesus.
He’s as near as whispered prayer.
Just because you cannot see him,
Doesn’t mean he isn’t there.
Hasten to his place of safety.
He is waiting for you there.


- 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

A Different Attitude Toward Worship

By Jeff Arnette

    Have you ever heard someone say, “all your church does is worship and study the Bible?”
    From their perspective, a church that is not doing some activity every day isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do and is failing in some way. From this perspective, a church that isn’t busy doing what everyone else is doing has somehow missed the boat. I could spend a lot of time talking about cultural expectations and the expectations of those who know very little of God or his will. Yet, what I want you to get is that most people simply don’t understand worship.
    Such attitudes prove that they haven’t spent time in the word of God and don’t understand the glory and magnificence of worship. Too many today, have allowed cultural expectations to dictate what worship should be like. They expect worship to be loud, flashy, filled with overwhelming emotions, and leaving you feeling supercharged. The problem is that it isn’t biblical. Plus, if worship is meant to get you excited and wound up and charged up; each service would have to be increasingly more to continue to meet those expectations.
    Let me share something from my own experience. When I first became a member of the Lord’s church, my expectation was that worship would be like what I was accustomed to seeing in other churches, especially the Baptist church. That was all I knew and don’t misunderstand me: I am not saying that it was all bad, it had its good parts. I am simply saying that it appealed to the emotional and worldly side of me. It was more like a music concert than a church.
    The first worship service I attended in a church of Christ seemed so calm, simple, and to be frank; a little boring. At first, I didn’t like it; simply because it didn’t meet my expectations of what worship was supposed to be. Yet, with a little time, instruction, and respect for God’s will, not mine, I fell in love with a simple and pure approach to worship.
    Worship is not a side effect of the church! It is one of the biggest reasons for the church.
    I would contend that worship is one of the greatest things a church can do. While the works of the church are an expression of its faith in Jesus and obedience to Him, it is not the primary purpose of a church. Things like evangelism and benevolence are important to our work. Jesus said in Matt. 25, that doing such things was the equivalent of doing them to Him. Yet that is not why the church gathers together.
    We gather together to worship, praise and exalt our great Lord and Savior. In fact, Jesus said that God the Father was actively looking for people like this (John 4:23-24). Let me encourage you to read a few passages about this. Read Acts 2:42-46; 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:23-26; 14:16; Heb. 10:24-25.
    These are just a few of the wonderful passages that teach us that worship is about the heart, the Spirit, the building up and encouragement of each other, and most importantly, glorifying God for who He is and what He has done for us. Every great thing done by the church, throughout history, started because someone was
inspired and set ablaze by the fires of worship. Anytime God’s people came out of her lethargy and pushed forward into Spiritual revival, it was done by worshipers of God.

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


Time

By Joe Chesser

    It’s that time of year again. It’s time to turn our clocks and watches back one hour. Yahoo! An extra hour on Saturday night! What will you do with it? Stay up an hour later on Saturday night? Sleep an hour longer on Sunday morning? I suspect most people will just absorb it. Our body clocks will simply adjust.
    Thinking about having this “extra” hour on Saturday night reminded me of a story in the Old Testament (Joshua 10). During the conquest of Canaan, Joshua was leading the Israelite army against a coalition of five kings of the Amorites. After an all-night march Joshua’s army surprised the enemy and threw them in to confusion. The enemy began to flee, and then two very amazing things happened. To show Israel (and their enemies) who was fighting for Israel, God caused huge hailstones to fall from the sky, killing more from the hail than from the Israelite swords.
    But that’s not all. And this is the part of the story that I thought of because of turning our clocks back an hour. Joshua prayed for something many of us do when there is more to get done in a day than there is time to do it. Joshua prayed for the sun to stand still! His prayer wasn’t just a thought that flashed through his mind. Joshua prayed to the Lord in the presence of the Israelite army for the Lord to cause the sun to stand still. And God did it!! “The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day! There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a man.  Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel” (Joshua 10:12-14).
    There are several things about this story that are amazing. The first thing is what it tells us about God and time. Time is meaningless to God. He is eternal.  He has no time restraints. For God to make the sun stand still for about a day was nothing to Him. But He did create people within the boundaries of time. Time is very important to us, and how we use our time should be given serious consideration. Joshua didn’t want the extra time for himself. He wanted it for the battle he was fighting for God.
    Joshua believed in prayer and Joshua believed in God. Why else would he make such an audacious request of God in the presence of so many people? The Bible tells us that the prayer of a righteous man prayed in accordance with the will of God is powerful and effective (James 5:16, 1 John 5:14-15). This story vividly illustrates both the ability and the willingness of God to answer even the most outrageous prayers.
    God wants to give us victory. He is willing to do some amazing things to make it happen, even giving us whatever time we need to get it done. We still have to fight and we still have to pray, but our God can do anything He wants to do – even make the sun stand still for a day! Don’t squander your time.  Use it in the service of God.


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

Friday, January 24, 2020

I Am a Christian

By Lance Cordle

¨ I am a Christian when I go to work/school; I am a Christian at home.
¨ I am a Christian when I am with my family or friends; I am a Christian when I am alone.
¨ I am a Christian when I interact with friends online; I am a Christian when I am browsing the internet alone.
¨ I am a Christian when I assemble with the saints on Sunday morning; I am a Christian when I eat at a restaurant on Sunday afternoon.
¨ I am a Christians when studying my Bible; I am a Christian when I choose non-religious reading material.
¨ I am a Christian when I pay my taxes; I am Christian when I vote.
¨ I am a Christian when I talk to my neighbor about Jesus; I am a Christian when my neighbor sees me working or playing in my yard.
¨ I am a Christian when I am tempted; I am a Christian when I pray.
¨ I am a Christian when I am sick; I am a Christian when I am well.
¨ I am a Christian when people like me: I am a Christian when people mistreat me.
¨ I am a Christian when I go to sleep; I am a Christian when I wake up.
¨ I am a Christian when my day is “good;” I am a Christian when my day is “bad.”
“Or, do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
(1 Corinthians 6:19, 20)
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because of
the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.” (1 Peter 4:12-16)

- Lance Cordle preaches the Calvert City Church of Christ in Calvert City, KY.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.calvertchurchofchrist.com



This Ezra

By Jim Faughn

     To some, it may appear as just another one of those long lists of names we find in the Bible. This particular list is at the beginning of the seventh chapter of Ezra. The list begins with Ezra and works his lineage back through sixteen names. The sixteenth name is “…Aaron the chief priest” (v. 5). I guess you could say that this is similar to the lists of “begats” we find in various places in the Bible --- only in reverse.  
     I suppose we would have to have the mind of God to understand all of the reasons why a list like this is in the Bible. Was it included to help to establish the “credentials” of Ezra? After all, if he could trace his lineage all the way back to Aaron, it would help to establish the fact that he did, indeed, have some credibility.
     Were these names included merely to take up space? The obvious answer to that is, of course, an unqualified no!  
     I’d like to mention one thing that comes to my mind when I read the words “this Ezra.” It helps to establish the fact that I am not reading a book of fairy tales, legends, fables, etc. It helps me to know that, when I read the Bible, I’m reading about real people, real places, real events, etc.  
     There is not a passage in my Bible (or yours) that begins, “A long time ago in a land far, far away…” Instead, when I am reading God’s word, I am reading about many people whose names are found in history books. I am reading about events that those same history books verify as having taken place.
     Consider the following passage as just one more example of this: 

Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene,  Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.  (Luke 3:1-2) 
In these two short verses, there are five governmental officials named. Does the evidence of history tell us that these were real men? Yes! In these same verses, we read about six places (The Roman Empire is implied while the other five are named.) Did these places exist? Yes! In these same two verses, two religious leaders (besides John) are mentioned by name. Did they really live and did they serve in the capacity mentioned in Luke 3:2? Yes!
     If all of this is true, why, then would I doubt that John lived? Why should I deny the evidence he presented about Jesus? 
     Why, in fact, should I deny or question the validity of anything I read in the Bible? 
     Two words --- “this Ezra” --- say to me, "You can trust your Bible."

- 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



What a Sight!

By David A. Sargent

     A few years ago a young mother, Jessica Sinclair of Bridgetown, Ohio, noticed that her 10-month-old daughter, Piper, was having issues reaching her milestone of crawling. She brought this to the attention of Piper’s pediatrician. “At her regular pediatric check,” Jessica reports, “they did an eye screening and saw that she might have had a slight astigmatism.”
     An appointment was made with Dr. Josiah Young of Opticare Vision Centers. Dr. Young discovered the problem. “Her eyes checked out healthy, but come to find out she didn't have an astigmatism; [she was] extremely farsighted,” said Jessica. “Her one eye was +7.00 and the other is +9.00. So we got her glasses made and the Opticare team helped with the choosing and fit of the glasses.”
     A week later, they went back to Opticare to pick up Piper’s glasses. The technicians put the glasses on to Piper’s face only for a second to make sure they fit properly. A little later, they would find out if the glasses really helped Piper’s vision.
     After leaving the Opticare center, Piper and her parents decided to go out to eat. While sitting at the table at the restaurant, they decided to put the glasses on Piper to see her reaction. They made a video and posted it onto Facebook. The video has gone viral with millions of viewers. Here is a link to the video with commentary by Lester Holt of NBC Nightly News: http://www.nbcnews.com/nightly-news/video/babys-adorable-reaction-to-seeing-clearly-for-first-time-483679811629
     The video shows Piper initially offering resistance as her mother places the glasses on her face. But when Piper looks through the lenses and is able to see clearly for the first time, she stops squirming and starts beaming with smiles as she looks carefully, back and forth, to her mother and daddy!
     In John 9, we read how Jesus healed a man who had been blind from birth. This miracle caused quite a stir among the religious leaders because it was done on the Sabbath day. The religious leaders viewed Jesus’ actions as a violation of the Law of Moses. The formerly-blind man was amazed that they were so biased against the One who had clearly demonstrated that He was “from God” (vs. 30-33).
     Jesus later found the healed man and asked him, "Do you believe in the Son of God?" He answered and said, "Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?" Jesus said to him, "You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you." Then he said, "Lord, I believe!" And he worshiped Him (John 9:35-38).
     Do you “see” Jesus?  Do you believe that He is the Son of God?
     Examine His claims, His teachings, and His works. Start by reading the book of John.
     Then, if your heart is open, you will “see” through the eyes of faith that Jesus IS the Son of God. You will also “see” that God sent Jesus to this world to die on the cross for your sins and for mine, so that we can be saved and live eternally with Him in heaven (John 3:16).

     Do YOU believe that Jesus is the Son of God? If so, then place your faith and trust in Him (Acts 16:30-31), turn from your sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Him before men (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of your sins (Acts 2:38). Then, follow Him all the way to heaven by walking in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7).
     There are none so blind as those who will not see.

- 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



Will There Really Be A Judgment Day?

By R. W. McAlister

    In Heb. 9:27 the Bible says, “…it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:” In Rom. 14:11-12, the Lord says, “… every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. 12So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” That’s a reference to final judgment. In II Cor. 5:10, the Bible says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” The Bible is very clear about the reality of a final judgment. I think the real question is, “What happens to us before Judgment?” II Peter 2:9 addresses this, and it reads, “The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:” The Greek text suggests the idea of keeping the unrighteous “under punishment (present tense— continual punishment) unto (looking towards) the day of judgment.” The phrase “under punishment” reveals that the penalty was already being inflicted at the time the apostle is writing.
    The punishment begins at the point of death, in somewhat the same way an individual apprehended in the commission of a crime is jailed until his trial. In that case, he is being punished before actual judgment has been passed.
    In Luke 16, we find the story of the rich man and Lazarus, who begged at the rich man’s
gate. We don’t have time to read all of it, but beginning in v. 22, the Bible says,

"And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; 23And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. 24And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame. 25But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented."
    It’s important to understand that both Lazarus and the rich man are in a place called,
“Hades.” The Hadean realm is divided into two parts, separated by a great gulf (Luke 16:26): “Abraham’s Bosom” (also called Paradise – Luke 23:43), and “torment” or, “Tartarus.” Hades, consisting of Paradise and Torment, could be viewed as “Eternity’s Waiting Room,” where all departed souls await final judgment, which is guaranteed to come, as we’ve already noted from Heb. 9:27, Rom. 14:12, and II Cor. 5:10. It is on the Day of Judgment that souls who are in Paradise will be ushered into Heaven, and those souls found in Torment will be consigned to Gehenna Hell, the final and eternal abode of those who die apart from God.

     In short, if I die as a faithful Christian, my soul will await final Judgment in the Paradise half of Hades, but if I die outside the body of Christ, or as a once-faithful Christian who has turned his back on God and never repented, I will, upon my death, await final Judgment with the rich man of Luke 16, in Tartarus, being tormented in fire. None of us wants that to be our ultimate fate, so I urge us all to seek out God’s plan of salvation in the Scriptures and obey it.

- R. W. McAlister preaches for the Anna Church of Christ in Anna, IL.He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.annachurchofchrist.com/



Ruined by a Lie

By David Bragg

    An unidentified driver got a surprise the night they decided to destroy Cody Lutz's giant snowman. Lutz, along with his sister and his fiancĂ©e, spent considerable time constructing the nine-foot tall snowman. Then someone thought it would be fun to mow down the gigantic structure with their vehicle. The next morning the tire tracks leading up to the Petersburg, KY residence were clear. Also clear was what the driver realized all too late the previous night: the core support for the snowman was a large tree stump (WXIX Cincinnati, Jan. 15, 2019).
    There is little doubt that the vandal believed the snowperson was just snow. After all, it looked like snow. They must of thought that it would disintegrate like snow under the more substantial weight of a powerful vehicle. Surely, they believed it was, well, snow! They discovered the truth the hard way.
    Sadly, and at a far greater cost, many in the religious world have placed their trust in a grace wrapped in a false gospel. It may look to them like biblical grace. They may have been convinced it was true grace. But someday the truth will be revealed that what they believed to be grace was wrapped in partial truths and full-fledged lies. Pray that it won’t be too late!

- 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/



To Drink, or Not To Drink?

By Seth Myers

    One of the rules of correct Bible interpretation (“lesser” though it may be) is this:

On any given topic, interpret the more difficult and obscure passage(s)
in light of the more clear and obvious one(s).
In other words, view a difficult passage through the lens of a clearer passage on the same subject. An easy example is Luke 14:26, where Jesus seems to say that you have to hate your family in order to be a Christian. However, if we view this difficult passage in light of a parallel passage in Matthew (10:37), we find that the idea of “not hat[ing]” one’s family is modified (or clarified) by, “lov[ing one’s family] more than Me.” Thus, to “hate” family = to love Jesus more than family. What a difference! Another is Matt. 10:34, where Jesus said “I have not come to bring peace [on the earth], but a sword.” Although Matthew clarifies Luke’s record above, here Luke, incidentally, clarifies Matthew’s: for he records Jesus saying that He did not come to bring peace, “but rather division” (12:51). Thus, Jesus used the word “sword” as a euphemistic metaphor, if you will, for general strife and division, which would be manifested in a variety of ways (most of which would not be with a literal sword). And, by the way, the gospel most certainly caused much division—particularly in first-century Jewish homes/families (e.g., Saul of Tarsus).
     But here is a much more urgent, and practical, instance: the often-queried subject of the recreational use of intoxicants, such as alcohol. There are several factors to consider on this subject, some of which are difficult—and more so because they are untaught (e.g., how our word “wine” differs from the original words translated “wine”—which can refer to fermented or unfermented alike). As difficult as some passages might be, though, Proverbs 23:31,32 is as plain as day:

“Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly.
In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder” (cp. 20:1).
Being inspired of God, these words describe, in unmissable language, how God views beverage alcohol. As such, the responsible student of God’s word will interpret all other, not-so-clear “wine” passages, in light of this crystal clear one. When one does so, situations like John 2:1ff (where Jesus turned water to “wine”) become much less intimidating—for can we really imagine God the Son creating, for man’s recreational consumption, 80+ gallons of that which God the Spirit said man should not even look at? What does such a claim say about Jesus? It says many things, indeed—and none good.

-  - Seth Myers preaches for the Highway Church of Christ in Sullivan, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: https://hwycoc.com/



Beyond a LIfe of Self

By J. Randal Matheny

Move us beyond a life of self
To your most glorious kingdom reign,
Where words are spoken on Christ’s behalf,
And deeper meaning is given to pain.

I think too much of me and mine —
Let Jesus occupy my thoughts —
Let life be engaged around your throne,
And heart embrace the enduring Cross.

- J. Randal Matheny edits and writes UPLift, an inspirational ezine. He
may be contacted here: <http://randalmathenycom/>. When reprinting this
material, please include the following: 
Copyright (c) 2019 J. Randal Matheny
All rights reserved. You may forward the
email to friends as is. You may not alter
it in any way or remove any text or
attributions.



Right or Wrong?

By Bill Brandstatter

     I have noticed a change in our society. There are some things that were once considered wrong, even illegal, are now considered okay and legal. One example is the legalization of marijuana. When I grew up in the 1960’s and even until recently, the use of that drug was illegal. Now some states have legalized it.
    What was once wrong is now considered to be right. I once read an article about “civil disobedience.” The article was about individuals who were objecting to the minimum wage and wanted it increased to $15.00 per hour. There was even a meeting being held on civil disobedience. One lady commented that their efforts would change the moral consciousness of people. I am afraid our society has become more lawless in many areas, and the idea of obedience is not what it once was. Society is changing the idea of right and wrong.
     What does the Bible say about this? God, after all is the great lawgiver and lawmaker. From Him we learn obedience and disobedience. Isaiah, the prophet, wrote, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness” (Is. 5:20). In the book of Romans Paul wrote about those who “did not like to retain God in their knowledge” (Rom.1:28).
    Obedience is something the Bible emphasizes. Jesus saves those who obey Him (Heb. 5:8, 9). Paul wrote that people should obey the gospel (Rom. 10:16; 2 Thess. 1:8, 9). Jesus stated, “If you love me, keep My commandments” (Jn. 14:15). The Hebrews writer stated: “We have human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?” (Heb. 12:9) What we learn in one area of life can often affect us in another. My concern is that when our society makes legal that which was once illegal, and makes disobedience something to be considered right, what will happen to the souls of individuals who need to obey Christ? Will they understand the obligation to the law that God has given? Will they obey that form of doctrine that was delivered by the apostles? (Rom. 6:17)
     We need to obey the Bible, no matter what man says.  Peter and the other apostles said; “We ought to obey God rather than man”’ (Acts 5:29). So when society says something is okay, we should see what God has to say. When society makes something legal, we need to check what the great lawgiver has in mind. When society promotes disobedience and rebellion, we need to look at what is written in God’s Word. God wants all men to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). We can only do that if we know what it means to obey the laws which God has given.
     Let us learn from the Scriptures and obey from the heart. (Rom. 6:17)

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


Rejection

By Donna Wittlif

"He was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world knew him not" (John 1:10, ASV).
     Rejection hurts. We know how it feels when we don't get a job we've applied for. We don't make the team. We're not included in a group that we wished to be in. Our self-esteem suffers a severe blow, making us believe we are unworthy.
     Our Lord Jesus is the greatest example of being rejected. He made the world, but the world did not make His life easy. He had no place to lay His head, no home to call his own. His followers forsook Him. One of His disciples betrayed Him. The Jewish leaders turned Him away, persecuted Him, and killed Him.
     Surely all this rejection hurt Jesus, for He was human just as we are. He grieved that His own people, for the most part, did not believe in Him. They accepted His healing and His food, but when He was crucified, they left Him. Even His closest friends ran away. Jesus did not let rejection stop Him from completing His mission. He set His face toward the task God had asked of Him and completed it.
     What is our reaction when we are rejected? Do we sink into a black hole of despair and give up? Do we believe that we are worthless? Do we think God doesn't love us anymore? As Paul would say, "May it never be!"
     Consider that rejection may be Satan's ploy to discourage us. We shouldn't believe Satan's lies. Rejection may teach us a lesson. Maybe we could have done things differently to procure a better outcome. Or just perhaps, God has better plans for us. Remember that "A man's heart deviseth his way; but Jehovah directeth his steps" (Proverbs 16:9). When we trust God, He will keep us and show us His way for us.

- Donna 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, and World Eternal: Perils, and her newest book, Finding Her Heart,  are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other book outlets. For more information visit her website. http://www.donnarwittlif.com/


Expressions & Impressions

By Ron Thomas

    Are you approachable? It is likely each of us can say, “Yes, I am approachable. Why do you ask?” It was not long ago that I heard a sister say to the preacher, “You’re approachable.” This is an interesting remark. Is the case that some in the congregation, perhaps Bible class teachers, other saints, elders are not? Perhaps. On the other hand, maybe all that was meant is the preacher is approachable and easy to talk to.
    Are you judgmental? Some time back, a good way in fact, I heard a person say of an elder, “He is judgmental!” The context of that remark had to do with “Let us not approach him lest we be given a judgmental lecture about how we have done this or that wrong.” The idea behind the word “judgmental” is negative in just about every use of the word. We all have a standard by which we live and judge. Most of the time the standard is of our own making, but the standard by which we live and judge is to be the Lord’s. Then, putting that into practice, we form our opinions along with our experiences into a firm decree by which we live. When that decree by which I live is compelled on another person without them asking for it, I become judgmental. I have learned long ago this is a recipe for separation.
    Again, not too long ago, I heard a brother say that when something was introduced into his mind, say some failings or struggle that belongs to a particular saint, the brother who is told this information – told because there is a desire to receive help to overcome – the brother told now can’t get the impression from the mind. Consequently, whenever the struggling one presents him or herself to the preacher, the impression made is the only image seen. The preacher now has to get over the hurdle to be of any help, while the one needing help does not realize the extra height that needs to be scaled.
    Have you come across a saint who mumbles much, says nothing in the mumbling worth hearing, but is judgmental in the saying of it? I have. Rather disappointing. Murmuring/mumbling destroyed the nation of Israel (1 Cor. 10:9-10) and it destroys the saint who engages in the same.
    This goes a long way to solving all of the above: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Phil. 4:8).
    Each of us should put it into practice.

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



Look Into the Mirror

By Johnny Hester

James 1:23-25, "For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does."
    Grandpa and his precious, tiny granddaughter were sitting together talking when she asked, “Did God make you, Grandpa?” “Yes, God made me,” the grandfather answered. After a significant pause, the little girl asked him, “Did God make me too?” “Yes, He did,” the old man responded. For a few minutes the little girl seemed to be studying her grandpa, as well as her own reflection in a nearby mirror. The grandfather wondered what thoughts were running through her innocent, inquisitive mind. At last she broke the silence: “You know what, Grandpa,” she said in child-like candor, “God’s been doing a lot better job lately.”
    I love that story. But it hurts a little. A well-made mirror does not lie. We may not like mirrors, but we need them to determine whether we are presentable.
    To determine whether we are acceptable to God, we need to look continually into the mirror of His Word. As we see our reflection in view of what He requires of us, we can make adjustments by bringing our lives into compliance with His will. Thus, according to James’ inspired words, one will “be blessed in what he does.”
    Our Bible classes provide a great opportunity for us to look into God’s Word and take stock of where we are in our spiritual lives. If you already attend and actively participate in the studies, you already know the blessings produced in your own lives. Keep it up. If you do not regularly attend any of our Bible class offerings, please give them a try. I think you will discover blessings in your life resulting from consistently looking into the mirror of God’s Word.

- Johnny Hester preaches for the Matthews Church of Christ in Matthews, MO. He may be contacted at johnnyhester@yahoo.com