Thursday, February 13, 2020

Our Need for Grace

By David Bragg

    On Father’s Day in 2003 Brian (10) was innocently playing with a pair of old handcuffs that his father, a former security guard, had laying around. Brian decided to “attach” himself to his father, who was glad to play along until he realized that the key was missing. After an exhaustive search the police were contacted to help remove the cuffs, which they did, and replaced them with new ones. As a result of routine background checks they discovered two outstanding warrants on Brian’s dad (Des Moines Register, June 17, 2003). He thought he had escaped his past. Justice is not very forgiving!
    The sad reality of life is that we all struggle with sin. Not only do we struggle, we consistently lose that battle. Two familiar verses burn this reality into our minds: "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23) and "the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23). Therefore, we need God's grace.
    Grace has been described in various ways. It is “God’s unmerited favor,” or "God's Riches At Christ's Expense." But no matter how you define it, grace is essential. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8).

- 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/



You Care

By J. Randal Matheny

You care for me I know,
And daily watch the flow
  of history;
The whole of man you guide
And with the meek reside —
  With even me.

For glory comes the call,
From him who knows us all
  And loves us more;
Believe, obey, and trust —
Take all these steps we must
  To enter the door.

We pray for Christ to come,
To judge by word and plumb —
  For him we wait.
We're eager to hear our names,
Receive our heavenly claims,
  Forever celebrate.

- 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.



The Glorious Church

By Ron Bartanen

    Among the descriptive terms used in the New Testament with reference to that body of people that we generally refer to as the church, none is more descriptive of our close relationship to Christ than that of a bride. In Ephesians 5:22-33 Paul, while admonishing wives to be submissive to their husbands, and husbands to love their wives, illustrates their relationship to one another as a reflection of the relationship between Christ and the church. The husband is to be “the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church” (v. 23), but this headship is to be exercised in the spirit of Christ, as he further writes, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it” (v. 25). He anticipates the time when, at the return of Christ, He presents His bride to Himself as “a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish” (v. 26). 
    The beauty and glory of the wedding-attire of the bride of Christ is not of her own doing, but of her husband’s. He has so designed the church that in spite of the deficiencies of those composing the church, it will, in that day, be seen as “a glorious church.” We would do well to consider why and how this could be so. 
    First, the church owes its existence to Christ. The passage in Eph. 5 declares that Christ “gave himself for it” (v. 25b). He purchased the materials that compose the church (the redeemed) with His own blood (Acts 20:28). Had Christ not shed His blood at Calvary, the church would be non-existent. Under another figure, He is the church’s builder (Matt. 16:18; Heb. 8:2). The church’s glory is a reflection of the glory of its builder.
    Second, the glory of the church is seen in its head, Jesus Christ. The Lord’s church has no mere human, or council of men, as its head. As Paul wrote in Col. 1:18: “He is the head of the body, the church…that in all things he might have the preeminence.” 
    Third, the glory of the church is evident in the church’s foundation. “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11). 
    Fourth, the church is glorious because of its glorious purpose. Paul wrote of its purpose when he said, “Unto him (Christ) be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end” (Eph. 3:21). Through Christ, the redeemed glorify God as the people reconciled to God “in one body by the cross” (Eph. 2:16). Returning to Eph. 5, Christ is both the “head of the church, and he is the Savior of the body” (v. 23). The purpose of the church is to exist in this world as that body of people called out of the world to show forth the good news of salvation in Christ.  

    While the church is commonly vilified in the world, its glory will one day be evident. Among the closing visions of John on the Isle of Patmos is that of “the bride, the Lamb’s (Christ’s) wife” (Rev. 21:9). She is portrayed as a city, “the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God…” (21:10b-11a). A city is identified most of all by its inhabitants. The mansions in which we shall dwell (John 14:1-4) will be glorious, but also what we suffer for Christ’s sake personally is “not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). 
    Those who shall partake of this glory are identified as those who are first sanctified and cleansed of sin “with the washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:26). Have you surrendered yourself to Christ, and been added by the Lord to His glorious church?  (Read Acts 2:36-47)

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



Eat Right!

By Edd Sterchi

“Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy?  Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, And let your soul delight itself in abundance.” (Isa. 55:2).
    Let’s admit something up front: There is food that is good for us and there is junk food. There is food that builds the bones and muscles, and there is food that clogs the arteries. There is food that provides energy, and there is food that adds fat. In short, there is good food and bad food.
    Now, understanding that, let us ask this: Why would people spend good money on bad food? I know the answer, because I have done this (and so have you). We do it because we like the way it tastes.
    God asked a similar question twenty-seven hundred years ago about how His people were feeding their souls. They seem to have been more interested consuming spiritual junk food than in eating a healthy spiritual diet. They were doing this by disobeying God and living in ways that dishonored Him. As a result of consuming the wrong spiritual diet, they were bringing spiritual sickness and harm to themselves.
    But God did not just give the warning of what would happen if they continued eating spiritual junk food, He gave them a dietary plan that would bring them back to spiritual health. They were to “forsake” their wicked ways and thoughts (Isa. 55:7) and “return to the LORD” (Isa. 55:7). And they were to consume the food that was good for their souls – the word of God (Isa. 55:11). Doing this would cause spiritual health which brings joy and peace (Isa. 55:12).
    There’s a great analogy in this for us. When the arteries of the soul are clogged through a bad spiritual diet, cardiac arrest of the spirit can happen. Instead of beating regularly and powerfully with love for God, the heart becomes cold and heavy and spiritual activity stops.
    Christian, do you desire a spiritually healthy life? Then hunger for His word. Feed on it, digest it, and allow it to generate spiritual strength and energy for your life. Eat some “soul food” every day.

- 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/



I Will be Forever in His Debt

By Gerald Cowan
                                   
In Christ I’ve learned to give as well as take.
In serving others, I serve for his sake.
But it is also for my own soul’s sake.

His love has given me new life to live.
I’m giving back what Christ gave me to give.
By sharing him I earn the right to live.

The truest gift I can give is my life.
But I am his. He bought me with his life.
I give what is already his – my life.

What I am giving, Christ my Lord will keep
Until I wake from death’s long dreaded sleep.
He, through eternity, my soul will keep.

Although my debt to him is never paid,
In life or death I will not be afraid,
Secured by what the Lord and I have paid.

- 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



Easter

By Ron Thomas

    The significance of Easter to a great many people is in relation to the Lord’s resurrection from the grave. The importance of the Lord’s resurrection is in the message of hope to a people lost in sin (all are lost in sin; Romans 3:23). With this message of hope, is a message of warning. Paul spoke to those in Athens, saying, “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead" (Acts 17:30-31, ESV).  A coming day of judgment is something people understand as a matter of justice, but some confusion surrounds the idea of justice and precisely how it will be applied. For what will one be judged, what standard will be used to judge and what happens after the judgment is rendered?
    Briefly, let us address each question. For what will one be judged? The things done in this life. Paul wrote about this in his letter to the church in Corinth (2 Corinthians 5:10). “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” The words “good” and “evil” are understood exclusively in relation to the Lord’s express will. 
    The standard used to judge us is the standard of God’s holy will as spoken by the Lord Jesus Himself (John 12:48). “The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.” This means the life we have chosen to live will be measured against the life the Lord wants us to live. If one chooses poorly, then on that day of judgment, the one who chose poorly will not hear pleasant words (cf. Matthew 25:37-43). 
    At Judgment, what happens? “When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:31-32, KJV). There is no chance we can escape this day, but there is an opportunity to escape the Lord’s disapproval. 
    Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God? If so, change your way of thinking, confess Him as your Lord, be buried (immersion) with Him in baptism (Romans 6:3-7). Do this and live faithfully for Him (Rev. 2:10), and you will hear words that are most pleasant (Matthew 25:44-46). Before you know it, judgment day will arrive! For the faithful Christian, judgment day will be a grand day, but for the one who refuses to obey, judgment day will be a day of horror! Brighten your day and to Jesus obey. 


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


A Strong Sense of Family

By Neal Pollard

    Trevor Matich was being interviewed on ESPN radio, asked about why he thought that Clemson had built such a strong football program in the last few years. His quick response was, "They have built a strong sense of family." He talked about how Head Coach Dabo Sweeney and his staff wanted players to see their coaches not just as coaches but also as husbands and fathers. Consequently, the coaches' families spend a lot of time around the athletic facilities or hanging out with the players. They have intentionally built a strong family environment that doesn't compartmentalize but rather coalesces. Recruits talk about sensing it when they make a visit, but, more importantly, players on the roster speak just as strongly about it. 
    How many teams make such an emphasis isn't clear, but you don't seem to hear that said often enough. While I find such human interest stories heartwarming, it makes me wonder, "Do people describe our congregation with similar terminology?" Are we creating, developing, and nurturing a strong sense of family?
    The early church definitely majored in   that priority. From the time the first church of our Savior was established, we find this emphasis (Acts 2:42-47). Often, New Testament writers spoke of the church with family terminology (Eph. 2:19; 3:15; 1 Tim. 3:15; 5:1-2; Ti. 2:1-8; etc.). The church exists as a subcommunity within the broader community around them. People from that broader community are looking for greater intimacy and meaningful relationships. One place they often turn is to various churches. Whether through our efforts to evangelize or through their seeking that brings them within our walls, we have an opportunity to expose them to a "strong sense of family." 
    But, by being faithful to New Testament teaching, we offer this in the context of truth rather than error. We cannot settle for simply offering truth, as eternally vital as that is. Along with it, we must love, embrace, and work to incorporate them into our family. God has His church designed to follow His written will in the context of a tight-knit, spiritual family. A true sense of family will draw them into a relationship with us. It will better open their hearts and minds to being drawn into a relationship with Christ. The net effect will be greater than a national championship. It will be many, many souls won to eternal life. We cannot afford to miss the opportunity to be spiritual family!

- Neal Pollard preaches for the Bear Valley church of Christ in Denver, CO. He also publishes an e-mail newsletter, Daily Bread. You can visit their website at http://www.bearvalleycofc.com/



Reflecting His Light

By Johnny Hester

    Urbain Jean Joseph Le Verrier (11 March 1811 – 23 September 1877) was a French astronomer and mathematician who specialized in celestial mechanics and is best known for predicting the existence and position of Neptune using only mathematics. Le Verrier observed slight irregularities in the orbit of the planet Uranus. He surmised that this must be due to some unknown influence or attraction. Searching for the attractive force led him to discover a formerly “invisible” planet, Neptune.
    What does this have to do with us? Brothers and sisters, here’s the point: If we, as individuals and as a church, are truly being influenced by our association with Christ, people will notice a difference in our lives and curiously investigate what the cause might be.
    You have perhaps read many times the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 5:14-16. Please read them once again in the context of what we are here studying. Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”
    Light doesn’t have to draw attention to itself—it is self-evident. Just so, as your life orbits around Christ you reflect His light into a world darkened by sin. People who observe the difference in your life will wonder what it is that makes you different. This curiosity may well lead someone to discover the One whose Light you are reflecting.

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



Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

By Steve Higginbotham

    The story is told of a missionary who once visited a very primitive tribe of people. These people had very little contact with the outside world, and they were totally unfamiliar with many things we take for granted. One of the things they had never before seen was a mirror. The only way they knew what they looked like was the very poor reflection one can sometimes see in the water. One day, the missionary hung a mirror on a tree. The tribe's chief happened to walk past the mirror, so he stopped, stood there, and looked at it for quite some time. Then he walked directly to the missionary and asked him to explain.  The missionary explained what a mirror was and that it was a reflection of what he looked like. The chief promptly walked back to the mirror, took it off the tree, and smashed it on the ground. The missionary asked him why he broke the mirror to which the chief replied, "Because the face that was being reflected was ugly."
    When I heard that story, I couldn't help but think that in spite of all our sophistication, we still behave quite primitively at times.  God's word functions a mirror to our soul. We can look at it and learn exactly what we look like to God and others. Sometimes, the reflection is not very flattering.  So we're left with a choice.  Do we try to destroy the mirror?  Do we refuse to look in the mirror again?  Or do we do what we can to improve the way we look?
    I know what the tribal chief did, but what do you do?  Give it some thought.

"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" (James 1:23-25).

- 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 



Things Jesus and His Apostles Never Said

By Seth Myers

    When we open the New Testament, we have the blessing of reading two invaluable things:
1. The inspired record of the things Jesus did and taught.
2. The inspired record of the things Jesus’ chosen apostles did and taught.
In no other place can one find these treasures.
    In no other place on planet Earth can either of these treasures be found. Therefore, we ought to take great pains to note the things we find in the New Testament Scriptures, as well as those things we do NOT find. The latter—common practices or traditions that are not found in the NT—is what we will consider for a moment here.
    Take, for instance, the question of how to be saved. There is a sad state of affairs in our day: many things today are said and taught in response to this all-important, eternity-altering question which are simply not in the New Testament. The question we should ask ourselves is this: “What did the Lord and/or His apostles tell people when they were asked this question?” The answer to that question will be the most valuable information one could ever hope to obtain on the subject. Everything else is completely irrelevant, and utterly worthless.
    Here are some examples of things neither the Lord, nor His apostles, nor any other inspired man, ever told anyone to do to be saved:

  1. Drink two 12 oz. cans of your favorite soft drink.
  2. Bathe three hours in 95ยบ lemon juice.
  3. Read any four of Shakespeare’s classics.
  4. Acknowledge your sinfulness, “Believe in” Jesus, and “Call upon His name.”
  5. “Believe in” Jesus and pray the Sinner’s Prayer.
None of these things were ever spoken by the Lord or His inspired apostles. Therefore, as absurd as #2 most certainly is, it is no more absurd than number #5—for their absurdities are both due to the simple fact that they are not from God and will thus not result in salvation!
    In truth, the only way one can know how to be saved is to look to the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) on the subject, in the New Testament. When one does that, this is the pattern one finds:

  1. HEAR the Truth/Gospel (Rom. 10:17)
  2. BELIEVE the Truth/Gospel (Rom. 10:10)
  3. REPENT of Your Sins (Lk. 13:3,5; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30; 26:20)
  4. CONFESS JESUS [i.e., as the Son of God in truth] (Rom. 10:17; cf. Acts 8:34)
  5. BE IMMERSED, IN WATER, UNTO [“in order to“—i.e., “for the purpose of”] THE REMISSION OF SINS (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; 8:36; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:27; Jn. 3:3-5; 1 Pet. 3:20,21)
In no other way can man be saved, but in the way which God has prescribed; and this is what God has said. Will you believe God (cf. Rom. 4:3; Isa. 43:10; Jn. 8:46; Deut. 1:32)?

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



Treasure!

By Joe Slater


    Maybe you should vacation in the Rockies this summer. Back in 2010 Mr. Forest Fenn, a New Mexico art dealer, hid a chest of gold nuggets and precious jewels worth about $2-million somewhere in the Rockies. He even published a map and poem he said contained all the hints you need to find the treasure. Some 350,000 people have tried to locate it, all to no avail. A few people have died in accidents while searching.
    Mr. Fenn said he hid the cache to promote fishing and other outdoor activities involving families pursuing the riches. “I wanted to give kids something to do. They spend too much time in the game room or playing with their little handheld texting machines.”**
    No doubt our children would be better served by hiking and fishing than by endlessly playing video games! And I understand the attraction of a $2-million stash of gold and jewels! I’m disturbed, however, by the preoccupation with “uncertain riches” (1 Timothy 6:17), contrasted with the evident lack of interest in eternal, spiritual matters.
    Jesus spoke of a treasure hidden in a field; the man who found it sold everything he had to buy the field. It wasn’t money, but God’s kingdom (Matthew 13:44). I’d love to see 350,000 people seeking the kingdom with the intensity they show toward gold and jewels.
    What about us? What are we telling our children when we will move heaven and earth to attend every practice and every game for sports, but casually miss Bible classes and church? We say God is most important, but is He? Really? Think about it.

- 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


**https://www.yahoo.com/news/millionaire-hid-treasure-rocky-mountains-134324925.html.




Becoming Like God … in Giving

By Joe Chesser

    We all want God to be generous with us. We’ve come to expect it. We’ve been taught that God loves to give abundantly, “good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over” (Luke 6.38). It’s God’s nature to give lavishly (Eph. 1.8). It’s a part of who He is. “For God so loved the world that he gave …” (John 3.16). God is generous in all kinds of blessings. He is able to “make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work” (2 Cor. 9.8-emphasis mine). God’s nature is to be generous in giving.
    And we love to soak it in. We love that Jesus came to give us abundant life (John 10.10). We love that Jesus encouraged us to “Ask, and you will receive” because the Father knows how to give good gifts (Matt. 7.7, 13). We feel confident to pray for more … more money, more protection, more healing, more forgiveness, more time, more peace, more wisdom … more blessings of all kinds. That’s OK, because God wants to bless us abundantly, and He knows how and when to do so for our good (Rom. 8.28).
    But something else God wants us to learn to do, if we haven’t done so yet, is to become like Him in our giving. Just like every other trait of God, He wants us to become like Him in generosity (Luke 6.38). God is not stingy, and He does not want us to be reluctant, skimpy givers. “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Cor. 9.6). God loves it when we purposefully plan to become a willing and cheerful generous giver (2 Cor. 9.7). In fact, that is something God expects us to become. God has promised that the more we learn to be generous in our giving like He is, the more He will enable us: “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God” (2 Cor. 9.11 NIV).
    When our giving comes from a heart that loves God and seeks to be like Him in every way possible, God is honored and enables us to do more than we can imagine. How could the Corinthians give “beyond their ability”? The answer is that when they “gave themselves first to the Lord,” the Lord blessed them to give more than they could on their own. Even extreme poverty didn’t prevent them from giving generously, nor did it prevent God from working through them (2 Cor. 8.1-5). Generosity is not a matter of abundance but a matter of a heart trying to be like God.
    There is no fear for ourselves in giving generously when we give with the motives of God. There is no reluctance or stinginess when we give with motives of God. There is no selfishness or greed when we give with the motives of God (James 4.2-4). Becoming like God in our giving will only result in multiple blessings, blessings we will cherish now and forever as we lay up treasures in heaven (Matt. 6.19-21). It’s a win-win, no-brainer offer from God. So, examine your giving to see if you have become like God.


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


Shaped by the Master

By David A. Sargent

    Cubby Sellers recently described some projects that he enjoyed with his dear friend, Elton Love: “I went with Elton a few times to cut some wood. Most people would think that we were cutting firewood. But with Elton, after the tree was cut down, he would look at the end of the log to see how the grain of the wood looked. Then he would measure the length he wanted, make a mark, and we would cut it again. Then he checked the grain again at the both ends, made his mark, and cut it so as to split the log length-wise. We would repeat this process until we had all the wood he needed.
    "Later he would take a piece of that wood, place it onto his wood turning lathe, and work with it for some time. All the while, woodchips and sawdust would be flying all around him. And then as if some magic had happened, he would have a beautiful hand-turned wooden bowl. The wood grain was clearly in view and stood out beautifully. Then I understood why Elton had looked at the end of that log and made the decision about which way to make to cut to split the log.
    "Elton taught me how to take a plain old piece of firewood and turn it into something beautiful, a piece of hand-turned wooden art. Those were some good times that we shared together and the woodturnings that we made are artworks that I will cherish forever.”
    Notice again Cubby’s statement: “Elton taught me how to take a plain old piece of firewood and turn it into something beautiful, a piece of hand-turned wooden art.”
    I love that statement. I love it because it reveals one of Elton’s incredible talents. I also love it because it reminds me of the Master Carpenter, Jesus Himself.
    Jesus was the son of a carpenter and likely was taught the trade by His earthly father, Joseph. Think about how, like Elton, Jesus would have been taught to look at a piece of wood and “turn it into something beautiful, a piece of hand-turned wooden art.” What houses did Jesus help build? What types of furniture, perhaps?
    But it was PEOPLE in which Jesus was most interested. He could look at a person and see what he or she could become with His skillful hands.

    Here’s an example: when Andrew brought his brother, Simon, to Jesus, Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas (which is translated, A Stone)” (John 1:42). “Jesus looked at him” – and He saw what Simon was, what He would do – including the blunders he would make – but also what He could make of Him. Jesus saw that He would make Him into a “Rock” in the kingdom, a powerful proclaimer of the Gospel, the Good News (see Acts 2).
    Jesus took “an old piece of firewood” and made it into a wonderful piece of art. He did that for Peter. He wants to do that in each of our lives. And He will, if we will only submit ourselves to Him in obedience to His will. He will conform us into His own image (Romans 8:29). That is the greatest Image of all.
    Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins. Now, He lives to mold us into His image (2 Corinthians 3:18).
    God will save and give eternal life to those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). He will continue to cleanse from sin and mold the lives of those who continue to submit to His will (1 John 1:7-9).
    Won’t YOU submit your life to the hands of the Master Carpenter so that He can save you and mold you more and more into His image?

- 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

P.S.  In loving memory of my friend and brother in the Lord, Elton E. Love. I love the work that Christ did in his life.



Who Will Be Saved!

By Kevin V. Rutherford

    Should Christians desire that all people be saved? Absolutely! God does (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). We should strongly, deeply, and dearly love God with every aspect of our being (Mark 12:30). We must love our wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ with an abiding, longsuffering, and sacrificial love (1 Corinthians 13; 1 John 3:10-5:3). In fact, we must love all people (Mark 12:31)! We want all people to be saved, because we love all people, even as God loves all people (John 3:14-21; 1 John 3:16; Romans 5:8-11).  
     Will all people be saved? Sadly, no. The love, care, and compassion we have for others can bring grief and heaviness to our hearts as we contemplate the fact that there are some individuals who are not going to be saved (Matthew 7:13-14). We do not rejoice in this. God does not rejoice in this (Ezekiel 18:29-32). But universalism is not true. That is, God will not save everyone. Everyone has the opportunity for salvation (John 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9; Acts 10:34-35; Titus 2:11; Romans 1:16-17). But not all will choose to call upon God for salvation (Joshua 24:15; Acts 13:46; Romans 10; Acts 2:21-41; Matthew 7:13-29).
     What then is the standard by which it can be determined who is going to be saved? Is it the doctrines and commandments of men? Absolutely not (Matthew 15:1-9)! Is it one’s opinions and gut feelings? Most assuredly, no (Jeremiah 7:23-24; 10:23; 11:8; 13:9-10)! The Word of God, the Holy Scriptures, the Divinely Inspired Bible is the standard of authority which identifies who will be saved and who will be lost (1 Timothy 4:1-6; 2 Timothy 2:14-4:5; 2 Thessalonians 1:3-12; 1 Corinthians 1-3; Romans 2:1-16). It is this God given standard that tells us those who do the will of the Father in heaven will be saved, and those who will not do what God says will be lost (Matthew 7:21-27).
     There can be no doubt that God is the judge! He will judge the world through His Son someday (Acts 17:31), and the truth will be the standard by which His Son will judge the world (Acts 17:30; John 17:17; John 8:31-36; 1 Peter 1:13-25; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; John 12:44-50). Ignorance of the Word of God will be no excuse (Acts 17:30; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). The Bible is the standard by which one can determine who is going to be saved and who is going to be lost. Therefore, one’s opinions or doctrines that originate with men rather than God have absolutely zero authority (Acts 5:29; 2 Peter 1:16-21; Matthew 15:9). In fact the doctrines of men, the personal feelings of people, and the current cultural climate are standards which will cause people to be lost (Romans 16:17-18; 1 Timothy 1:3-4; 2 Timothy 2:14-18; Titus 1:9-16; Galatians 1:6-10).    

- 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/



5 Dangers of Missing Church

By Jeff Arnette

    I read an article on the website churchleaders.com with this same title and I wanted to share some of the main ideas with you. You can follow the link above for the full article.
    In the article, the author spoke about the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) and attendance trends. He said that the SBC had a membership of 16 million members but on any given Sunday, only 6 million attend a church service. I must agree with the author that this is extremely discouraging and a dangerous statistic. Yet, on the other hand, it’s encouraging to hear that we’re not the only one struggling with attendance problems. Just like the SBC, on any given Sunday, there are more church members absent than are present.
    This is discouraging and disheartening for those who are trying to grow personally, spiritually and see the Lord's church grow. It is also discouraging and disheartening for the various Sunday School Teachers who have put in a lot of time and effort to prepare to teach a class only to show up and more than half of their students are not there. More importantly, this is dangerous for your faith and those we are trying to teach to be faithful Christians. Every time you choose to stay home or do something else, you are teaching all of us a powerful lesson that is hard to forget. The lesson is clear: Church, Faith, and Jesus are not that important. It is also an extremely dangerous situation for you! When you don’t come to church services you are placing your own soul and salvation in a very precarious position.
    When you miss church, you miss out on God’s primary plan for your growth and well-being. The church is not an afterthought or a mistake! It is God’s plan that is meant to support and help you grow. The preaching and teaching of God’s word in this group setting motivate each of us to strive for Christ-likeness.
    When you miss church, you are disobeying God. Assembling with the church is not optional nor is it subject to your whims. Hebrews 10:24-25 teaches us to avoid neglecting the public assembly of the church. At the very least, you need to understand that this is the will of God for you.
    When you miss church, you proclaim that Jesus is not worthy of worship. Where we spend our time reveals the things, we truly value. If you miss church to sleep in or attend a sporting event, it says that thing is more important than Jesus. Don’t ever forget that it teaches your family (children included) that it’s not worth the effort. Do you want to see your friends and family saved? Teach them by your example!
    When you miss church, you can’t serve anyone else. Too often we think of the church as a place to have our needs met. Therefore, if my needs are not being met, I can stay home. The problem with this is serious. It makes church all about you. It is selfish, individualistic, and misses the heart of Jesus. Jesus was a servant (Matt. 20:28) and He expects you to be as well.

    Lastly, when you miss church, you miss out on a foretaste of heaven itself. Revelation 22:3 tells us that heaven will be worship. Do you realize that this means that heaven is going to be like church? An eternity spent worshiping our Lord. With that said, if you don’t do it here nor like it, why would you think you will get to do it in heaven.
    Don’t allow the church, Bible study, worship, and fellowship, to become something you miss because it just might cause you to miss out on everything, even heaven itself.

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



Can You See?

By Donna Wittlif

"And the God of all grace, who called you unto his eternal glory in Christ, after that ye have suffered a little while, shall himself perfect, establish, strengthen you" (1 Peter 5:10, ASV).
    She was ninety years old and feeble, shut up in a nursing home. Angry and bitter, she had few friends there. Yes, family and church members came to see her, but she didn't enjoy their visits. Although she had served God faithfully, He had forsaken her. At least she thought He had forsaken her, but in her anger and disappointment, she had forsaken Him. She had gone blind, and to her, it was all God's fault.
    No, she couldn't see. She couldn't look back and see all the times God had blessed her. He had given her a Christian husband, children, and the needed material things for her life.
    She didn't remember that God had blessed her with all spiritual blessings. Through Jesus she had forgiveness of sins, and therefore, could be free from guilt. She could claim the righteousness of Jesus for her own and stand before God. She had God's care and comfort during her life. If only she could look back and remember all these things.
    But most sadly, she couldn't look forward with hope to sharing in Christ's glory with God. Surely it would be only a few short years before she would have a new body free from pain. Her new eyes would behold the things that God had prepared for her. Since she had forsaken God, she would never know the glories and wonders of God in heaven, things so wonderful that no one can even imagine them.
    Can you see the blessings of God in your life? Can you see His wonderful promises through faith? May you never lose that hope.

- 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/



“We Don't Study the Bible"

By Bill Brandstatter

    In a Bible study a few years ago, a lady made a startling revelation to me. She mentioned the name of the group she was associated with; then she said, “We don’t study the Bible.” She then admitted they needed to study it more. When another lady in the class asked her if she had a Bible, again it was affirmed that she didn’t study the Bible. The first lady did stay for our class and did study with us. She was right in saying her group needed to study the Bible more.
    The Bible is God speaking to us. Paul indicated, “All scripture is given by the inspiration of God.” (2 Tim. 3:16) Peter acknowledged that “Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Pet. 1:21) God speaks from His Word. God speaks to us by His Son. (Heb. 1:2) Are you listening?
    The Bible is a lamp and a light. (Ps. 119:105) The Bible can help us to better understand life and its difficulties. It can also provide us with all that we need to face temptation and all that this world throws at us. Paul advises that we “put on the whole armor of God.” (Eph. 6:11) Without the Bible in our lives, Satan cannot be resisted effectively.
    The Bible is man’s source for the future. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know I have a future and I know it is in God’s hands. After death, every person has a future. The Bible says, “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” (Heb. 9:27 NKJV) That future involves eternity. Jesus said the future is either everlasting punishment or eternal life. (Matt. 25:46) Where I spend eternity depends on what I do now. The words of Jesus and our obedience to them will be the determining factor in judgment. (Jno.12:48; Heb. 5:8, 9)
    The Bible is our source for the right equipment in life. Paul wrote that through the Scriptures, “the man of God may be “complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:17 NKJV) Man cannot provide the equipment that the Bible does. How equipped are we to handle tragedy in our lives? Remember, Paul stated, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom. 10:17). Without the Bible I would not have the faith I need to get through this life or get to eternity.
    Do you need to study the Bible more? Think about what the lady said at a recent Bible study. God will bless us and heaven can be our home if we “receive with meekness the implanted word which is able to save your souls.” (James 1:21)

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



Coincidence vs. Providence

By Adam Faughn

    There are some stories in history that just make you shake your head at the amazing level of coincidence that happens. For example, Abraham Lincoln’s son, Robert Lincoln, was present, as you might expect, when his father died from the wounds he sustained by an assassin's bullet. However, it is merely coincidence that Robert Lincoln was also in the larger crowd when President James Garfield was shot several years later. Garfield would die from the wounds about two months later.
    Even more amazing is that Robert Lincoln was also on his way to meet President William McKinley when he was assassinated in 1901. Lincoln was actually in the same town and on his way to meet the president when the assassination occurred.
    We are often amazed at these times of coincidence, and they are amazing. We must ask, though, is everything that happens in our life merely coincidence? Are we just living and having events happen in our lives solely by mere chance?
    For the Christian, we understand that some things in life “just happen.” On the other hand, we also know that God is still working in this world through providence. Providence is the manner in which God works through the natural forces of this world in order to bring about His will. It is often silent in the moment, but, when we look back on something, we often see God’s providential hand all over certain events that “just happened” to work out.
    Paul, when he wrote to Philemon, tried to explain why the slave Onesimus ran away and ended up where Paul was in Rome. In Philemon 15, the apostle wrote, “For this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever” (emphasis added). Whether God worked this out through providence or whether it was mere coincidence was not specifically revealed to Paul, even by inspiration, but Paul seemed to indicate that he believed it was more than happenstance.
    When we realize that “for those who love God all things work together for good” (Romans 8:28), and that God does not work via miracles any longer (see 1 Corinthians 12-14), do we take the time to thank and praise Him for those “perhaps” moments in our lives? They will be times of good and comfort, of joy and healing, of amazement and peace, though we may not realize His hand at work in those things until after the fact. Still, for each of them, may we give Him the glory.

- 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



Children’s Games

By A. C. Quinn

    Among the games children play, especially when they are desperately attempting to escape the retribution of parents or others in authority, is the blame game. The object of this game is for the child to somehow place the responsibility for his unacceptable words or deeds on someone else, freeing himself from whatever the consequences may be. “He did it,” or “She did it” are the oft heard refrains.
    Tragically, it is not just children who play the blame game. Many adults play it. It is so sad but true, too many members of the church play the same childish game in a feeble attempt to dodge their duties and obligations to the Lord’s church where they worship.
    Some church members who do not attend services regularly blame their spasmodic attendance on hypocrites. They cannot bear sitting beside a hypocrite in the house of worship, and truly, the church does have its hypocrites. One has to wonder, however, about the sincerity of this rational, and when he does, he will ask some serious questions: “Are there no hypocrites in the restaurants and other retail businesses folks frequently patronize?” “Do hypocrites not attend sporting events--baseball, football, soccer, etc?”
It would appear that one so repulsed by hypocrites in the church would be equally repulsed by them at other events, but that appears not to be the case at all.
    Christians should be disgusted with hypocrites, but they should not allow them to become the stumbling block which hinders them from doing their duty. In fact, all should realize that hell will have a sizeable population of hypocrites, and there will not be any special seating arrangements for the self-righteous who want to avoid them.

- A. C. Quinn preaches for the West Main Church of Christ in Wolfe City, Texas. He may be contacted at acuen30@gmail.com



Putting Forth the Effort

By Alan Smith

    An instructor was sitting in his office one afternoon when an attractive, very attractive lady knocked on his door.
    "Yes?", he replied, "how may I help you?"
    The lady said "I need to talk to you about my grade in your class."
    "Come in and have a seat," said the instructor.
    "Is there anything I can do to get an 'A' in your class?"
    "What do you mean by anything?" he replied.
    "Anything," she said.
    "Anything?" he asked again.
    She said, in her best sultry voice, "I mean anything."
    The instructor got up from behind his desk, sat down beside her and whispered in her ear, "Would you study?"
    There are many goals that we want to achieve -- better grades, lower weight, a place on an athletic team, success in business, greater Bible knowledge, a closer relationship with God. The question is, "Are we willing the put forth the necessary effort to achieve our goals? Are we truly willing to do anything?"
    I heard once about a Christian who approached a great man of God (I believe it was Gus Nichols) and said, "I'd give my life to know the Bible as well as you do." His reply was, "That's what it took." We want the end result, but we often don't want to put forth the effort to achieve that result.
    Paul exhorted the young man Timothy with these words:  "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Timothy 2:15)
    The word "diligence" suggests a great deal of effort and dedication on our part. May God grant you the strength to accomplish your goals as you supply the diligence.
    Have a great day!

- Alan Smith, 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: http://www.cruciformcoc.com/



The Church

By Travis Robertson

And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” Acts 2:47 KJV.
    What is the church? What is your concept of the church?
    Notice that our verse says that the Lord added the saved people to the church. Many people do not appreciate the church. Others have the wrong idea about the church. See if the statements below match your understanding of the church. I do not know who wrote the information, but it has a good description of the church. I added the scripture references.

  • The church is not made up of people who believe they are better than others, but rather it is made up of those who realize they should be better than they are, and must continually strive to do better. 1 Thessalonians 4:1
  • The church is not made up of perfect people, but people who realize they are following a perfect Lord and a perfect law and therefore must do the very best they can to follow it. Romans 3:23, 24
  • The church is not made up of people who never make mistakes, but those who often acknowledge their mistakes and then forsake them. Never must we seek to justify the same mistakes that we make over and over again. Romans 7:14 – 8:1; Romans 6:1-7
  • The church is not trying to withdraw from everyone, but rather to draw everyone into its fellowship and love so that all can walk in the light were God the Father and the Christ are found. 1 John 1:5-10.
    Think about the church this week and study the scriptures concerning the church. Consider what you can do to encourage and build up the church of the living God.

- 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/



God's Warning

By Rob Albright

    Hebrews 6:4-8 teaches that it is possible to fall away from God’s favor (Gal. 5:4). It is possible to become unfaithful to God and His right ways. The Hebrew writer warns us that we can be led astray. Those earlier Christians were led away from Jesus and back to the old law. Some had already fallen and placed themselves beyond redemption because they would not repent and turn back to Jesus.
   The fact is….

.…they were enlightened
.…they tasted the heavenly gift
.…they were partakers of the Holy Spirit
.….they tasted the good word of God 
.....and still turned their back on Jesus.
Even though God provides a way back for penitent people (Gal. 6:1; 1 John 1:7-9; Acts 8:22), many remain in a lost condition because they refuse to comply with God’s plan.
    Yes, we have to be on guard. We cannot assume that we are so strong and Satan cannot overcome us. Just because we have obeyed the gospel and have salvation from past sins, doesn’t mean we cannot fall away from the Lord. We must not only obey the gospel, but also live faithfully (Rev. 2:10).

- 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/ 



The Seven “I AM” Statements of Jesus in John

By David R. Ferguson

    Of all the accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, the Gospel of John arguably provides the most evidence of His Divine nature, and probably none more so than the seven “I AM” statements Jesus makes about Himself. Each of these seven declarations gives insight into the Godly character of Jesus as the Son of God. Each of these statements declare for anyone with ears to hear and with eyes to see that Jesus was... no mere Prophet of God, He was literally what His prophesied title of Immanuel meant: He was “God with Us” (Matthew 1:23).

  1. “I AM the Bread of life” (John 6:35 [RSV]). Jesus was the Manna from God, but He also is the Living Word that sustains mankind (Deuteronomy 8:3; John 1:1).
  2. “I AM the Light of the world” (John 8:12 [RSV]). “God is Light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5 [RSV]). Can it be any clearer Who Jesus is?
  3. “I AM the Door” (John 10:9 [RSV]). Jesus is the passage to the Father that all must pass through for salvation from their sins.
  4. “I AM the Good Shepherd” (John 10:11 [RSV]). “The Lord is my Shepherd” wrote David in Psalm 23:1. Jesus is that Lord!
  5. “I AM the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25 [RSV]). Only those in Christ will be resurrected to eternal life, something only God can bestow.
  6. “I AM the Way, and the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6 [RSV]). Jesus, and only Jesus, is the pathway to the eternal truth of God and life in Him.
  7. “I AM the True Vine” (John 15:1 [RSV]). Any other vine is false and will lead to utter and eternal destruction from God’s Presence.
Perhaps the most compelling statement of His Divinity came when Jesus forthrightly declared in John 8:58 [RSV], “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Anyone could make such a claim, but only Jesus could back it up. The miracles He performed culminating in His resurrection proved He was, indeed, Divine. Jesus was and is the Living God Who took on human flesh!
    May the Living God bless you and your family!


- 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