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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

The Most Difficult Command

By Joe Chesser
      
     What do you think is the most difficult command God has given us? I’m sure you could think of many options. I'm guessing the rich young ruler in Matthew 19 thought selling all his property and giving it to the poor was the most difficult thing God expected. And that would be tough, wouldn’t it? Others might think the command in Luke 9.23 to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Jesus might the most difficult thing to do.  What about the command to make every effort to live at peace with all men (Hebrews 12.14)? All men? Really? That is challenging.
     To decide which command God has given is the most difficult of all may not be possible, or even necessary. But this question came to my mind when I read 1 Corinthians 16.14: “Let all that you do be done in love.” Now, that’s a tall order!
     This is not a difficult command because it is hard to understand. It’s a pretty simple statement. Do everything in love. You’d need help to misunderstand this. No, what makes this so challenging is that it is so unnatural for us. We do not naturally love like God does, especially in everything we do. God’s love is agape love, meaning that love is constantly looking for a way to do good to others regardless of how that love is received or returned. God is the epitome of “Let all that you do be done in love.” And through His transforming power, that is what we can become, but it goes against our human nature. Our love is inconsistent. Our love is conditional. Our love is biased. Our love is selfish.
     It’s not natural for husbands and wives to treat each other with love all day every day.  It’s not natural for parents to be 100% loving to their children all the time. It’s not natural for us to always be loving towards our neighbors or co-workers or even our friends. It’s not natural for us to do everything in love when in traffic or at ball games or in politics. It’s not natural for us to love the lost so much we will sacrifice our time, money and energy in taking the gospel to the whole world.
     It’s not natural. It’s very difficult. But it is possible. I know it’s possible because that what God says He expects of us. That’s why He taught us that the greatest command is to love Him with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, and the second greatest command is to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12.30-31). That’s why it was necessary for Jesus to become flesh and go to the cross … so that we could witness love in action. That’s why God gave His powerful, active word (Hebrews 4.12) that can transform our minds to become like Him (Romans 12.2).
     Doing everything in love is a most difficult command. But it is possible!

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

I’ve Had My Fill!

By Ron Thomas

     Perhaps you heard someone say something like the following: “The last time I went to church, some lady named Mary seemed to be very unpleasant. I can move past that, I thought, but when I sat down, I received cold stares because,” I was told, “you are sitting in Brother and Sister Pleasant’s seats. That was it, I moved on. Thought to myself, if that is ‘church,’ I’ve had my fill of it!”
     Has this or something similar happened to you? Perhaps not. Many, however, have had an experience like this, maybe even worse. If you’ve had a bad experience, let me encourage to think afresh about “church.”
     In the New Testament, the word “church” is directly related to people called out of the world of sin into a world where people assemble to praise the Almighty for the salvation He freely gave and gives to each. With all the baggage they should have left behind, many present themselves to the Lord with it. Sue has been divorced three times and now married to her fourth husband. Mike has spent the last eighteen years fighting his drug addiction. Tim and Mary have children that are very undisciplined because Tim and Mary are also undisciplined. The list of all the baggage that people bring goes on and on. I, too, have my own baggage.
     Yet, here they are inside a building where people gather together to be taught the Lord’s word, sing and praise His holy name in worship. Not a one has lived life without some blotch (or many) on their personal record of failings. Some hide it well; others live with it openly.
     After a moment’s reflection, is it not best to be in the environment where people gather to praise the Lord and taught His holy way? It was Peter who said to the Lord, after the Lord asked His disciples if they were also going to turn away from Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go?” To whom will you go?
     Why not consider, again, the Lord’s church and what He intended the church to be, spiritually sick people who recognize the Lord’s mercy and in real need of it.

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

There’s An All-Seeing Eye

By Al Behel

     Perhaps you remember the old hymn which says, “There’s an all-seeing eye watching you.”   As a child I was terrified at the idea that somewhere out there was a huge eye looking at me.   The hymn emphasized that “every step that you take this great eye is awake...there’s an eye watching you!”   That was a scary thought to a young boy who was trying to sort our just what kind of God I was hearing about in those hell-fire sermons.   I surely didn’t want Him to catch me doing anything wrong.
     Today, however, I find that this idea brings comfort to my heart and a sense of lasting security.   God is always aware of every step we take, and our every action is under His watchful eye.   He knows where we are at all times, what is going on in our lives, and what challenges will confront us.   As the Almighty, there is nothing hidden from Him, and nothing escapes His watchful eye.  More than that, He knows the intentions of our hearts, whether good or evil.
     King Solomon said, “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3).   Wickedness does not escape Him, nor does any good deed or act of love.   Darkness does not hide man’s sin.   But God is always aware and awake to every need and every struggle.  I am glad He has an “all-seeing eye.”
     We are told that “the eyes of the Lord search the earth looking for people whose heart is pure toward Him, so He can show His great power in helping them” (2 Chronicles 16:9).   God wants to see man doing good and reward him with His presence and power.   His heart is grieved when we do wrong.  He always rejoices when He sees us doing the right thing.  He shows His great power in helping those whose hearts are pure.
     How lonely and desolate our lives would be without His “all seeing eye.”  Seeing our every step He is able to protect us from enemies within and without if we let Him.  He promises that we are never alone.  
- Al Behel preaches for the Great Smoky Mountains Church of Christ in Pigeon Forge, TN. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://greatsmokymountainschurchofchrist.com/

“I want it my way!”

By Jeff Arnette

     Have you ever said that? I bet a lot of us have never said that! Well, I bet we haven’t said it “out loud” for others to hear. Yet, I would venture a guess that we have all acted that way at one time or another. This way of thinking is almost typical of most Americans. We have grown up thinking that we are entitled to get what we want simply because we are Americans. We have been told so many times that if we want it and work hard, we will get it. I think it goes even further because we believe that we should get what we want. This mindset creates people who try to conform to Christ and Christianity to suit their wants and expectations.
     This has affected the way people approach God. It doesn’t matter if it is worship or how to become Christians. We want it our way, and if we don’t get it, we will go in search of a place where we can get it our way. You would think that it was not a big problem, especially since Christians should be Christ-like and selfless. The problem is that the majority of those who call themselves Christian are not Christ-like. Instead, they are narcissistic, selfish, and egocentric.
     This has affected the way we accept teachings about difficult subjects. As soon as someone teaches something that does not line up with what we want to believe we leave or at least try to change it. If we want a church that believes that homosexuality is ok, we will go in search of it until we find it. If we want a church that is ok with any number of sins, it is not hard to find a church that will say it is ok. If we want an exciting church, with lots of programs, and lots of things designed to entertain us, it too is not hard to find. I could go on, but I think you get my point. The reason for the thousands of churches in America is because we want a church to cater to our wants and desires.
     I have actually had people tell me, “If I don’t get what I want, I will go find someone who will.”
     This attitude is anti-Christian and opposes everything Jesus Christ lived and embodied. Church, it is time that we lay down such attitudes and pick up the new life Christ died to give us.
     Stop right here and open your bible and read Ephesians 4:20-24. Don’t continue until you have read it for yourself.
     Paul’s point is that we should put off the “old self.” The “old self” is the person we were before becoming Christians. That person was corrupt and sentenced to death, but the good news is that in our obedience to Jesus, the old person has died. This is what baptism is meant to teach us (Romans 6:3-4). As Paul said, it is time to be renewed in our thinking, in our minds, and in our spirit. It is time that we put on the new self that is created by God, to be just like Him.

     So let me challenge you to learn, think, and grow. Just as important, I want you to focus on becoming more Christ-like in what you do, more Christ-like in how you treat others, and more Christ-like in your willingness to conform your life and actions to the will of God.

Romans 12:2 - “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

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

The Contribution: The Rest of the Story

By Ron Adams

     Whenever the subject of “contributing” is discussed, most often it involves talking about supporting the work of a local congregation financially. It takes money to pay for the upkeep of the building and to carry on the work of the local congregation. Many churches report the weekly contribution along with the budget, keeping its members informed of the financial status.
     The New Testament has a number of references that provide guidelines for the local congregation in meeting its financial needs. Yet, it’s interesting to note that most of the verses cited initially concerned a one-time collection for needy saints in Judea.
    What is revealed in Paul’s epistles (especially1and 2 Corinthians) is a project whereby brethren in churches in other countries would provide aid to the needy saints in Judea. This was a one-time event wherein Paul instructed the brethren (many of whom were Gentiles) to share their  material  resources  with  mostly  Jewish brethren in Judea. He instructed the churches to “lay by in store” so the collection could be picked up by him and his traveling companions. It would be taken by them, along with any representatives of the participating congregations, to Judea.
     The “rest of the story” of contributing can be overlooked when the  focus is only on the congregation’s treasury.

‘CONTRIBUTING’ INCLUDES GIVING, SHARING

     Giving, and it’s close relative, sharing, are part of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the beginning of the church there were many instances of brethren contributing to the needs of others. Not all of the giving and receiving involved money. It was giving and sharing what others needed.
     The same is true today. Sometimes what is given doesn’t have any monetary value. The giving of time to help a brother or sister with a load too heavy to carry. Lending support to one in need of spiritual, physical or emotional assistance. Giving words of encouragement, consolation, or exhortation to a brother or sister. Doing deeds of kindness that contribute to the welfare of others.
     Such  acts of giving and sharing are worth their weight in gold .... contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality (Romans 12:13).

Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Romans 12:15
"Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ ... So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith." Galatians 6:2,10

THE MOTIVE: LOVE FOR ONE ANOTHER

The giving and sharing are not done to receive recognition. It is done because members are motivated by love to do whatever they can.Thus, we are not privy to all of the occasions of giving and sharing by members done individually or collectively. Let each one contribute using his or her unique resources, abilities, and opportunities. Doing what you can, with what you have, where you are.
In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus,that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”Acts 20:35

- Ron Adams publishes F.Y.C., a monthly publication. Bible references are from the NASB except where another translation is referenced. Back issues are archived at http://ra10ar.com Be thoughtful and kind. All rights reserved. © 2020
 

Wake Me!

By Larry Pasley

     A man who was taking a flight from L.A. to Dallas, but the plane he was on was to continue to N.Y.
The man was not continuing with the plane to N.Y. but had an important meeting in Dallas.
     He was very tired and was very concerned that he might fall asleep on the plane and sleep right through to N.Y. So, he instructed the flight attendant that he was going to nap, but that she must be sure to wake him up when they stop in Dallas. He warned her that when he is woken up he is often very grouchy and uncooperative, but that regardless of how ugly he might be at the time, make sure he gets off at Dallas. She said she would and he was asleep before they reached cruising altitude.
     Well, the next thing he knew he awoke to hear the pilot say, “Welcome to N.Y.” He couldn’t believe it. He was livid. He went to that flight attendant and read her the riot act, veins popping, and using every nasty word in the book.
     After the irate man left, another passenger apologized to the flight attendant saying that he had never seen anyone so angry. She said, “Thank you, but that was nothing compared with how mad the man was that I forced off the plane in Dallas.”


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     We have probably all had cases of mistaken identity in our lives at some time or another. Hopefully the results were not as serious as the story above.
     There is a case of mistaken identity in the Bible which had much more severe consequences than that above.
     God came to this world, in the form of the man Jesus, and the world did not know who He was.
John 1:1-14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. 9 That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
     Jesus existed in the beginning with God, the Father, and was the Word. The Word was God and verse 14 says the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The world was made through Him and yet the world did not recognize who He was. Even His own people (town) did not accept His for who He really was.
     It is a very serious thing not to know who God and Jesus are. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9  and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,
     Not knowing Jesus as our Lord and God and not obeying the gospel will keep us from being with Him in heaven for eternity.


     May we all make it our aim to know Jesus and be obedient to His gospel.
With love and concern,

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

The Need for Some Good News

By Bill Brandstatter

     I am tired of all the negative messages in the news these days. What the world needs now is good news. The good news needed is the news that has endured for generations. This good news will get us through any war or conflict. The good news of the gospel is needed for all men in all nations.
     The gospel is never outdated. It never needs to be made culturally relevant. The gospel should never be comprised. God wants all men to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). Paul indicates the gospel has power. In Rom. 1:16, the writer from Tarsus states that the gospel is “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”  The gospel can save. It is therefore good news for all men. Here are some good news headlines that would be great for men to hear:
               YOU CAN BE SAVED.
               YOUR LIFE CAN BE CHANGED.
               YOU CAN START OVER.
               GOD CAN AND WILL FORGET YOUR PAST.
               THE NEW MAN BEGINS NOW.
     Good news is available today. It’s the same good news preached by the apostles. If that news is heeded and obeyed, man can have the same benefits as those in the early church. What the world needs is good news. What the world needs is the gospel!

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

Eyes That See Not

By Travis Robertson

Now hear this, O foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see; who have ears but do not hear.” (Jeremiah 5:21)
     I can recall asking my mother if she knew where my socks were for my baseball uniform. Of course, she knew exactly where to find them and told me where they were. I went and looked for them, but didn’t see them. Being frustrated with me, she walked into my room, opened the drawer, grabbed my socks, and said to me, “Open your eyes!” God is saying the same thing here. You have eyes but you are not seeing anything.
     God is upset that His people who should see Him and hear Him do not.  How many of us in the fold of God do not hear our Shepherd’s voice calling out to us? We fail to open our eyes and fix them on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). I hope and pray that we will not find ourselves in the same position as the Jews here in Jeremiah. Instead, let us train our eyes and ears with God’s word, so that we will see Him, hear Him, and obey Him. 

 - 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/

The Test of a Church

By Seth Myers

     Did you know there are over 30,000 various “Christian” “churches” in the world today? Did you know that—in the New Testament (NT)—there is only ONE church (Matt. 16:18; Rom. 12:4,5; 1 Cor. 12:12,13,20; et al.)? That leads to this eternally important question:

HOW DO I KNOW WHICH CHURCH IS THE CHURCH?
     In the New Testament—especially in the book of Acts and the epistles of Paul (Romans – 2 Timothy)—we can read of the various characteristics of THE church that belongs to Christ:

  • Its Teachings
  • Its Practices
  • Its Pattern of Worship
  • Its Organization
  • Its Government
To put a church to the test, simply compare/contrast the characteristics of any given church to the characteristics of Christ’s church (which can be found nowhere but the New Testament). Here is the kicker: if a church differs, in any capacity (e.g., teaching, practice, worship, organization, gov’t, etc.), with CHRIST’S church (according to the descriptions found in the New Testament) —then that church is NOT Christ’s church, which He built and purchased with His blood (Matt. 16:18; Acts 20:28).
     A great key is found in Acts 2:42:


“And they continued steadfastly IN THE APOSTLES’ TEACHING…”
Likewise:

“Now I beseech you, brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all SPEAK THE SAME THING and that there be NO DIVISIONS among you…” (1 Cor. 1:10).
“Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received FROM US” (2 Thess. 3:6).
“If anyone does not obey what WE say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed” (2 Thess. 3:14).
“If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are A COMMAND OF THE LORD” (1 Cor. 14:37).

     The only way any church can be THE church which THE Creator purchased with THE blood of THE Son of THE God is if it “continue[s] steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching.” A “denomination” (i.e., “division”) is born when men stop “continu[ing] steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42). Thus, any church that is not “continu[ing] steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching” is NOT Christ’s church, but is just another “self-made religion” (Col. 2:23)—and no self-made religion has ever gotten a single soul to heaven (cf. Matt. 23:15).
     The only way a church can be THE church which THE Creator purchased with THE blood of T
HE Son of THE God is if it “continue[s] steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching.” …any church that is not [doing that] is just another “self-made religion” (Col. 2:23)…
     Study the New Testament and read about Christ’s only church: if YOUR church varies, in any capacity from THAT church, I urge you to get out, and find one that operates strictly and solely according to the pattern found in the New Testament, with nothing added or subtracted—i.e., one that is “in Christ” (Gal. 2:6) and “of Christ” (Rom. 16:16).
Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, DOES NOT HAVE GOD.
Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. (2  JOHN 9)

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

Can You Finish?

By David Bragg

    Recently I read of a community in England who, in 2003, exhausted their entire budget (over 3.2 million dollars) building a beautiful new library. The project was completed on time and the dedication date for the new building was rapidly drawing near. Suddenly a sickening realization fell upon the planning committee: they had no monies left to order books! "They had a gorgeous, but empty, library" (Empty Shelves, The Encourager, Calvert City Church of Christ, Calvert City, KY, January 20, 2019).
    How frustrating it must be to have your goal in sight only to realize either that it is the wrong goal, or it lies beyond your grasp. On our own strength alone, we will never be capable of attaining the promises of heaven and eternal life. Divine intervention is required. We need grace!
    Too many Christians short-change themselves spiritually, living in doubt when it comes to the certainty of their salvation. What evidence is there that God’s grace will be insufficient to deliver these spiritual promises? To ask that question is to be struck by the obvious. All the evidence consistently demonstrates that what God promises God can by grace complete.

 - 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/

Grace – All-Sufficient or Insufficient? (Ephesians 2:1-10)

By Gerald Cowan

    I am not among those who think we in the church of Christ have not understood correctly the great doctrines of the New Testament. Some are saying that we have only recently come to understand – or are just now coming to understand – the grace of God. The trouble may be that many of our preachers and teachers have been educated in denominational schools and have imbibed denominational errors. They are often not discerning enough to see the errors, and so they pass them along to others who are as dull of hearing as they themselves. Paul said that those who have learned the truth should teach it to others who shall then be able to teach others, and so to keep the flow of truth alive in education (2 Tim. 2:2). That principle is very effective. Unfortunately the principle works just as well in the flow of error. People are not always or often as bold and noble as the Bereans, searching the scripture itself to ascertain that their teachers are giving the truth of God (Acts 17:11) and not the dogmas, doctrines, and traditions of men (read Mark 7:7-9).
    One of the “trouble spots” in Christian doctrine is the matter of grace. I believe much of trouble in understanding grace properly is the current penchant for more freedom and less responsibility on the part of those who would be “Christian.” People want an easy path to heaven and a God who makes no demands – they want a SAVIOR but they do not want a LORD. They want God to do everything for them, with no commands or requirements to be met by them – human works having no bearing at all upon one’s relationship to God. Because it sounds plausible and because it is what so many want to hear, it is easy to persuade people that salvation is now100% by God’s grace and 0% by human works. It was not always so.
    It is sometimes said, by people who do not know and understand the scripture, that the God of the Old Testament is a God of wrath, vengeance, and punishment – a bloody God, a God of JUSTICE. However, the God of the New Testament is not like that at all. The God of the New Testament, they like to say, is a kind and merciful and benevolent God who delights in human salvation – a God of GRACE. Neither part of that description is valid. It is a distortion of the truth of God.
    In any discussion of the character or nature of God there are several qualities that must be balanced, even though some of them may seem to be logical contradictions. There are of course several absolute attributes of God: eternal, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, immutable, uncreated, self-existent, and self-sustaining. It is not our purpose to discuss those matters in the present lesson.  There are also many things that could be called relative attributes of God. They pertain to His relationships with and attitudes toward His creation – with mankind in particular. The list of relative attributes can be reduced to about seven ma
jor headings: love, grace, holiness, righteousness, justice, benevolence, and revealed truth. All other qualities or characteristics of God will fit into one or more of these seven categories. The task set for us in the present lesson is to examine the grace of God, especially as it concerns the salvation of mankind. As already noted, this is one of the most misunderstood doctrines in modern Bible study. It is also one of the most controversial factors in current religious discussions.
    Let us dispense with the erroneous and invalid definition that makes the God of the Old Testament a God of JUSTICE and WRATH and the God of the New Testament a God of GRACE and BENEVOLENCE. Here are some representative passages indicating that people in OT times understood something of the love and loving-kindness of God. Deut. 7:7-8, 13, and 23:5; 1 Kings  10:9; 2 Chron. 2:11 and 9:8; Isaiah 63:7-9; Jer. 31:3 and 8; Psalm 36:7 and 119:59; (John 3:16 was spoken to people under the old covenant, not yet under the new). Here are a few representative passages showing the grace and graciousness of God (usually accompanied by mercy and kindness) in the Old Testament.  Gen. 6:8; Ex. 22:27 and 34:6; 2 Kings 13:23; Neh. 9:17 and 31; Joel 2:13; Psalm 84:11; Zech. 4:7  and 12:10.
Finally, here are a few of the many passages in the New Testament showing the justice, wrath, and severity of God under the new covenant of Jesus Christ.  Hebrews 10:27-31 and 12:29; James 2:13; John 3:36; Eph. 5:6; Rom. 2:6-11 and 11:22. You will notice from all of this that love, mercy, grace, kindness, judgment, wrath, and punishment, etc. are part and parcel of God’s relationship with man at all times and under all covenants in human history.

- 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

1st Century Focus

By Kevin V. Rutherford

    The feast of Pentecost always took place on the first day of the week.  When Peter preached on Pentecost he was preaching on the first day of the week (Acts 2:1).  The first day of the week was significant to the early Christians because it was the day upon which the Lord rose from the tomb (John 20:1).  As Peter preached on the first day of the week he spoke of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and gave evidence through prophecy and eyewitnesses (Acts 2:25-32).  Therefore, the resurrection of Jesus Christ was a major point in the first Gospel sermon ever preached.  In fact, it became a major theme throughout the preaching of the first century.
     Peter spoke of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in his second Gospel sermon at the temple (Acts 3:15).  In both the Pentecost sermon and the second sermon at the temple, Peter mentions God is the One who raised Jesus from the dead.  He also points out the fact that he, and others are eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ.
     When Peter and John were taken before the high priest, rulers, elders, and scribes, Peter once again preached the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:10).  Wen the leaders told them to stop preaching in the name of Jesus, Peter said, “we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).  So, once again, Peter points out the facts Jesus was raised from the dead, God raised him from the dead, and Peter and others are eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ.
    Peter and all the apostles were later brought before the Jewish leaders where they were rebuked for preaching Jesus (Acts 5:27-28).  As Peter gave answer he once again mentions Jesus was raised, God raised Him, and Peter and the other apostles were eyewitnesses of the resurrect Christ (Acts 5:30-32).  These comments infuriated the Jewish leaders, when instead such comments should have thrilled them.  In their fury, they had the apostles beaten.  At this point it became clear to the early Christians they could be severely punished for preaching the  resurrection of Jesus, but this did not stop them.
    Peter again spoke of the resurrection when he was given the opportunity to preach the Gospel to the household of Cornelius (Acts 10:40-41).  Peter told the Gentiles, Jesus was raised, God raised Jesus, and there are eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ.
    Paul’s preaching was also filled with references to the resurrection.  When Paul preached to the people of Antioch, he told them Jesus was raised, God raised Jesus, and there are eyewitnesses who saw Jesus for many days after His resurrection (Acts 13:28-37).  On this occasion, Paul also makes references to Old Testament prophecies regarding the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
     Acts 17:1-4 shows  Paul reasoning from the Scriptures regarding the identity of Jesus as the Christ.  In this context, Paul says, “Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead” (Acts 17:3).  It was Paul’s
 preaching regarding the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead that ended his opportunity to speak before the Greek judges on Mars’ Hill (Acts 17:29-34).  Paul also spoke of the resurrection of Christ before King Agrippa and Festus (Acts 26:22-23).
    The fact of the resurrection was also discussed in the inspired letters written to the early churches.  When Paul wrote to the church in Rome, he spoke of  how the resurrection of Jesus Christ is pictured in our resurrection from the water of baptism (Romans 4:3-7).  In his first letter to the church at Corinth, Paul spoke in some depth about the implications of the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15).  He first spoke of the evidence of the resurrection in more than five hundred eyewitnesses.  Then Paul explained we have confidence in our own future resurrection because we can know that Jesus rose from the grave.  Paul mentions the resurrection of Jesus Christ again in the second letter to the church at Corinth (2 Corinthians 4:14).  In fact, we see references to the resurrection over and over again in the New Testament letters (Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 2:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 2 Timothy 2:8; 1 Peter 1:21).  
    The resurrection of Christ was a recurring theme throughout the preaching, teaching, and writing of inspired men in the first century.  In addition, the day upon which the early Christians met pointed to their faith in the resurrection (John 20:1; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2).  If we are going to be preaching like the early church, we are going to speak often of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  For, it is in the preaching of the resurrection of Jesus Christ that we find the foundation for all trust in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and all hope in the coming resurrection to eternal life.

- 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 Eagle Soared

By J. Randal Matheny

The eagle soared against the bluest sky,
He rode the winds, which carried his sharpened cry,
With outstretched wings, he dipped and rose with ease,
A master musician playing the slightest breeze.

Below, the poultry scratched the dirt for corn,
For grub and seeds, on ground well beaten and worn,
To chickens such flight seemed risky and extreme,
They never dared to lift their eyes and dream.

- 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) 2018 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.

Absentee Fathers

By David Bragg

    The father's image may have been reflected in Timothy's face and build. His mannerisms may have been mimicked by his young son. He may have given his name to the boy who so quickly grew to manhood. It doesn't take much of a man to give those things.
    Eunice taught Timothy how to live (2 Tim. 1:5). She introduced him to a loving God and molded his heart by divine truths (2 Tim. 3:15). At her knees he learned right from wrong, to respect God and to serve others.
    Timothy grew, thanks to his mother, to be respected by all who knew him (Acts 16:1-2). Paul saw in him the spark of a servant kindled under a mother's loving touch.
    Meanwhile Timothy's father is noticeably absent. It is as if his contributions ended at birth. Could his father appreciate the man Timothy had become? Was this man, shrouded in a world Timothy chose not to share, the one who planted in Timothy the fear that would dog his every step as an adult (1 Tim. 5:12)?
    Timothy is an object lesson in a long line of inspired pronouncements for fathers to provide the leadership for which God ordained them. The call for fathers to stand tall in their children's eyes runs deep in the soil of the Old Testament. In Deuteronomy chapter six Moses issued a challenge to fathers that remains especially applicable today. Do not assume that your children know you love them; spend enough time with them in meaningful communication that no doubt about it remains.
    Think of the great strides Timothy enjoyed for the cause of Christ through the investment of his mother. Imagine how much greater Timothy's achievements for good could have been had his father been a father.

- 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/

A Man After God’s Own Heart?

By Seth Myers

    In 1 Samuel 13:13,14, the prophet Samuel tells the then-current king of Israel that none of his sons will sit the throne after him; instead, he says, “Jehovah hath sought him a man after his own heart” to be Israel’s second king (14). That man’s name was David.
    But the thing is, when we read about David’s life in the Scriptures, without getting into the gory details, what we learn about the “man after [God’s] own heart” is that he was, frankly, a mess. Thus, the question arises: In what way, exactly, was David “a man after [God’s] own heart”? There are two keys to answering this question.
    One key is the description found in 1 Sam. 18:14—“And David behaved himself wisely in all his ways; and Jehovah was with him” (cp. 5,15,30). This is encouraging—for even though, as a rule, David “behaved himself wisely,” we also see that, at times, he did not (2 Sam. 11). And so it is with us today. But there’s more.
    The other is David’s psalms. It has been said that in 2 Samuel, we see David’s actions; but in the Psalms, we see his heart. That’s not to say that heart actions; for such is positively NOT the case (cf. Matt. 7:21-23). Rather, David’s heart led him to confess and forsake his sin (cf. Psa. 32:3-5).
    Perhaps “mess” is a bit harsh on David; for there is another word that accurately describes his “messiness”: human. The key to what made David “a man after God’s own heart” was his own heart; or, because of his good heart, David always took care of his sin, making it right with God (cf. Psa. 51).

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

Strength and Riches Through the Holy Spirit

By Larry Miles

    We serve an Awesome God and Lord Jesus Christ! All three parts of the Godhead are present in our walk of faith. When we are in the presence of Deity, we “bow our knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,”  (Ephesians 3:14). Throughout the Old and New Testaments when godly people came into the presence of God, adoration was the order of the day.
    Even when we are not physically bending our knees in praise of our Heavenly Father, we are to be in a spirit of adoration. Just like  it says to “pray without ceasing,” which does not mean that we are constantly praying; rather it means that we are to be in a spirit of prayer, ready to pray when the need arrises. I think it is the same here. Our hearts and minds must be bended in adoration to the Lord.
    Christians are a part of “family of faith” mentioned  in Ephesians 3:15. We share a common faith with every Christian in the whole world. We share a common salvation (Jude 3).
    As has been  stressed many times in the Epistle of Ephesians, God has  great things in place for His children. His riches are  endless and He wants us to have all the blessings a  loving Father has for His children,
    He wants us to live our life with the might of God present through the work of the Holy Spirit who indwells  us. Like I said in the very first article of this series, God is not a stingy God, not wanting to bless us; rather, He rejoices in blessing us.
    We have the Holy Spirit of God indwelling us (Acts 2:38). We must take advantage of that blessed truth and live daily in the Spirit. We must want all God has for us. All the blessings of God must be received so that we can grow in the Lord Jesus and help others find and enjoy the marvelous light of the Gospel.

- Larry Miles lives in Louisville, KY and publishes "Larry's Lines" several times a week. Copyright 2009. Visit his website: http://larryslines.com/

Do You Not Know?

By Ron Thomas

    One can’t help but notice that Paul asked a single question a number of times in his letter to the Corinthians; in fact, he asked this question 10 times! The question is “do you not know?” The question is asked a total of 17 times in the New Testament, with Paul asking 15 of them. The single question is asked in varied contexts, so we want to consider the subject that Paul spoke about that prompted the question.
    Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you (3:16)? In the context of these words, the apostle Paul wants the Corinthian saints (and us by extension) to understand that the “church” is God’s temple dwelling place. Paul does not have in view a physical building, but the individual saints collectively called the church. Those who adversely affect the local church adversely affect the temple God dwells in. When we think about our own dwelling place (our house, our home), and someone negatively affecting it, then we can appreciate the Lord’s concern a little better. If you felt it was threatened it is likely you will go to what degree is necessary to protect it. Those who adversely affect the Lord “house” will have to address the Lord at His proper time.
    Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump (5:6)? In this particular context, the apostle Paul addressed the saints expressing his disappointment that some within the congregation were much too willing to let a brother engaged in sin continue in that same sin without correction. In other words, the saints should have insisted upon him stopping the sinful activity, but they did not. In fact, as you can see by the question, they were “glorying” in this matter! What a shame! The local congregation, the elders especially, have an obligation to address sinful behaviors in the saints. In other words, when the elders (and the saints within the congregation) are made aware of sinful behavior, there is a need to address the one or the ones so involved. For what purpose? Two reasons. First, to save the soul engaged in the destructive/sinful behavior. Second, to take the old sinful leaven out of the new lump (church) so the church is not negatively affected more than it already has been (cf. Acts 20:28). We will address the others in future bulletin articles.

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

Must Jesus Bear The Cross Alone?

By Steve Higginbotham

    In 1693, Thomas Shepherd wrote the song entitled, "Must Jesus Bear The Cross Alone." Two of the verses of that song read as follows:
        Must Jesus bear the cross alone,
        And all the world go free?
        No, there's a cross for everyone,
        And there's a cross for me.

        The consecrated cross I'll bear,
        Till he shall set me free,
        And then go home to wear,
        For there's a crown for me.
I like that song for several reasons, but one is that it teaches one's cross comes before one’s crown." That fundamental truth seems to have been lost to many people, for how often do you hear of people giving up and quitting when difficulty arises?
    How often have you heard of preachers who quit preaching, elders who quit shepherding, deacons who quit serving, Bible teachers who quit teaching, and Christians who quit following Jesus because of some difficult circumstance? It happens far too frequently than it should. Let someone hurt one's feelings and he quits. Let someone criticize one's work, and he quits. Let someone forget to thank one for his work, and he quits.
    The common thread that runs through all of these situations is that someone has forgotten that one must bear a cross before he is privileged to wear a crown! Don't lose sight of this truth. Work comes before rest. Sacrifice comes before reward. Struggle comes before victory. And humility comes before exaltation (2 Cor. 4:17).
    So what about you? Are you bearing your cross in this life, or are you spending your time kicked back, daydreaming about how your crown is going to fit? Let's get to work. There's much to do. We have a cross to bear. Or, must Jesus bear the cross alone, and all the world go free? No, there's a cross for everyone, and there's a cross for me.

- 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 © 2017 MercEmail

"Spring” Into Action!

By Lance Cordle

     Even though the calendar for this year has announced that spring has arrived, the weather seems to be lagging behind. However, you can still use this time to become more active, especially in matters of what you believe and teach. James wrote, “Show me your faith apart from your works and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:18). Here are some things that most of us can easily do:

  • Cook or buy a meal and take it to a person who is “shut-in” at home.
  • Cook or buy food to help with meals for families on the day of the funeral of a loved one.
  • Help an elderly person/couple with light chores around their house.
  • Befriend a widow or widower.
  • Volunteer to sit with some of our kids from our neighborhood whose parents are not at worship with them.
  • Help cook a Wednesday evening meal for our kids from our neighborhood.
  • Visit, send cards or help with sewing “little dresses” on Monday nights designated as Monday Night for the Master.
  • Volunteer to help get the campus of West Kentucky Youth Camp ready for sessions this summer.
  • Be involved as a worker in Work Camp this summer.
  • Look around your “normal” area of the auditorium during worship and notice those who are missing—visit or call them in the coming week.
  • Make a special effort to speak meaningfully to those you meet at worship and Bible study— try to truly encourage with your words.
  • Memorize a passage of scripture for your own benefit, whether it is one verse or a block of verses (maybe even a chapter).
  • Volunteer to drive someone to/from treatments for physical ailments, or for regular doctors’ office visits.
  • Be aware of announcements that say the activities building will be used for a meal or another activitylool and help assemble tables, chairs, etc. for that event. You can also serve during and after the meal.
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord, your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58)

- 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

God Knows What is Best

By Alan Smith

    The story is told about a king who had a close friend. This friend had a habit of looking at every situation that ever occurred in his life (positive or negative) by remarking, "This is good, God knows what is best."
    One day, the king and his friend were out on a hunting expedition. The friend would load and prepare the guns for the king, but he had apparently done something wrong in preparing one of the guns, because after taking the gun from his friend, the king fired it and his thumb was blown off. Examining the situation, the friend remarked as usual, "This is good, God knows what is best." To which the king replied, "No, this is NOT good!" and ordered his soldiers to put his friend into jail.
    About a year later, the king was hunting in an area that he should have known to stay clear of. Cannibals captured the king and took him to their village. They tied his hands, stacked some wood, set up a stake and bound him to it. As they came near to set fire to the wood, they noticed that the king was missing a thumb. Being superstitious, they never ate anyone who was less than whole. So after untying the king, they chased him out of the village.
    When the king reached his palace, he was reminded of the event that had taken his thumb and felt remorse for his treatment of his friend. He went immediately to the jail to speak with his friend. "You were right" the king said, "it was good that my thumb was blown off." And he proceeded to tell the friend all that had just happened. "I am very sorry for sending you to jail for so long. It was bad for me to do this."
    "No," his friend replied, "This is good, God knows what is best."
    "What do you mean, 'this is good'!  How could it be good that I sent my friend to jail for a year?"
    The king's friend replied, "Remember that God Almighty knows best and if I had NOT been in jail, I would have been with you on that hunting trip."
    The story isn't true, but the message is. How we need a faith that truly believes that we have a God who is in control. A faith that can say, as Joseph did, "You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good." (Genesis 50:20)
    A faith that we can say, as Paul did, "We know that all things work together for good to those who love God..." (Romans 8:28)
    A faith that we can say, as James did, "Count it all joy when you fall into various trials." (James 1:2).
    It is so easy to look back over our lives and see how God has been there every step of the way, how He has taken care of us and provided for us. But how difficult it is to see God at work in the midst of our pain and suffering. God, increase our faith! Help us to see you in all that we experience and to truly believe that "God knows what is best!"
    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/