Friday, May 1, 2020

Every Mother's Day is a First

By Adam Faughn

     For some, today is their first Mother's Day as a mother. They just had their first child, so today is special in that way.
     For some, today is their first Mother's Day as a grandmother. They are seeing their own daughter hold a precious child for her first Mother's Day.
     For some, today is their first Mother's Day as a mother of two (or three or...). They are getting extra kisses and hugs (and a well-deserved extra cup of coffee).
     For some, today is their first Mother's Day without their mother living. So, today will be bittersweet.
     For some, today is their first Mother's Day with an estranged relationship with their mom or child. There might be a phone call, but it will not be easy.
     For some, today is their first Mother's Day since losing a child. There will be memories and, likely, some tears.
     For some, today is their first Mother's Day with a child a long distance away geographically. It might be the first one where they are not physically in the same place.
     For some, today is their first Mother's Day with a child back in the same area; thus, the first they can spend together in a long time.
     We could go on, but markers on our calendar, like Mother's Day, are reminders of how each year contains firsts. Some are happy. Some are hard. Others are simply reflections of the normal passage of time. Each, though, is part of the tapestry of life, and mothers are an invaluable part of that picture.
     God thought that mothers were so important that He gave every human being ever born a mother. A true godly mother, though, is rare. Today, no matter what "first" you are going through, if you are striving to be a godly mother, we honor and thank you. Reflect on why this Mother's Day is a "first," and use it as an opportunity to be grateful for what is good and learn from what might be a struggle.
     To every mother, we say "Happy Mother's Day," but to those who are striving to be godly and righteous, we say a heartfelt and gracious "thank you."

- 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

A Firm Foundation

By Rob Albright

     We wanted a sure foundation – that’s why I had the foundation of our house checked before we made an offer on the purchase price three years ago. I had a company check the foundation to be sure no mildew or cracks were present.
     If you live in an area where earthquakes happen then it is important to have a good foundation if you build a house. If an earthquake comes and your foundation does not hold up, you will have problems.
     Matthew 7 gives us a picture of a foolish builder who did not build his house with a good foundation. A wise builder will build a house on a solid foundation.
     Of course, we are talking about building a strong spiritual life. Our life must have the strong foundation of the words of Jesus (John 6:66-68). If we do not build our life on the words of Jesus, then we are building on sand. Sand is not a sure foundation. The solid foundation is Jesus and His words (Matthew 7:24-25). When the storms of life come, a house built on a solid foundation will not fall.

- 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/

Exalt God, Not Idols

By Larry Miles

    In verse 4, Paul  lists three sins that  should never characterize the life of a Christian. These are;
              1. Filthiness
              2. Foolish Talking
              3. Jesting.
Each of these can include what we might call sub topics. Denny Petrillo, President of Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver, wrote the  following:, "All three of the words used here are unique to the New Testament. First, in this block is 'filthiness.' Not only did they engage in sexual avarice, they talked about it. Second, 'silly talk.' This refers to the talk of a fool who either does not believe in God or does not acknowledge His power. Third, Paul lists 'course jesting.'"
    Whenever the Word of God instructs us to cease from the wrong kind of behavior, it gives us a scriptural alternative. That there is humor and laughing in the Scriptures is a fact. But we all know that those two attitudes, along with many other things in the Bible can be used wrongly, even sinfully.
    The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Thess. 5:18 that we must be known for "giving thanks." We must always  have an attitude of gratitude and a vocabulary of thanksgiving.
    We must replace idols with true worship, the filling of the Holy Spirit. We must live in the Spirit as well as  believing in the Holy Spirit.

 - Larry Miles lives in Louisville, KY and publishes "Larry's Lines" several times a week. Copyright 2019. Visit his website: http://larryslines.com/

Which Lives Matter?

 By Johnny Hester

    Why should there be any debate over which lives matter? That question was settled two thousand years ago by the Lord Jesus Christ when He declared: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:16-17). The church was divinely commissioned to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). We must necessarily infer from this that God wants us to spread the good news that all people (red, yellow, black and white) matter.
    Church, if we are not irresistibly motivated to make this truth known to our world, it just may be that we have not yet come to understand the depth and riches of the love of Christ. The apostle Paul stated, “For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:14-15).
     A related question: Do the lives of babies matter? Reflexively we answer definitively and correctly—“Yes!”  But what if the baby is still within the womb of his or her mother—an embryo, a zygote, having not yet even developed a form that resembles a human infant?  Well, the Holy Spirit clearly answered that question through the Psalmist as David praised God for His love in Psalm 139:
        “13 For you created my inmost being;  you knit me together in my mother's womb.
        14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
            your works are wonderful,
            I know that full well.
        15 My frame was not hidden from you
            when I was made in the secret place.
            When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
        16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
            All the days ordained for me
            were written in your book
            before one of them came to be.” (NIV)
    All lives matter—those still in the womb, newborns who are severely handicapped, those who are aged and infirm who have come to depend totally upon the care of others in order for their lives to continue. May we, as “the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Timothy 3:15), issue a clarion call to this dark, sin-sick world: “All Lives Matter!”

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

The Mind of Christ

 By David R. Ferguson
 
     I have always admired those individuals who demonstrate great intellect. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to understand the complexities of the cosmos, from the tiniest quark, to the furthest and remotest quasar, in the same manner as Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking did? Or wouldn’t you have liked to witness in person Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton as they debated the role the Federal government should have in the lives of the People? Or how intriguing would it have been to sit at the feet of Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, giving ear to the philosophical discussions taking place in ancient Athens! As interesting as all these men seem to be, there is One Whose wisdom and intellect puts all others to shame, and that is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
     Regardless of the circumstances He faced, whether it was from one of the groups seeking to trip Him up such as the Pharisees and the Sadducees, or even when He was being confronted and tempted by the Great Adversary, Satan himself, Jesus was always able to face them all by leaning upon the word of God and saying, "It is written."
     We, too, can gain in wisdom as Christians by following the precepts of Christ, even to the point of having the mind of Christ: "For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:16). We have the mind of Christ by engaging in a study of His word. Not only will we have the mind of Christ, we will have eternal life: "Truly, truly, I say unto you, if a man keep My word, he shall never see death" (John 8:51). Paul also wrote to Timothy, saying, "Give diligence to present yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15).
     By spending time in the word of God, and focusing on His Son and "whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things," (Philippians 4:8), we will be able to then "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God" (Colossians 3:16).
     May the Lord bless you in your studies!

  - 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

Me First!

By Donna Wittlif

"Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, even as Christ also love you, and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God" (Ephesians 5:1, 2 ASV).
      "Me, me, me!" my one-year-old grandson protested as he tried to push his three-year-old sister off my lap. He is still a baby, and already two of his four words are "me" and "mine."
      We learn very early to stand up for and protect what is ours and what we want. People seem to have a built-in selfish streak. They put themselves before all others. They want to be the best, to have the best, and to be first in line to have anything good. They believe they deserve to have the best.
       The disciples of Jesus were no exception. James and John asked Jesus, "Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and one on thy left hand, in thy glory" (Mark 10:37). Over and over Jesus tried to show them that they should love their neighbor as they loved themselves. The Master and Teacher even washed their feet.
      Jesus is God. He gave up His glory in heaven to come to this poor world and save us. When we think of who Jesus is and how He left it all to die for our sins, we cannot help but be humbled. He didn't just wash our feet, but His blood washes and cleanses our souls. Because of Jesus, we have the best, but not because we deserve it.
      Christians must give up their pride and arrogance and wanting to elevate themselves. May we imitate our Lord and walk in love, putting others before ourselves and serving them. Let us become His humble ambassadors.

- 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/

Untying And Uniting

By Edd Sterchi

     Error unties and truth unites. Think about it. Error seeks to break apart the truth. Error causes disharmony and discord. But truth seeks to bring together those who agree with it.
     Now, notice something about the opening statement of this article: Error unties and truth unites. Notice that the only difference in the two descriptive words “unties” and “unites” is where the “t” is placed. Let’s let the “t” represent the cross of Christ. It makes a difference where we put Christ and His word in our lives.
     If we have Christ positioned properly and first in our lives, then His word will unify us with all others who do the same. But if we put Christ and His word anywhere lower than number one in our lives, we are positioning ourselves for error and disunity to creep in. Something to think about.
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15)

 - 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/

Pay Attention to the Vital

By David Bragg

    Eastern Airlines Flight 401 lifted off in New York on the evening of December 20, 1972 on its way toward Miami, Florida. It almost made it to its destination, but then when it comes to airplanes you don't want to "almost" make it. The plane went down in the Florida Everglades killing 101 people (75 survived).
    To make matters worse, when investigators began digging through the cause of the crash they determined that as the plane was approaching Miami the co-pilot noticed that the landing gear indicator light was not working. When he was not able to replace the bulb the pilot decided to assist him. While they were focused on a light bulb the plane went down (www.thisdayinaviation.com).
    One of the greatest dangers we can fall prey to is to focus on something of relatively minor importance while ignoring the things that are vital. The Pharisees made this mistake every day. Jesus described them as blind, saying that they “strain out a gnat and swallow a camel” (Matthew 23:24).
    It is crucial that we be able to discern between the trivial and the vital. Make the best use of your time and talents. Invest in the vital, focusing on anything less may lead to disaster.
 
 - 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/

Father Figures

By David A. Sargent

     Ken Canfield, Ph.D., affirms fatherlessness has wounded our world. “We are acutely aware of the impact of fatherlessness (children growing up without a father). Its scars mark our cities and nation in ways that few maladies have. In recent years the research community has detailed and documented the negative social outcomes associated with father absence and abuse, and their report is alarming.”
     Canfield states that fatherlessness continues to be a crisis in our world today. “Yet,” he says, “this Father’s Day there is a ray of goodness shining on a facet of fathering worthy of celebration. When fathers are absent, have abandoned or even abused their esteemed role of being a dad, father figures are emerging and standing in the fatherless chasm, providing incredible leadership.”
     In an article entitled, “Kids’ Essays Show the Power of Father Figures,” Canfield references a project conducted by the National Center for Fathering in which the Center has asked for and collected more than a million essays written by children about how their fathers and father figures influence their lives. One of these essays was written by Haley, a 12th grader, about her stepfather, Mark:
     My stepfather became my father when I was eight years old. My real father had died of cancer when I was six years old. My family was broken and needed healing. The Lord blessed us with my new father, Mark. He was like an angel sent from God. He too had lost his father when he was young, and he knew what my brothers and I were going through. He comforted us and gave us strength to continue.
     "When I was eleven, I was diagnosed with cancer. My family was devastated; just when we thought all of the turmoil was over, we realized it was only the beginning. The doctors decided I needed a bone marrow transplant. My stepfather Mark was a perfect match and offered to give his bone marrow to save my life, but a better match was found. My new father had only been a member of our family for a few years when his love and support was put to the extreme. He stayed and took care of me as long as time allowed before he had to return home for work. We became so close during this time that it is impossible to describe.
     "A father doesn’t have to be someone who is biologically related to you. It is someone who would do anything for you and loves you with all of [his] heart and self. I pray that my father and I will remain this close throughout all of our lives and that we will only grow closer as time passes." *
     Haley’s “father figure” exemplifies the kind of father that all children need: one who is selfless, supporting, and loving.
     The greatest “father figure” is God, the heavenly Father. He’s really not a figure; He is the Father. And, He is the greatest “Figure” of fatherhood that all fathers and father figures should seek to emulate.  He is supreme in the way that He loves and cares for His children.
     Do you want some proof?
     God loves us so much that even though we have sinned and rebelled against Him, He gave His one and only Son to die on the cross for our sins (John 3:16). On the cross, Jesus paid the price for our sins so that we might have forgiveness and become a child of God (Ephesians 1:7; Galatians 3:26-27).
     God will save, add to His family, and give eternal life to those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).  He will continue to cleanse from sin and prepare for a heavenly home those who continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7).
     God IS the greatest Father, and He wants YOU to be His child. Won’t YOU accept His offer on His terms?

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

* Information gleaned from “Kids’ Essays Show the Power of Father Figures” by Ken Canfield, Ph.D. in www.fathers.com.

Father’s Day

By R. W. McAlister

     Father’s Day, contrary to popular misconception (and my wife’s fervent belief!), was not established as a holiday in order to help greeting card manufacturers sell more cards. In fact when a “father’s day” was first proposed, there were no Father’s Day cards! Mrs. John B. Dodd, of Washington, first proposed the idea of a “father’s day” in 1909. Mrs. Dodd wanted a special day to honor her father, William Smart. William Smart, a Civil War veteran, was widowed when his wife (Mrs. Dodd’s mother) died in childbirth with their sixth child. Mr. Smart was left to raise the newborn and his other five children by himself on a rural farm in eastern Washington state. It was after Mrs. Dodd became an adult that she realized the strength and selflessness her father had shown in raising his children as a single parent.
     The first Father’s Day was observed on June 19, 1910 in Spokane, Washington. At about the same time in various towns and cities across America, other people were beginning to celebrate a “father’s day.” In 1924 President Calvin Coolidge supported the idea of a national Father’s Day. Finally in 1966 President Lyndon Johnson signed a presidential proclamation declaring the 3rd Sunday of June as Father’s Day.
     As we celebrate our earthly fathers on the day set aside for honoring them, let’s also remember to honor our Heavenly Father. Furthermore, let’s realize that we have a duty to honor Him not just one day out of the year, but every day we can awake to a new morning.
     Much like William Smart, God has provided for and continues to provide for His numerous children - but in ways that far surpass those of mortal man. God loved sinful man so much that He gave us His only Son to pay the price for our sins (Romans 5:8). Do we show our appreciation to Him for that? Does God know that we love and revere Him? Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15) and again, “Why call ye me Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). 
     Honor your Heavenly Father every day for all of the good in your life, because our blessings are surely too great in number to count. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). Even when we face our darkest hour, when our lot in life seems to be as terrible as Job’s, God is still there for us – just waiting for us to make our hearts known to Him (I Sam. 1:15; Heb. 4:16; Jas. 5:16). Honor God by doing His will and by continually thanking Him for all the blessings that are showered down upon us all. 
     I wish all fathers a happy Father’s Day and pray that we all will make every day a “Father’s Day” in honor of our Heavenly Father, the God of Heaven from whom all blessings flow.

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

Where Have All the Fathers Gone?

By Ronald Bartanen

     Where have all the fathers gone? Unless you have been out of the country the last few years you will probably agree with me when I say that the traditional and biblical standard for the “nuclear family” is being attacked. As defined by the Merriam Webster’s Deluxe Dictionary, such a family is described as “a family group that consists of father, mother and children.” You will have to search a long time to any more find family-shows on TV such as “Father Knows Best,” the “Donna Reed Show,” or—our favorite—“The Beaver,” except on stations that specialize in re-runs of productions of the ‘40s and ‘50s.  Small-children’s text books now refrain from depicting such families because such are unfamiliar to many children, especially to those with no father present.
     The single-parent household is becoming ever more common and acceptable. As Biblical standards are being cast aside, the blessing of two parents in the rearing of children is becoming rarer and rarer. Children are routinely being born into the world to young women who consent to sexual relationships without the security of “holy matrimony.” Divorce statistics continue to mount, leaving mothers to raise children alone, or with little input by the fathers. Feminists maintain that a father is no longer needed, other than to be a sperm-donor, enabling them the freedom to have children without the further need for a male. Lesbian couples are trying to convince us that two women can raise children as effectively as a man and a woman together can.
     Statistics show that in 1960, 5 percent of America’s children were without two parents—a mother and a father. Twenty years later the number had risen to 18 percent; and by 2000, to 33 percent. I believe that number now stands at 41 percent. While public welfare is a need in a humane society, some women admit that it is monetarily an advantage to remain on welfare as a single parent in preference to taking a low-paying job and hiring baby sitters. Some have discovered that they can “make” even more money by having more children, allowing an automatic raise in benefits. A poll taken by the Los Angeles Times in 1985, asking whether poor women often have children to increase benefits, showed that while non-poor residents said “No”, 64 percent of those considered poor said “Yes”.  With the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples, we can only expect the situation to worsen.
     Are fathers needed? Obviously, God’s pattern from the beginning was that of a father, mother and children. To depart from it is at our peril. Let Isaac Shakur, a rapper who was killed (possibly in a gang-related murder a few years ago), answer: “I know for a fact that had I had a father, I’d have some discipline. I’d have more confidence…. Your mother cannot calm you down the way a man can. Your mother can’t assure you the way a man can. My mother couldn’t show me where my manhood was. You need a man to teach you how to be a man.” He admitted to running with gangs to seek structure and protection. Not surprisingly, the Journal of Research on Adolescence revealed from a study that children who have never had a father available are the most likely to end up behind bars. It is predictable that as our nation continues to live in a world of “virtual reality” instead of facing the fact that God knows best, the situation will continue to deteriorate. And as the family-structure is destroyed, our blinded nation can only expect a similar fate. One day we will wake up and ask, “Where have all the fathers gone?”

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

June Weddings

By Joe Slater

    I’ve wondered why so many weddings occur in June. Is it because graduation is over so high school sweethearts seize the opportunity to tie the knot? While that sounds reasonable, the tradition of June weddings pre-dates modern educational practices. Here’s some interesting material from the internet:
    “June was traditionally the most popular month to marry, and still very common. Why? The goddess Juno (for whom June is named) was the protector of women in all aspects of life, but especially in marriage and childbearing, so a wedding in Juno’s month was considered most auspicious.
    “The idea of June weddings also comes from the Celtic calendar. On the Cross-Quarter Day of Beltane, or May Day (May 1), young couples would pair off to court for 3 months and then be wed on the next CrossQuarter Day (Lammas Day, August 1). Youths being impatient, the waiting period was shortened to midJune, and the popularity of June weddings was ensured.” ((https://www.almanac.com/content/wedding-traditionscustoms-and-etiquette)
    Now, that doesn’t mean you’re a Junoworshipper if you married in June! Scripture reveals no “right” date for a wedding. It places great weight, however, on the permanence of marriage (one man, one woman, for life, with one exception – Matthew 19:3-9). It emphasizes the relationship God wants between wife and husband (Ephesians 5:22-33). And it exalts the church as the bride of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:2; Revelation 21:9). 
    May God help us to pay heed to these matters, regardless of  when (or if) we married!

 - 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

The Eyes Need Exercise

By J. Randal Matheny

The eyes need exercise to see
The longer view — we need to raise
Our sights, and fix our distant gaze
On twinkling stars and hills and trees.

The heart as well must lift its view
From small concerns and passion's rush,
To see God paints with a bigger brush,
Perspective with a brighter hue.

- 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) 2017 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.

Long Walk Part of Gift

By Edd Sterchi

     A missionary’s wife was once teaching some children in Africa about the value of giving. She quoted Acts 20:35 where our Savior is quoted as saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” One little African boy soaked in every word and then decided to live out her teaching, but he had no money to purchase a gift for her. Then he had an idea.
     A few days later the boy brought the teacher a seashell necklace. It glistened with iridescent beauty. The woman was taken aback. “Where ever did you find such beautiful shells?” the teacher asked. The youth told her that he walked to the coast of the country to a certain spot where these shells could be found.
     The teacher knew that it would have taken the young man hours upon hours through difficult and dangerous terrain to walk to the sea. “It’s so beautiful,” she said, “but you shouldn’t have gone all that way to get this gift for me.” The boy smiled and simply said, “Long walk part of gift.”
     Certainly we can use this touching story to remind ourselves of the “long walk” of Christ that was a part of God’s gift to man. Jesus was “foreordained before the foundation of the world” (1 Pet. 1:20) to come to the earth, walk upon it, live, die, and rise again for the sake of helpless mankind. His trip was difficult and dangerous, but it was all a part of God’s “eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph. 3:11).
     Jesus did this willingly and lovingly. He endured hardship, ridicule, shame, and mistreatment – all for us (Heb. 2:17; 12:2-3). If we were to ask Him, “Why all this trouble, why did You do it this way?”, He would smile and say to us, “The long walk was part of the gift.”

 - 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/

Fruits Meet For Repentance

By R. W. McAlister

     In Matthew 3, we find John the Baptizer preaching a message of repentance in the wilderness of Judea. As he was baptizing in the Jordan, a group of Pharisees and Saducees approached him. Knowing them, and their motives, John knew neither group was sincere in their desire for repentance. What do we know about the Pharisees and Sadducees?
     The Pharisees professed great devotion to the law, but they were inwardly corrupt, hypocritical, and self-righteous.
     The Sadducees were aristocrats and religious skeptics who denied such basic doctrines as the resurrection of the body and the immortality of the soul, just to name two. Therefore, he denounced both sects as a brood of vipers, who pretended to desire to escape from the wrath to come, but exhibited no signs of true repentance.
     In Matthew 3:8, John the Baptist told this group of Pharisees and Sadducees “Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance.” What does this mean, exactly?
     Repentance is defined: “turning away from sin and turning to God – having a change of mind which leads to a change of actions.” The Greek verb translated “repent” is metanoeo. The literal translation is: “after thought.” It suggests the idea of thinking about an action after it has been taken. If it’s a sinful action, the idea would be a reflection back upon it and a feeling of remorse for having committed it.
     However, true repentance takes on more than just remorse, or “feeling sorry” for something done. On Pentecost, Peter admonished his audience to “repent” (Acts 2:38). Earlier in his message, the crowd had been “pricked in their hearts” (Acts 2:37). Clearly, repentance required more than just feeling badly, or being “cut to the heart” as we might phrase it, it required action – a change of life. Paul said, “…godly sorrow worketh (leads to) repentance…” (II Cor. 7:10). Repentance clearly means a change of behavior, not just feeling sorry for our actions.
     The phrase, “meet for” comes from the Greek word “axios” and means, “having the weight of another thing of like value, worth as much.”
     With this in mind, a lifestyle change indicative of true repentance must equal the seriousness of the wrongdoing, or else true repentance hasn’t occurred.
     So, what is the “fruit” John is talking about here? If the sin has been against another individual (false statements – written or verbal, dishonest business deal, theft – petty or major, etc.), reconciliation must be made to that individual. In cases of theft, restitution must be made. When the prodigal son of Luke 15 returned home and confessed, “Father, I have sinned against heaven…” it would be wrong to say this son had done all that repentance required of him. Would he not have had a responsibility to admit his wrong to his father? Of course, and he did: “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight…” (Luke 15:21). Further, if one has truly repented, the proof (fruit) is often visible through a changed attitude and by making better, more Godly choices.
     Far too many people believe the lie that they can make a generic confession at a church service, without ever making things right personally with the person against whom they have sinned.
     Repentance without every action that defines it is not really repentance at all. May God bless all who truly see the need for change and set about making it!

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

Committed for the Long Run

By Alan Smith

     Unable to attend the funeral after his Uncle Charlie died, a man who lived far away called his brother and told him, "Do something nice for Uncle Charlie and send me the bill."
     Later, he got a bill for $200.00, which he paid. The next month, he got another bill for $200.00, which he also paid, figuring it was some incidental expense.
     But, when the bills for $200.00 kept arriving every month, he finally called his brother again to find out what was going on.
     "Well," said the other brother, "You said to do something nice for Uncle Charlie. So I rented him a tuxedo."
     That's not exactly the most appropriate gift for someone who has died! But the story made me think about how we are often willing to give, even to sacrifice great amounts, and we are happy to do so once or twice. But we don't want it to become something we have to do for the rest of our lives.
     For example, we're happy to have friends or family stay in our homes for a short while, but we don't want it to go on for years and years. We'll agree to teach a Bible class at church for a quarter or two, but we don't want to be stuck in the class for the rest of our life. We'll take a mission trip and live in squalid conditions for a week or two, but would never dream of moving there permanently.
     And our hesitancy in situations like those is perhaps understandable. Unfortunately, we sometimes are tempted to have the same attitude when it comes to serving Christ. We're willing to give up everything for Christ -- at least, for a while. But for our whole lives? Always seeking to put others first? Always willing to forgive? Always willing to suffer and sacrifice for the cause of Christ?
     We need to be reminded that Christianity is not a sprint, it's a long-distance marathon, and we must be willing to commit ourselves to run the race to the very end. Be forewarned -- it can be tiring. But "let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart." (Gal. 6:9)
     Have a great day!

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

Where Are You?

By Clifton Angel

     Adam and Eve transgressed God’s law—they sinned (Genesis 3:1–6). At that moment, God could have destroyed the world. He could have sent Adam and Eve to eternal punishment prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:46). In so doing, God would have been perfectly upright and just. He is God. He made Adam in His own image (Genesis 1:27). He gave Adam access to the tree of life (Genesis 2:9). He trained Adam to live and gave him a purpose to live (Genesis 2:15). He instructed Adam in righteousness—doing right and avoiding wrong (Genesis 2:16–17). I believe Adam instructed his wife in righteousness (Genesis 3:2–3). Yet, they both chose to go beyond what was right—they sinned. And what did God do? He sought them, taught them, and saved them (Genesis 3:7–24).
     God’s first words to Adam after he had sinned were, “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9). God does not need GPS. He did not need information concerning Adam’s physical location. He knew where he was. Rather, God was humbling Adam and teaching Adam. It was an opportunity for Adam to realize and say to himself: “I’m not where I’m supposed to be. I’ve done wrong, I’m naked, I’m afraid, I’m hiding, and I need your mercy.” Adam did not make that initial conclusion, did he? Instead, he concluded that God and the woman were to blame (Genesis 3:12). How futile! Eventually, God helped Adam to realize where he was. He helped Adam to realize that he was separated from God—spiritually dead—and as result, he and every person following would also be separated from the tree of life, from the ease of living, and the protection of health.
     Adam’s sons Cain and Abel were taught to worship God with proper sacrifices
(Genesis 4:1–7; see also Hebrews 11:4, Romans 10:17). Cain chose to worship God in his own way. And so, God did not respect his offering. God’s rejection of Cain’s worship was a form of God saying to Cain, “Where are you?” God wanted Cain to do well and be reconciled to Him. Instead, Cain grew angry and envious, even to the point of murder. Again, God sought salvation for Cain. God asked, “Where is Abel thy brother?” (Genesis 4:9). God knew where Abel was. He was really asking Cain, “Where are you?” He wanted Cain to admit that he had sinned and that he needed God’s mercy. Cain did not accept God’s attempts to save him and was cast out. It was then that Cain had to face the fact of his new location—outside of “the presence of the LORD” (Genesis 2:16).
     And now, the question comes to each one of us. Where are you?

 - Clifton Angel preaches for the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. He may be contacted through that congregation's website: http://www.coldwatercofc.com/

Verse Numbering: Boon or Bane?

By Ron Adams

     The Bible is a marvelous and inspired book. It has been translated into many languages and many English versions are available. To make it easy for the readers to find certain passages or statements, the text has been divided into chapters and verses. This makes it very convenient for referencing a particular passage.
     In doing so, it has opened the door to what I call “verse plucking.” That is, one may find a numbered verse and take it out of context. Then draw ideas or teachings based on the isolated verse. The findings are not found or supported by any other verse or verses in the Bible. And often, they conflict with other passages. The ideas “found” in isolated verses have been championed by many and have convinced others that what they say the verse teaches is Bible truth.
     I have coined a phrase, “When you find a verse, put it back where you found it.” The context is so important in determining what is being said. Quite often when the verse is put back in its setting the things “found” in the isolated verse are determined to be the product of a fertile imagination or personal biases.
     Everyone who teaches or presents lessons based on the Bible must be very careful when connecting individual verses found in various passages in the Bible. The teacher must be sure that each verse referenced clearly supports what is said in the context.
     You know, sometimes it’s best to read the Bible without paying attention to the numbers.

- F.Y.C. is a monthly publication by Ron Adams. 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. © 2017

Affirmation

By Lance Cordle

     Humans need it. We want others to give it freely, not grudgingly. We want it to come without prompting and we would love for it to  happen on a regular basis. However, most of us are of such disposition we do not need it every day or, for that matter, every week...but we do need it. What is “it?” The answer is affirmation—the acknowledgement by someone outside ourselves, that we are needed, wanted and valued for our unique contribution to their life.
     The apostle Paul was a master of affirmation. Just a quick glance at the New Testament books which are his letters to churches and individuals will confirm this. As you look over the following verses, note the phrases of affirmation (in italics, for my emphasis):

  • “Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in the Lord, who risked their necks for me . . .” (Romans 16:3, 4)
  • “I rejoice at the coming of Stephanus and Fortunatus and Achaicus . . . For they refreshed my spirit as well as yours…” (1 Corinthians 16: 17, 18)
  • “. . . Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything.” (Ephesians 6:21).
  • I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy . . .” (Philippians 1:3, 4)
  • “For I bear him (Epaphras) witness that he has worked hard for you and for those in Laodicea and in Hieropolis.” (Colossians 4:13)
  • “To Timothy, my beloved child” (2 Timothy 1:2)
  • “To Titus, my true child in a common faith . . .” (Titus 1:4)
He greeted, complimented and encouraged those to whom he wrote. He mentioned names of people whom he admired and appreciates and was not showy or dramatic in his affirmation.
     You and I can follow Paul’s example. We can do so in writing, just as he did with a few well-chosen words. It can also be done personally, with a touch, hand-shake or hug. All it takes is the courage to push those words past our lips. One such sentence could be, “I am glad you are  my . . .” You fill in the blank with friend, wife, husband, son, daughter, teacher, etc.”
     One note of caution, however—you had better mean every word, because they will probably know if you are not sincere.
       
- 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

The Necessity of Baptism

By Rob Albright

     John was preaching the message of repentance (Mark 1:1-11). Repentance means changing your mind about God. John was urging the people to change their life back to the right ways of God. There were a number of people who heard that message and were baptized (Matthew 3:11). John would not baptize them if they did not repent (Matthew 3:7) and confess their sins (Matthew 3:6).
     In doing this, John was preparing the way for the coming of Jesus and His authority. Remember when Jesus was baptized, God spoke from heaven and acknowledged Jesus as His Son (Matthew 3:17). Jesus was baptized in submission to the Father - this was God’s will. When Jesus was baptized, God was pleased. So, what pleases God? The submission of the Son (Hebrews 5:8-9).
     Jesus, has been given all authority (Matthew 28:18) He tells His disciples to preach the gospel, baptize, and continue teaching (Matthew 28:18-20). Jesus even said “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). Do you think God would be pleased if we refuse to be baptized? If the Son of God submitted to God’s right way to please the Father, how can we expect to please the Father if we refuse to submit to baptism?

- 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/

A Matter of Attitude

By Kevin V. Rutherford

     Have you ever noticed that attitude and mental toughness can enable an individual to overcome great odds and obstacles? Sometimes the slower runner wins the race. Sometimes the weaker man wins the fight. Sometimes the less talented team takes the championship. Why? Attitude is the answer.
     Two missionaries were doing some work on a remote island. One of those missionaries was tall and thin. The other missionary was the opposite in build. A local islander spoke of how difficult it would be to walk from one end of the island to the other. This was true because in order to do so, one would have to go through thick brush in some parts and climb a mountain in the center of the island. He looked at the two missionaries and told the tall and thin one he wouldnt make it. Then he expressed his confidence that the shorter, wider missionary would be able to get across to the other side. Why? He knew the shorter, wider missionary had the mental toughness to complete the task.  
     A Biblical example of this principle is found in 1 Samuel 14. Saul was king of Israel at the time. He was ruling over a people who were being oppressed by the Philistines. Things were not going well for Israel when an event occurred which gave the Jews courage and strength to turn the tide. Saul had a son by the name of Jonathan who had a tough mental attitude. His determination and will power came from his faith in God. He and his armor bearer decided they would go by themselves and attack the entire Philistine garrison, Jonathan said, Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised it may be that the Lord will work for us. For nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few (1 Samuel). Jonathan and his armor bearer climbed on their hands and knees over a steep slope to get to the Philistine garrison. Once at the top, the two men quickly killed twenty men. The Philistines began to panic which gave the other Jews courage. Soon the entire Jewish army had joined the fight and the Philistines were defeated.
     Caleb is a second example of this kind of mental toughness that is based on complete trust and faith in God. When the Jews refused to go into the land of Canaan out of fear, Caleb stood against the cowards. The Bible says, Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it (Numbers 13:30). God later said, concerning Caleb, My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went and his descendants shall inherit it (Numbers 14:24). This different spirit is that mental toughness and determination that comes from a strong faith in God. Caleb later showed this great attitude again, when at the age of 85, Caleb was ready to conquer the giant people of Anakim and take the mountain upon which they lived.
     We need to see the spirit of Jonathan and Caleb in the Lord's church today. Instead of complaining about every little thing that goes wrong, we ought to make up our minds that with the Lord's help we can accomplish great things for Him. Is your faith in God strong enough to give you an attitude of mental toughness (Philippians 4:13)

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