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Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Solomon on the Billboard Hot 100

By David Bragg

    On December 4, 1965 King Solomon of Old Testament fame, the successor of David (the man after God’s own heart; Acts 13:22) and the wisest man who ever lived had the number one song on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. His song, Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season), can be found in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.
    Solomon, who received no royalties for his composition, has folk singer/songwriter and anti-war activist Pete Seeger to thank for his long-delayed success. Seeger contributed only six words at the end of the song, seven if you count the title: Turn! Turn! Turn! It was first recorded in 1959 by Seeger, then in 1962 by the Limeliters, and most successfully by the Bryds in 1965 when it became an international hit which holds the record for the oldest lyrics of any number one song.
    In Ecclesiastes 3 Solomon writes of the ever-changing phases of life as we face, by chance, various emotions and circumstances (“a time to every purpose under the heaven”). Seeger’s song, an anti-war anthem, emphasized that there was “a time of war, and a time of peace.” But consider this observation: “There is a time to laugh; a time to mourn.” What an appropriate snapshot of daily life mixed with happy moments and crushingly sad ones. Isn’t it great that, in Christ, we can weather these constantly shifting emotions with a deeply rooted joy? Persecuted. Tempted. Tried. Christians can rejoice in all those times because of the joy in Christ that  enables us to “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!”

- 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/

In Accordance with the Scriptures

By David R. Ferguson

    In 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 the Apostle Paul writes, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” It may come as a surprise to some of you, but if you would try to find the passage in the Old Testament that says specifically, “The Messiah will be raised from the dead on the third day,” guess what? You’re not going to find it. But it’s positively true, nonetheless, that according to Scripture, the Law of Moses does make this prophecy, just as Paul says. But to find it requires study, which is exactly what Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15 [ESV], “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”
    Remember how John cried out, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” in John 1:36 when he saw Jesus walking one day? Paul showed how Jesus fulfilled the Passover in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 [ESV] when he wrote, “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
    Jesus not only was our Passover, but He was also the Firstfruits! And Paul ties the firstfruits specifically to the resurrection: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the Firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20 [ESV]). In verse 23 [ESV] of that chapter, Paul writes, “But each in his own order: Christ the Firstfruits, then at His coming those who belong to Christ.” No wonder, then, that Paul wrote so confidently about the resurrection occurring on the third day according to the Scriptures! No wonder that Jesus stated this so emphatically time after time! Christ rose from the dead as the Firstfruits of those that slept. He was the antitype of the wave sheaf, and His resurrection took place on the very day that the wave sheaf was to be presented before the Lord, which was the third day following Passover (Leviticus 23:5-11)!
    It is my continued hope and prayer that the Lord will bless you and your family!

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

Do You Like Honey?

By Caleb J. Rutherford

    Have you ever eaten honey? Or how about honeycomb? See, I am not a fan of either. The only way I will eat honey is if it is drizzled over a hot biscuit. But I do know, however, the sweetness that comes with honey and the honeycomb. It is something that is quite pleasant to many people, and something that would be considered a treat to eat.
    I think about the book of Proverbs, and how so often, the plea for its readers is to adhere to the wisdom and the knowledge of God. To remember the advice of the Father, to apply it to our lives, so that we might be able to make the best decisions possible in the coming future. I specifically think about chapter 24 and vs. 13 - “My son, eat honey because it is good, and the honeycomb which is sweet to your taste; (14) So shall the knowledge of wisdom be to your soul; If you have found it, there is a prospect, and your hope will not be cut off.” No one likes to put something that tastes bad in our mouths. If someone does not like broccoli, he will not seek out broccoli to eat. But honey, it is sweet, it is good to the taste (for some people), and it is something that most would seek out, in order to eat it. Well the same should be with knowledge and wisdom. It ought to be something that we hunger for. It ought to be something to strive for.
    It should be something that is sweet to our lives, because we know it will better our lives. So often, people do not want help. Many people in our world today think we have it all figured out; and, “who are you to tell me that I need advice on how to deal with this or that.” And yet so often, we make mistake after mistake after wrong choice after wrong choice, simply because we did not listen to the wisdom and advice that someone has to offer. If we know that someone can help us in a situation, we ought to be people who will swallow our pride, get rid of our arrogance, and listen to the advice. Well the same is true with us spiritually. We know that the Word of God has everything that we need in order to be the best Christian that we can be (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Therefore, why would we not allow it to shape and change our lives? Why would we not allow the wisdom and the knowledge of our God, help form us into the best servants for Him? Let’s be individuals who seek out the wisdom of God, and not only seek it, but then apply it to our everyday lives.

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

Troubled Hearts

By Al Behel

    A teenager took a rope and hanged himself in the family’s shed, depressed about his relationship with his girlfriend. A two year old is beaten with belts, her head repeatedly dunked into cold bath water, and is thrown to the floor because she doesn’t consistently say “please” and “thank you.” She dies from her injuries.
    These examples of troubled hearts are extreme, but frightening familiar. Most people don’t take their frustrations out in such violent ways. They may become depressed, have difficulty sleeping, eat too much, or turn to substance abuse to numb the pain. They may react in anger or internalize their stress. They are still very troubled, nonetheless. They have lost their sense of balance and meaning.
    We are told that everyone has a breaking point though few of us reach it. We ask how it could happen and why we didn’t see it coming. Could we have prevented it? What would have made a difference in the outcome?
    King David found the answer when he confronted his own enemies. He said, “In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears” (Psalms 18:6). He went on to tell of God’s powerful response in delivering him.
    Depression and despair that is borne of anger is like a brain cancer that eats away our peace. David continued, “Yea, you light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness” (18:28). The darkness of despair is made bright as day when we place our confidence in God. Unfortunately, many people never come to know the peace God provides.
    Where do you go when you are discouraged or troubled in heart? Do you turn to destructive actions or become bitter? Or do you sit quietly and call on the Lord? Do you lift Him up in your heart and listen to His voice? He will lift you up.
- 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/

Are You Dressing to be Chaste or “Chased?”

By R.W. McAlister

     In an age where modesty is disappearing, especially in regard to how we dress, it’s important that we remember how to distinguish between modest and immodest dress.
     In Titus 2:5, the Bible says that older women are to teach younger women, “To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.” Discreet, chaste – I Timothy 2:9 says women should be adorned in “...modest apparel, with shamefacedness, and sobriety...” If you have any doubts about the clothing you’re considering wearing, ask yourself, “Can I wear this with shamefacedness?” Shamefacedness means, “with a sense of shame.” Clothing which doesn’t reflect a shame of one’s nakedness is not modest clothing. In other words, clothing that glorifies or puts on display much of the body is not something anyone can wear with shamefacedness. Consider these questions:
     Can I wear this with sobriety? Sobriety means, “Sound judgment.” Clothing which doesn’t reflect sound judgment of how God would have us to dress is not modest clothing. If your state of dress indicates that you might be willing to engage in activity that in reality, you have no intention of being part of, then you need to dress differently – you need to dress with sobriety.
     Can I wear this with discreteness? Discreteness means, “self-control.” Clothing which doesn’t reflect a sense of self-control or which causes others to experience a lapse of self-control is not modest clothing and should never be worn in public! Again, this idea applies to putting on less cotton than you find in the top of the aspirin bottle and it also apples to the other extreme of excessively fancy clothing, heavy makeup, or ostentatious hairstyles.
     When you’re getting ready go out, especially to come to worship God, spend your time getting ready spiritually more than physically. Remember, real beauty comes from within and is measured by the size of your inward self (Eph. 3:14-19).
     Can I wear this and at the same time be chaste? Chaste means, “pure from carnality.” Clothing which excites the passions and lusts of the flesh is not modest apparel and no one could so dress and remain chaste as per Titus 2:5!
     Thanks be to God for giving us these guidelines and making it plain how we ought to dress and present ourselves before others and before the Creator of the universe! May we all strive to honor God in all that we do.

- 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/

We Have an Anchor

By Ron Bartanen

    As a ship would need an anchor to prevent it from being driven by the wind and waves onto a rugged, rock-infested shore and destroyed, without exception we all need an anchor for our lives to keep us from the storms of life that would destroy us. Our faith in Christ is just such an anchor—and especially we would view the resurrection of Christ in this regard. While all religions have their revered founders and gurus, all are powerless against the winds of time that would drive us onto the shores of God’s judgment. Only Christianity has a founder who died for our sins and been raised from the dead. Death is not the ultimate conqueror. Though even Jesus, in death, willingly gave up His spirit into the Father’s hands, yet, as a verse in one of our hymns declares, “Death could not keep his prey.” He arose in triumph over death, and holds within His hands “the keys of hell (hades) and of death” (Rev. 1:18). Ours is not a dead savior, but the Living One. Without the assurance of a living Savior, we would be at the mercy of all that is spiritually destructive to our souls. We would not even be assured of who Jesus is—the Son of God. After all, anyone could make the claim. Of Jesus alone can it be said that He was “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead” (Romans 1:4). We know who He is because of His resurrection.
    Without His resurrection we would have no assurance of our own. Death would be the great ultimate destroyer. But because He was raised, we, too, will be raised. In 1 Corinthians 15, the apostle Paul linked our resurrection to His, saying, “If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain: ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man (Adam) came death, by man (Christ) came also the resurrection of the dead” (15:17-20). Hebrews 6:19-20a compares His resurrection to the believer’s anchor, declaring, “which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil, whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus.” This hope is secure—“within the veil,” that is, beyond the veil of death into heaven itself, where the risen Christ has entered as the “forerunner”, preparing the way for our resurrection. Our eternal welfare is established only in the crucified, risen and glorified Son of God. For the believer, it is as one hymn declares: “We have an anchor that keeps the soul, Steadfast and sure while the ages roll….”
    The greatest question we could ask is: Is your faith anchored and made secure in Christ. Have you accepted Him, who, by the grace of God, “tasted death for every man?” (Hebrews 2:9) Have you identified yourself with Him in being “buried with Him in baptism” and raised with Him to walk “in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4). Is it your hope to continue that walk till you share in “the likeness of His resurrection” (6:5)?—to share His glory?                              

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

When You Are in Over Your Head

By Johnny Hester

    Luke 23:44-46, Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.
    Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two.
    And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said,
    “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit’.”
    Having said this, He breathed His last.
    “He breathed His last.” Those words cause one’s heart to sink.  When Jesus exhaled for a final time on the cross, all the minions of Hell may well have thought that the battle was over and that victory belonged to Satan their evil commander. But how wrong they were! And how horrified they must have been just a short time later! Yes, Jesus suffered and died. He was buried. But then “He rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:4)! Furthermore, “He [The Father] has put all things under His feet” (v. 27)! Think for a moment about the wonderful implications of that truth that should compel us to praise, worship and live for God.
    “He has put all things under His feet” (v. 27). Do you ever feel that you are in way over your head with problems? That may be the case, but Jesus is over all things. He is in Heaven, interceding on your behalf! A glorious fact is powerfully declared in Romans 8:34, “Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”  Where are your problems? “Under His feet”! Jesus is alive! He is in control! Jesus is coming again!
    Beloved, is there someone in your life who is hurting, suffering, struggling? Consider sending that person a note of encouragement and be sure to use Romans 8:34 as a closing verse of hope. Letting one know that Christ is alive, above, active and working on the behalf of His people can bring a comfort and strength that nothing else can produce.

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

Savior and Lord

By Rob Albright
 
     Herod wanted to put Jesus to death (Matthew 2:13). The people from Jesus’ home town rejected Him (Lk.4:16-30). The apostles, chosen by Jesus to take His message to the world, were generally not admired. The early disciples who started to follow Jesus were often treated with contempt.
     Those of us today who have decided to follow Jesus and become a Christ-like individual still face various challenges. Peter’s words encourage us to be steadfast and always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks us about the hope we have and the life we live (1 Peter 3:13-16). Unjust suffering for being a Christian and doing good, still happens in our world today.
     We may be tempted to give up .But stop and think who we are following. Jesus was God in the flesh (John 1:1,14). He is the Savior and the Lord. I know, there were some who thought when he died on the cross (John 19:32-33) that the talk about Him would cease. Well – on that Sunday morning (Matthew 28:1-9) Jesus was raised from the dead and appeared to many people over the next 40 days. This is the greatest proof that Jesus is Savior and Lord.      

- 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/

One Race Leaves No Room for Racism

By Edd Sterchi

    During  a  time  when  our  nation  should  be  coming  together  to  battle  a common enemy (cornavirus), it seems that we are more divided than ever(politically and socially).  Unfortunately a big part of this is racism.  This is not God’s plan for man.
    God designed humanity – all of humanity – to be made in His image (Gen. 1:26; Acts 17:28-29).  There should be no prejudice against any human, as they are a creation of and made in the likeness of God and all consist of one race – the human race.
    When Jesus designed the church, He made it a place that was to be without race, social status, or gender.  “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there isneither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28).
    God’s plan for the church is that people from all backgrounds come together and are equal.  The saved in heaven (which were the church upon the earth)are described in Rev. 7:9 as coming “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages.”  They were all equal in God’s eyes.
     Peter, through inspiration, referenced the church as “a chosen race” in 1Pet. 2:9.  This shows the church as perfectly unified with no “outsiders.” Think about it, God declares that in His church, there are not different ethnic groups, but they all consist of one ethnic group regardless of background,upbringing, or geographic origin.
    In essence, we could look at it this way: In the church, we are made to be one race – and within one race there can be no racism.
    Thus, in the church, we must condemn all forms of racism, bigotry,prejudice, and discrimination. We must call it for what it is: sin!  Racial injustice is incompatible with the message of the gospel in which Jesus came and died for all (Heb. 7:27; 1 John 2:2).
    It’s time to look beyond politics and prejudices and see people.  People that God created.  People that can be made one through the gospel.

- 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/

A Sense of Need

By Donna Wittlif

And my God shall supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).
    What do you need? A bigger house? A new car? Wellness and health of body and mind? Perhaps it is in everyone’s nature to desire material things that he thinks he needs. Many covet things that will make life easier or give them a longer and more comfortable life. But what do we really need?
    Philippians 4:19 promises that God will supply our every need. We have to remember that this is God talking, not man. God does not view things as we do. He did not send His Son to give us things. Jesus did not come to make man rich, or healthy, or sane, although He did lots of healing of people’s bodies and minds while He was on Earth.
    Jesus came to give our soul everything it needs. If we were hungry, we would think we need food. If we had no house, we would believe we need a place to live. If we were so poor we could not pay for the comforts of life, we would desire money.
    But what if the doctor told you that you had a week to live? Or what if Jesus were to come today? What would you need? Would it be something material? No. Your biggest need would be for God—for His presence, His comfort, His care, and His promise that you will be with Him for eternity. In the end, all that would matter is that you have God.
    The most precious possession we can have is friendship with God. Psalm 118 says, “Oh give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good; for his lovingkindness endures forever.” The rest of the psalm tells why. We cannot live without God. He is our greatest need.
    Hymn: “I Need Thee Every Hour”
    Prayer: Heavenly Father, let us never forget that we need You and to know that You are there for us and that You will help us when we call on You in prayer. In Jesus’s name. Amen.


- 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/

Patriotism in God’s Kingdom

By Joe Chesser

    This week our great nation is celebrating its independence. For 244 years now we have been a free nation. We are blessed in countless ways as citizens of the United States of America. Far too often these blessings are taken for granted. A new wave of patriotism and awareness of our blessings swept the country following the terrorists’ attacks on September 11, 2001. Though not as obvious as then, patriotism is still strong.
    Patriotism is defined as “love of country and a willingness to sacrifice for it.” Other words related to the idea patriotism are loyalty, devotion, self-sacrifice, and brotherhood. Because of their love of our country and the people who populate it, men and women willingly risk their lives to protect and defend our liberties and freedoms. At this time of year, patriotism swells within us a sense of pride and renews our devotion when we hear our national anthem or when we simply notice our beautiful flag flying in the breeze. This is a perfect time to display our patriotism. Fly your flags. Decorate your cars and yards.  Pray for America.
    As Christians we have the privilege of taking the idea of patriotism to an even higher and greater plane, to the spiritual level. One of the analogies the Bible uses to describe the people of God is as a kingdom or a nation. In fact, the kingdom was the central image Jesus used to relate his gospel to us. He began his ministry by declaring, “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news” (Mark 1:15). Jesus spoke many kingdom parables. The very heart of the words messiah and Christ is that Jesus is the King of his spiritual nation. Of Christians Peter wrote, “You are a chosen people ... a holy nation (1 Peter 2:9). Whenever and wherever people surrender to the rule of God, there will be the kingdom of God, the church of God.
    But note. Many of us have deep feelings of patriotism towards America. We love the USA, and we give our time, energy and money to participate in patriotic events and organizations. All this is good. It has its place. But how much better it is to love the Lord’s kingdom and sacrifice your time, energy and money for it.
    As great as America is, it will not last forever. It may be overpowered someday by a more powerful nation. Our economy may someday crumble and fall. The examples of the great Roman and Alexandrian empires vividly demonstrate this possibility. But the Lord’s kingdom will never be destroyed (Daniel 2:44). Even Satan with his demonic forces cannot destroy the kingdom of God (Matthew 16:18).
    Do you feel as patriotic towards the church as you do America? Do you have feelings of pride, loyalty and devotion for the church? Are you willing to sacrifice for the Lord’s kingdom with your time, energy and resources? If so, show it! Don’t hide your light under a bushel. Don’t limit your Christian activities to within the walls of a church building. Let everybody know you are a citizen of the Kingdom of God!

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

A Warm Welcome

By David A. Sargent

    When John Todd, a nineteenth-century clergyman, was six years old, both of his parents died. A kind-hearted aunt raised him until he left home to study for the ministry. Later, this aunt became seriously ill, and in distress she wrote Todd a letter. “Would death mean the end of everything, or could she hope for something beyond?” Here, condensed from The Autobiography of John Todd, is the letter he sent in reply:

   It is now thirty-five years since I, as a boy of six, was left quite alone in the world. You sent me word you would give me a home and be a kind mother to me. I have never forgotten the day I made the long journey to your house. I can still recall my disappointment when, instead of coming for me yourself, you sent your servant, Caesar, to fetch me.
   I remember my tears and anxiety as, perched high on your horse and clinging tight to Caesar, I rode off to my new home. Night fell before we finished the journey, and I became lonely and afraid. “Do you think she’ll go to bed before we get there?” I asked Caesar.
   “Oh no!” he said reassuringly, “She’ll stay up for you. When we get out o’ these here woods, you’ll see her candle shinin’ in the window.”
   Presently we did ride out into the clearing, and there, sure enough, was your candle. I remember you were waiting at the door, that you put your arms close about me — a tired and bewildered little boy. You had a fire burning on the hearth, a hot supper waiting on the stove. After supper you took me to my new room, heard me say my prayers, and then sat beside me till I fell asleep.
   Some day soon God will send for you, to take you to a new home. Don’t fear the summons, the strange journey, or the messenger of death. God can be trusted to do as much for you as you were kind enough to do for me so many years ago. At the end of the road you will find love and a welcome awaiting, and you will be safe in God’s care. *
The words of John Todd reflect the hope that one has in Christ.
    The Apostle Paul was a Roman prisoner not knowing the outcome of his impending trial. He considered the possibilities (please read Philippians 1:21-24). If he were acquitted, then he could continue to serve God. If he were to be given the death penalty, then he would look forward to going to heaven to be with Christ, “which is far better.”
    Eternal life beyond the grave with God in heaven – this is the eternal hope of a Christian.
    That hope is a living hope, because Jesus died for our sins on the cross, was buried, and He rose again.
    “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade -- kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5 NIV).
    God will save and give eternal life to those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). He will continue to cleanse from sin and prepare for heaven those who continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7-9).
    A warm welcome awaits the child of God in the resurrection.
    Won’t YOU accept God’s offer of salvation, sonship, and eternal life?

- 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

* As quoted by Vernon Grounds, www.bible.org

Saved to Serve

By Edd Sterchi

    From a rather obscure person from a generally overlooked section of Scripture comes an important biblical principle.  After giving His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus healed a leper (Matt. 8:1-4) and a centurion’s servant (Matt. 8:5-13).  Then in verses 14 and 15 of Matthew chapter 8, we read, “Now when Jesus had come into Peter’s house, He saw his wife’s mother lying sick with a fever.  So He touched her hand, and the fever left her.  And she arose and served them.”  From the actions of Peter’s unnamed mother-in-law, we learn this principle: We are saved to serve.
    Burton Coffman in his commentary of Matthew says of this incident: “Peter’s mother-in-law attested the completeness of her healing by rising at once to minister to the Lord.  No blessing of any kind, physical or spiritual, is intended solely for the benefit of the recipient.  People are saved to save others.  Those who were healed were healed to serve others!”
    This principle is also clearly brought forth in Eph. 2:8-10: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  We are not saved to sit, we were saved to be active.  We are not saved to be served, we are saved to serve. Indeed, let us always remember that we were created anew in Christ so that we may show the love of Christ to others.   The world may never see Christ until they see Him living through our love and service.
    Has God blessed you?  Then bestow blessings upon others.  Has God helped you?  Then heap helpings upon others.  Has God delivered you?  Has God been good to you?  Then deliver goodness to others.  Jesus said that the second greatest commandment was closely tied to the first: to love your neighbor as you love yourself (Matt. 22:39).  Let’s all make better efforts at better serving in the name of Christ.
    “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” (Heb. 6:10)

- Edd Sterchi preaches for the Broadway Church of Christ in Campbellsville, KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website.

Unwanted!

By Ronald Bartanen

    “Then the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought him to depart from them: for they were taken with great fear: and he went up into the ship, and returned back again” (Luke 8:37).
    Jesus Christ will not impose Himself upon anyone. He won’t stay where he’s unwanted. The Gadarenes were so upset with Jesus when He cast a legion of demons from a man and sent them into nearby hogs. To them, the hogs were of more value than the man, so they “besought him to depart from them.” In our world today there is an increasing animosity towards Jesus as He seemingly intrudes into men’s comfort-zones. Even the mention of His name in prayer is not considered appropriate in schools, the military, etc. His word is considered out-of-date and irrelevant. 
    Some would purposely exclude Him from their lives. These would tell us there should be no positive mention of Him in school or public activities. He is even being written out of school history books.
    Some would exclude Him in their choice of life-style. Evil so fills their hearts and lives, it is impossible for Christ to take up residence in them. He is excluded from their lives.
    Some would crowd Him out—not purposely, but simply by filling their lives with material things. Such find no time for Christ, Bible reading or church. Other things clamor for their attention.
    What about you? Would you be among those to send Him away? Or would you welcome Him into your life?

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

Roll Call of Ordinary Christians

By Ron Adams

    Hebrews chapter 11 is often referred to as “The  Role  Call  of  the  Old  Testament  Faithful” and rightly  so. And there are other individuals that are often mentioned in the New Testament: the Apostles, Paul, Timothy,  Titus, Mark, Luke, Barnabas. But many other Christians were busy doing  what  they  could  where  they  were.  In Romans chapter 16, we are given the names of some.  I  prefer  to  call  this  the  “Roll  Call  of Ordinary  Christians”  –  true  foot  soldiers  of  the cross.
    Phoebe,  who  is  a  servant  of  the  church which is at Cenchrea . . . Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers  in Christ Jesus, who  for my life risked  their  own  necks  .  .  .  Epaenetus,  my beloved, who is the first convert to Christ from Asia . . . Mary, who has worked hard for you … Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me … Ampliatus,  my  beloved  in  the  Lord  … Urbanus,  our  fellow  worker  in  Christ  … Stachys my beloved . . . Apelles, the approved in Christ . . . the household of AristobulusHerodion, my kinsman . . . the household of Narcissus, who are in the Lord . . . Tryphaena and Tryphosa, workers in  the  Lord …  Persis the beloved, who has worked hard in the Lord . . . Rufus, a choice man in the Lord, also his mother and mine  .  .  . Asyncritus,  Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brethren with them . . . Philologus and Julia . . . Nereus and his sister . . . Olympas . . . and all the saints who are with them.
    Today, many Christians are busy doing what they can where they are. We may never know them  or  hear  what  they  have  done,  but  their work makes a difference. They don’t do it to be praised by men but by God. Thank God for the “foot soldiers” in each congregation – including this one.
    “Have you heard . . .?”

- 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. © 2016

Marriages That Don’t Fail

By Ron Thomas

     In the July 27th (2014) edition of Parade Magazine there is an article on the happily married (“Happily Ever After”). The gist of the article is accentuating the positives in marriage to make it last until “death do us part.” Some 40 years ago, after some research on the topic, psychologist John Gottman identified, with 90% accuracy, four things that encourage (or move) marriages to end in divorce (p. 8). They are: criticism, defensiveness, contempt (rolling one’s eyes), and stonewalling (or, the silence treatment). That which contributes toward such behavior is stress. If you reflect for a moment you will easily recognize these things to be so.
     What are some suggestions for a happy marriage then? Once again, there are four things identified. Offer some tenderness. Not always easy to do, and one may have to travel further than the other, but its usefulness is obvious. Second, soften conflict with humor.  Wisdom and experience helps one (or the other) to know when to make use of it. Third, support, but don’t smother. Especially when there are problems, or there is a problem; when the other knows his (her) spouse is there to help and support through the weakness (that is, helping to overcome), then the marriage is strengthened. Fourth, share the emotions of the other. When there is joy in one, share it. When there is sorrow, share it.
    As I reflect on these pieces of practical advice, I note the Lord said such things long ago, and He did so in fewer words than marital counselors make use of today. In Matthew 7:12 one reads: “In everything, treat others as you would want them to treat you, for this fulfills the law and the prophets” (NET). Later in His ministry, when asked about the greatest command, Jesus started first with love toward God, then love toward one’s neighbor (Matthew 22:34-40). If these were implemented in each and every marriage, under what conditions would that marriage (or any marriage) fail?

 - Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH.   He may be contacted at etsop95@gmail.com

Asking to be Excused Does Not Bring Forgiveness

By Gerald Cowan

    A certain man planned a great dinner party and invited a number of people (Luke 14:16-33). Many evidently accepted the invitation and so he went ahead with the preparation. When things were ready he sent a servant to remind the guests of their obligation to come. But they began, one and all, to excuse themselves. One had a real estate deal he wanted to investigate. Another wanted to test some hew farm equipment. One couldn’t leave his wife, and apparently did not want to bring her along. And so it went. All offered apologies and were sorry for any inconvenience to the host, but ... “You know how it is. A fellow just can’t do all he wants to do when he wants to do it.” Well, you can imagine that the host was pretty well put out by the whole thing. So he said, “Those people had their chance and missed it. Someone else will enjoy what they have refused.” There is no indication that he gave any of them a second chance.
    What is the lesson?  Just this: If you are going to accept the Lord’s invitation, count the cost and do not say yes unless you mean to follow through. Do not think you can commit yourself now and back out later with some flimsy selfish excuse. Asking to be excused then does not mean you will be forgiven.

- 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

Sinful Babies

By Clifton Angel

    Children are precious. They are so precious that Jesus references how that immediately after a mother gives birth to a child, “she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world” (John 16:21). Children truly are a gift from God (Psalm 127), and though I am yet to be a father, my heart is made merry by observing their simplicity, energy, and seeming innocency.
    With that said, none of the above proves that a child is sinless. If we reference a child’s preciousness and seeming innocency, we are only making an emotional appeal and not a Biblical one. On the other extreme, if we reference a child’s seeming disobedience, crying, and strain on the parents to try to prove that they sin, we are only making an emotional appeal and not a Biblical one. And yes, I have heard of some referring to a infant’s crying as evidence for that infant having sin. Maybe you are reading this, and you believe that. The question is, what does the Bible teach?
    Some say that a child has sin because it was passed down from his parents. Others say that a child has sin because it was passed down from Adam. But the Bible says this: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (Ezekiel 18:20). Sin is not transferable; it is one’s own transgression of God’s laws (1 John 3:4). Can a young child transgress God’s laws?
    Implied in the act of sinning is the mental ability to understand God’s laws. Implied in the Gospel plan of salvation is the mental ability to believe that one has sinned and that Jesus bore our sins on the cross, which faith comes from hearing God’s Word (Romans 10:17; Mark 16:16). Implied in the Gospel plan of salvation is the mental ability to repent—determining in one’s mind that he will abandon a life of sin and embrace the Savior (Acts 2:38); many adults do not understand this one, much less a child. Implied in the Gospel plan of salvation is the mental ability to submit oneself to immersion in water for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 22:16; Romans 6:3–4). Sprinkling an infant is not Biblical immersion, nor is it the infant’s decision.
    According to the Bible, the title for this article is an oxymoron—contradicting words used in conjunction. Infants are not born with sin, nor do they sin. “Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:2–3). When a person is converted, he is made pure—free from sin—just as a child (Acts 3:19). Have you been converted?

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

Can I Come Too?

By Alan Smith

    Someone has compiled the following list of the all-time worst Country & Western song titles (These are actual songs):

  • Her Teeth Were Stained, But Her Heart Was Pure
  • I Liked You Better Before I Knew You So Well
  • I Still Miss You, Baby, But My Aim's Gettin' Better
  • I'm So Miserable Without You, It's Like Having You Here
  • If The Phone Don't Ring, Baby, You'll Know It's Me
  • How Can You Believe Me When I Say I Love You When You Know I've Been A Liar All My Life?
  • I Keep Forgettin' I Forgot About You
  • I Would Have Wrote You A Letter, But I Couldn't Spell Yuck
  • I Wouldn't Take Her To A Dawg Fight, Cause I'm Afraid She'd Win
  • If You Don't Leave Me Alone, I'll Go And Find Someone Else Who Will
  • My John Deere Was Breaking Your Field, While Your Dear John Was Breaking My Heart
  • Oh, I've Got Hair Oil On My Ears And My Glasses Are Slipping Down But Baby I Can See Through You
  • They May Put Me In Prison, But They Can't Stop My Face From Breakin' Out
  • You Can't Roller Skate In A Buffalo Herd
  • If My Nose Were Full of Nickels, I'd Blow It All On You
  • You're The Reason Our Kids Are So Ugly
  • How Can I Miss You If You Won't Go Away?
  • If You Leave Me, Can I Come Too?
     Those are some strange titles!  But the last one reminds me of a conversation Jesus had with his disciples the night before his crucifixion. In John 14-17, Jesus talked with his disciples about what to expect after his death.  Not surprisingly, the disciples had a hard time understanding. Jesus kept talking about "going away," but they didn't want to be separated.  Jesus tried to comfort them with these words:
     "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also." (John 14:3)
     It was hard for the apostles to let go of Jesus.  They couldn't imagine life without him.  But Jesus assured them that though his departure was necessary, he would be back to get his followers.  If he left them, they could one day come, too.  Their parting was a time a sorrow, but there were (and are) joyful times ahead (John 16:20)!  What a great thought for all of God's children!
     Jesus, can I come too?
    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.

The Heart of Worship

By Jeff Arnette

    "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”" (ESV, John 4:24)
    For years I have heard this passage used as justification for why we worship the way we do. We cite this verse and then talk about worshiping "in truth" with a focus on what we can or cannot do in worship to God and Christ.
    Does God care about your worship? Does he care what you do? Of course he does but that still misses a bigger point. We are so concerned about the form of worship and what is being done that we seem to miss the point of why we worship in the first place. To focus on the truth of worship (form and action) without the spirit of worship (motivation and heart) still fails as worship in God's eyes. Not only that but it fails as worship for us too. Too many times our worship services fail to impress upon us the greatness of what we are doing. It fails to impress upon our hearts the joy and excitement that should come as a result of being in the presence of God and worshiping him. The end result of worship that is missing the heart, the spirit of worship, is everyone walks away not feeling like they have worshiped God.
    I want you to notice what David said about what God really wants from us. "For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." Psalm 51:16-17 David reminds us that what God really wants is our hearts. If going through the motions of worship, if sacrifice and burnt offerings were all that God was concerned about that would be easy. God wants a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart. That is what God wants and he will not despise or reject that.
    This problem is spoken about often in the New Testament. The problem is that we are really good at following rules but not so good at giving our hearts to God. In Matthew 15:7-9, Jesus says that people are good at lip service but their hearts are still far from God. In other words we are good at going through the motions and still not connecting our hearts to our worship of God. When our hearts are far from God our worship is vain, pointless, and ultimately unsatisfying to everyone involved.
    So what should we do about this? How can we ensure that what we give God is our hearts and not just lip service? We must give him our entire heart and let that be the motivating force of all that we do. "And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good?"
Deuteronomy 10:12–13

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

Be Careful Who You Follow

By David Bragg

    Her voice is pleasant, but authoritative, as she leads countless people every day to their destinations. "Bear right." "Turn left." "Stay in the left lane." "Make a u-turn." Even when it goes against our better judgment, the temptation is always present to blindly follow her.
    Perhaps that is precisely what an Illinois man was thinking in 2015 as he and his wife were traveling through Indiana. Authorities admitted that the driver was so focused on his GPS device that he ignored barricades, orange barrels, cones, and large signs declaring that not only was the road closed but the bridge no longer existed (it was demolished in 2009). Still the 64-year-old driver took the ramp up and off what formerly was the Cline Bridge (cnet.com). While he survived the 37 foot plunge, his wife was not so fortunate.
    As we navigate life it is crucial for us to know who it is that we are following. In every generation much heartache and loss could have been avoided if only people had not blindly followed the crowd. Yet, people still suffer for the "everyone is doing it" mentality.
    The danger is prevalent even today. We are encouraged by the crowds to ignore the old-fashioned commands to high moral standards of Christianity. Yet the Bible admonishes us to stop and consider who it is that we are following and just where are we being led (1 Cor. 11:1Eph. 5:1-2; 1 Peter 2:21). God has warned us through the inspired writers of the New Testament that, when it comes to our spiritual journey, be careful who you follow.

- 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.

His Name is Christian, But He Isn’t One

By Lance Cordle

    Various and odd instances brought me into contact with a man whose first name is Christian. He had been through some trying times and needed help. In the process of things being done, I asked some of the usual background questions and in so doing received answers which seemed to indicate a possible openness to the gospel. He is from a large family and from a different section of the country than me. He is about a year older than me and has been retired for several years. He is conscientious and does a lot of volunteer work. He also enjoys traveling to various parts of the country. When asked about church background, he replied that he was not necessarily against any sort of church affiliation, he just had never had much interest in it.
    Since he was in transition, I did not have time to have a deep  conversation about Jesus. I did, however, provide him with some tracts and other materials to read. I have also corresponded with another preacher about someone contacting him with the gospel.
    My encounter with this man has caused me to do more thinking and pondering about people and their spiritual condition. Here is a man whose name is Christian, but he is not a Christian. How ironic! He has just quietly gone about his life for years, apparently without ever really seeing the need for Jesus in his life. As far as I know, he is not an open opponent of Jesus; he just does not have the interest. You and I might cry out, “Oh, but you really need Jesus to save you from your sins!” That is true, but until a person sees it for themselves, they will do nothing about it. We need to be open and attentive to such people.
    Another matter that comes to my mind is the condition of those who call themselves Christians, but whose actions in attaining that name do not match up with scripture. I know people may shrink back with unbelief at such an assertion, but we must consider such things. For example, would you just treat a man as a “Lion” (member of the local Lions Club), who called himself a “Lion” but never paid the dues and never attended the meetings? He just acted like one. Or, how about a woman who claimed to be an alumnus of the state university, but never attended there? People may indeed act in ways consistent with the message of Christ, but not be Christians.
    These things seem rather simple when broken down in illustrations like those above, but the emotionally-charged and heavily “personal” nature of modern-day religion make things so much more complicated. The fact of the matter is, evangelism can be difficult. It takes patience and a genuine concern for other people. In this, as in all things spiritual, may we remember the words of Paul: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6 ESV).

- Lance Cordle preaches the Calvert City Church of Christ in Calvert City, KY.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website.