Monday, June 1, 2020

The Ballad of Fort McHenry

By David Bragg

    On the evening of September 13, 1814 an American diplomat found himself stuck on a British vessel watching a fierce bombardment of Baltimore's Fort McHenry. The state of affairs looked grim. As he spent the night detained by the enemy, Francis Scott Key looked out across the waters towards the American fort. But with the dawn of a new day the American cause found strength. The flag still waved above the fort. That morning, on the back of a letter he happened to find in his pocket, Key began to compose a poem that would be finalized within a week. He called it “The Defense of Fort McHenry.”
    Over the space of many years the beloved song would grow in popularity as it was sung in patriotic settings and, in 1862, at a major sporting event. The patriotic tune would also be sung to inaugurate the first World Series game in 1903 (www.pbs.org). Many attempts were made to have it adopted as America’s official national anthem, but that would not happen until March 3, 1931 when President Herbert Hoover made “The Star-Spangled Banner” America's song.
    For Christians of every generation the familiar words penned by Key have special meaning: "the land of the free and the home of the brave." We are citizens of a heavenly kingdom/nation (Phil. 3:20). As such, our freedom is purchased with the precious blood of Jesus (Acts 20:28). Our spiritual liberty demands courage, the willingness to stand up for, and suffer if necessary for, the cause of Christ. It requires courage to live faithfully in the kingdom of the saved.

- 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/

What Do You Want For Your Children?

By Joe Slater

    The question in the title could be asked of moms as well as dads. You’ve heard the cliché “like father, like son.” Scripture also recognizes the tendency of sons to imitate their fathers and even previous ancestors (Acts 7:51).
    So, dads, what do you want for your children? For your grandchildren? Are you teaching them by word? I hope so! But the effect of your words will be diminished unless you lead by example!
    Do you want your children to learn and obey the gospel? (How could any father not want his children to become Christians?) Have you, yourself, confessed Christ as Lord and been immersed into Him?
    Do you want your children to meet regularly with the brethren? You know what’s right, and you know it goes far beyond a single hour on Sunday morning. Your children will imitate your example above your words.
    Do you want your children to put God first? Yes, even before ball games? birthday parties? fishing? hunting? golfing? God holds you responsible not just to tell them what is most important, but to show them!
    Do you want your children to serve others joyfully? When last did you take them with you to visit someone homebound? (What a bright spot that puts in everyone’s day!)
    Do you want your children to be evangelistic? If you don’t set the example, the secular world will most definitely teach them, “keep your religion to yourself!”
    The list goes on endlessly. What do you want for your children?

- 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 Holiness of God

By Ron Thomas

     In discussions about the holiness of God, sometimes the question arises, “How is God holy?” I think it’s a good question, one that needs to be answered. The Scripture clearly affirms the holiness of God and that we are to pattern ourselves after Him. “...but like as he who called you is holy, be ye yourselves also holy in all manner of living; because it is written, Ye shall be holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16, ASV). 
     Holiness is a quality of God that should be ours. Yet, though we recognize as much, we also recognize our complete failure in attaining such a lofty standard. Is there ever a time in your life that you feel comfortable saying, “I am holy”? You can, you know. We don’t, however, because it sounds arrogant, pompous and egotistical. If one is called to be holy, then one can live a holy life, otherwise the words of the Lord have no meaning! 
     A holy life is one that is set apart for the Lord, a life one lives to please the Lord and not by one’s own standard. It was Jeremiah who said that man has it not within him to know the right way, he must be taught (cf. Jer. 10:23). This is easier to understand than it is to put into practice. I can’t help but to think of my personal failings along this line when I think about the Lord’s holiness. 
     Consider how holy the Lord is. First, He is the standard of right thinking. Nothing in His mind has an element of thinking that begins to wander off into an area that is unbecoming of holiness. How would I know such a thing as this? Since it’s impossible for God to lie, that also means He will not lie to Himself (Titus 1:2). Second, He is the standard of right conduct. The Lord is spirit, and spiritual being are not controlled by physical limitations. Yet, when the Lord conducts Himself in the physical realm, who among us can dare say (and defend) the Lord did wrong? There is no doubt that many do, but in so doing, what standard of conduct are they using to measure the Lord? “Let God be proven true, and every human being shown up as a liar, just as it is written: ‘so that you will be justified  in your words and will prevail when you are judged’" (Rom. 3:4, New English Translation). The best a person can produce is what one thinks ought to be done. 
     Just how great is the Lord? Consider the words of Isaiah 40:12-14 (the ASV is italicized). (1) All the waters of the earth fit into the “palm of His hand” - Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, (2) A “span” is the distance of the pinky finger to the thumb, about 8 inches - and meted out heaven with the span, (3) Take a handful of dust, count the grains - and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, (4) People weigh bales of hay, body weight, but a mountain? - and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? (5) With one’s best effort, a person can only hope to know a fraction of the way of thinking of a loved one, can you comprehend the Lord’s mind? - Who hath directed the Spirit of Jehovah, or being his counsellor hath taught him? (6) It’s all people can do to do things in the right way and to think of things in a righteous way, are any of us in position to stand in judgment of the Lord? Yet, we do when we make silly remarks like, “I don’t think the Lord will do this or judge that.” Really? - With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed to him the way of understanding?  

     When I think of the holiness of the Lord, these are some of the things to which I give attention. I consider myself to be above average in intelligence, relatively strong for the age that I am, good at understanding the frailties of people, and especially the moral/spiritual failings with which each struggle. Perhaps you think this, also, about yourself. With all of that, however, I am but a “drop in the bucket” in comparison with the holiness of the Lord. Interestingly, the Lord made use of the term (drop in the bucket) with regard to nations in comparison with Him; how much more so the individual!
     When we gather as an assembly to worship the Lord, let us be reminded the holiness of the Lord is sacred, and our approach to Him must be with holy reverence. Any approach less than this is playing with fire.

Holiness in us, is the copy or transcript of the holiness that is in Christ—As the wax hath line for line from the seal, and the child feature for feature from the father, so is holiness in us from him. –Philip Henry 
- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website. http://sunrushchurchofchrist.com/

Have You Saved Any Souls Today?

By Bill Brandstatter

    I was at a dentist appointment once and the dentist and I were talking. My dentist has known me for a long time.  He likes to kid and joke; but he asked me the above question, and it got me to thinking? Have WE saved any souls today?
    The work of the church is saving souls. The church is composed of saved souls (Acts 2:47). It is not the work of the church to entertain. It is not the work of the church to just motivate. The work of the church is to evangelize, edify, and encourage. So, again, have we saved any souls today?
    It is interesting that in Acts 8 the Bible says the church “went everywhere preaching the word.” (vs 3) This was not referring to the apostles because they were somewhere else. This was talking about the church. When we teach and talk to others we are “preaching the word.” Preaching helps to save souls (Rom. 10:13-17).  It is the work of the church, specifically church members, to seek and save the lost.
    Many believe that if the church has a located preacher, saving souls is his job. Certainly, the preacher should be active in saving souls through preaching, teaching, and evangelizing; but is he the only one that should be striving to save souls? NO.
    So, the question my dentist asked might also be one we all should ask of each other. Have you saved any souls today?

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

Home Is Where The Heart Is

By Ed Wittlif

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth...but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven...for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Matthew 6:19-21).  
     One thing that stands out as I read God's word is that this world which is so real to me isn't real at all. Paul pictures our physical bodies as tents and our real body will be obtained in heaven, a body fit to house our spirit throughout eternity. (II Corinthians 5:1-2). 
     There is a better place than this world. The roll call of great people of faith seeking that heavenly country is found in Hebrews 11. Their attitude was that they were strangers here. Their treasures were laid up in heaven. 
     We need to learn to live like pilgrims in this world. We are only passing through and there is a home, a country so superior waiting for us. If God is all that is in heaven, then that is enough. The word pictures in the scriptures tell us that heaven will be awesome. 
     Therefore, don't put down roots here. Don't settle in and get comfortable here. Don't put you desires here and do not put your treasures in this place. This world is only temporary, a shadowland as it were. There is no security here. In Matthew 6:19-21 Jesus reminds us our treasures entrusted on the earth can be destroyed or stolen. But what we lay up in heaven cannot be destroyed or stolen. 
     We have to examine our hearts daily and decide to keep our eyes focused on the path leading to heaven.

- Ed Wittlif is from Denver, CO; via the Church of Christ in Justin, TX. Joe Slater serves as minister and he may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://justinchurchofchrist.com

He Has Plans For You!

By Jeff Arnette

     Can you imagine how encouraging it would be to walk into a job interview and hear the employer say, “I already have plans for you.” Knowing we had a place in the company might be encouraging. However, knowing that the company recognized our potential and was already forming specific plans for our work with them would really get us excited. It would mean that we have been assured of a good future with this company and that would make the physical work joyful, something we looked forward to each day.
     Shouldn’t we have the same view of our life with God? Honestly, God’s view of our life should encourage us. Just think about the enormity of this! Even before you lived one day of your life, God knew you and what you would accomplish in this life (Psalm 139:16). This should encourage us to entrust our lives to Him, making each new day a new opportunity to fulfill His grand will for our life? Do not doubt that God has good things in store for you.
     The Lord spoke to the prophet Jeremiah and told him to share this simple message: I will visit you, fulfill my promises to you, and bring you back to this place (Jer. 29:10-11). He then says that He knows the plans He has for our lives, plans for good and not evil, plans to give us a future and hope. What more could we want? Our God knows us, knows our talents and abilities, and has a plan for us.
     No matter where you are at currently, God still has plans for you. As you submit to His plans and His will for your life, He can make all things work together for your good (Rom. 8:28). With God on your side, there is nothing that you cannot accomplish, and nothing is beyond your ability. Remember, His plans for you are not evil but for your good.
     In Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus, he said, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10, ESV)
    Do you realize what that means for you? As you walk with Jesus, equipped, and strengthened to accomplish the things He has called us to do in this life, we are merely stepping into the flow of what He already had in mind for us. Living following His Will, we can be encouraged that with Him, we always have “a future and a hope.” With God, this life is no accident!
     Do not doubt that God has plans for you, and when you embrace it by faith, trusting in His plans, life is lived to its fullest.
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20–21, ESV)

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

Thirty Seconds

By Lance Cordle

     Alex Trebek is a TV “icon,” “legend,” “stalwart”—you choose the description. For thirty-five years he has hosted the gameshow, Jeopardy. Jeopardy is that game that tests a person’s general knowledge of facts and world events, as well as how big a risk they would take on that knowledge. The unique format also forces that person to word their answer in the form of a question (i.e. “What is . . .). Alex Trebek is the man that informs the on-set contestants as to whether they have answered correctly. His name is synonymous with the show and encyclopedic knowledge. 
     By the way, who among us has not sat down and watched a Jeopardy episode and shouted out the question-answer just to have the satisfaction of knowing how much we know?  Or being humbled as to how much we don’t know?
     Last year, Alex announced to the world that he had stage-4 pancreatic cancer and that he would immediately begin to undergo chemotherapy to treat the disease. He has been in “remission,” as well as in need of more treatment. He recently gave an interview on the ABC network, in which he thanked people all over the world for their outpouring of appreciation for him. He also revealed that he did not yet know when he would retire from Jeopardy, or who would be his replacement. 
     When elaborating on his inevitable exit from Jeopardy, Alex said that he had already spoken to his producers and had assured them of the amount of time he needed to say goodbye. I was quite astounded by his simple request. After thirty-five years and worldwide fame, all he anticipated needing and using to bid farewell was thirty seconds! 
     His simple plan and expectation should humble us all. Because, when it comes down to it, most of us have quite a pretty high view of our importance. Life teaches us (sometimes harshly) that there really is no indispensable man or woman.
     I am reminded of the sobering message of Psalm 8:3, 4: “When I think of the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you visit him?” You might think of it in Jeopardy form: Answer: “The subject of the Psalmist’s wonder and amazement of God’s care in Psalm 8:3, 4.” Question: “What is man?”              

- 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