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Monday, October 18, 2021

Lord, Teach Us To Pray

By Bryan McAlister

    “Lord, teach us to pray…”
    Is it any wonder that such a question would be asked of Jesus? Can you imagine what it must have been like to witness His prayer life? Jesus prayed at His baptism (Luke 3:21); Jesus prayed as often as He could (Luke 5:16); Jesus prayed as He called His Apostles (Luke 6:12); He prayed alone (Luke 9:18); He prayed with friends (Luke 9:28-29); He prayed for His friends (Luke 22:32); He prayed for His courage (Luke 22:41-44); He prayed at His crucifixion (Luke 23:34). It’s really is no surprise, all the time Jesus prayed, and at all the moments in His life when He chose to pray. Bear with me for a moment, hopefully you’ll see where we are taking this seemingly tangent of a thought, but, years ago a silly song asked the question, “Where do my socks go when I put them in the drier?” Out of our fear, I think the same bewilderment may sometimes capture our prayers. Where do my prayers go when I give them to God? Let’s see some principles concerning prayer.
    Who is Prayer to? – Prayer, in short is to God, but we do not need to think of God in singular form. God, as we encounter Him throughout scripture is revealed to us in three distinct personalities or identities. The Hebrews had numerous words/names to describe God. One of them is Elohim, which we might think of as a family name. Genesis 1:26 said, “Let Us make man in Our image.” Notice the plural and notice the family nature. When we speak of God, we speak of deity. When we speak of deity we speak of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, and through scripture all are revealed.
    Who is Prayer for? – Prayer is a spiritual blessing to those who are in Jesus Christ (Eph 1:3). “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers, but His face is against those who do evil” (I Peter 3:12). Prayer as it pertains to the relationship between God and the saved is wholly unique from prayer used by those outside the body of Christ, outside a covenant relationship with God. I’m thinking of the passengers on board a ship, bound for the city of Tarshish, when a violent wind began to endanger the ship and crew. All on board were praying to pagan gods, except one passenger, Jonah. Jonah was not praying at all, and his God was the true God, the God of Israel. The crew of the ship, began to pray to the God of heaven, in hopes that He would hear them and have mercy (Jonah 1:14). Incidentally, Jonah was on his way to a Gentile nation, to deliver to them a message of repentance. In the New Testament there is the example of Cornelius, a righteous man, who prayed daily, gave generously of his means, but he was not saved. He was praying, when an angel appeared to him, instructing him to send for Peter in Joppa, so he could teach Cornelius the gospel (Acts 10:1ff).
    These examples are simply to say, while prayer is reserved as a spiritual blessing, God is desiring of man to seek Him, and if man will seek God, he will find Him (Acts 17:27). Seeking Him, with an open and earnest heart will make the transformation of our life in every tangible and significant way.
- Bryan McAlister preaches for the Walnut Street Church of Christ in Dickson, TN. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: https://www.wscoc.com/


Wrapped In Light

By Al Behel

    When I read the Psalms I often wonder if I really know how to praise God. David and other Psalters seemed to grasp the essence of their Creator far better than we have done. Their recognition of His presence and power, as well as His love and mercy, caused them to lift up their voices is hymns of praise with hearts of devotion.
    One of those Psalms portrays the majesty of God by describing seven wonders of His creation. Following a declaration of God’s greatness as one who is “clothed with splendor and majesty”, King David outlines the various ways in which God has revealed Himself through His creation (Psalm 104).
    First, he declares that God “wraps Himself in light as with a garment; He stretches out the heavens like a tent” (v. 2). The sky is filled with evidence of His glory. The Hebrew word for “wraps” suggest that God “darkens” Himself with light. His splendor is so wonderful that man cannot see it, but can only stand in awe of it. We look at His creation and marvel at what He has made. The psalmist was able to look beyond the creation to the glory of the One who
made it.
    The second wonder David mentions is the earth, around which He has set a boundary (vs. 5-9). In another psalm he declared “the whole earth is full of Thy glory.” Next, he praises God for the water which God supplies to the earth and its inhabitants. When he looks at the grass and flowers and trees, he erupts in praise that the Lord has taken care of every need through massive vegetation. As one who spent many nights on the mountain ranges with the sheep he had shepherded, David couldn’t forget the moon and the sun. Their radiant beauty was a constant reminder that God was near. The sea, “vast and spacious” (v.25), is structurally balanced with the celestial realm of creation.
    The crowning part of God’s creation is man himself, to whom He has given life and for which He deserves to be praised and worshipped. David concludes his thoughts by saying, “May the glory of the Lord endure forever."
- 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/


What Kind of a Place is Heaven?

By Edd Sterchi

    From Rev. 21:9-22:5, we have an incredible description of heaven. Even though symbolic in language, we can still get an idea of what heaven is like.
    Heaven is a Beautiful Place (Rev. 21:9-27). When John tries to describe the most beautiful place which consists of nothing of the earth, he had to describe it in terms that we can relate to, thus he used precious gems, streets of gold, etc. There is no greater preciousness and beauty than what will exist in heaven.
    Heaven is a Bountiful Place (Rev. 22:1-2). John also describes heaven as a place where there is no want –everything is provided in the highest quantity and quality. In it is perfect life and health.
    Heaven is a Blissful Place (Rev. 22:3-5). John also wanted to remind us that heaven is a place of personal and permanent association with God – a place of peace and joy and love– forever.
- 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/


Are You An Expert?

By Bill Brandstatter

    My grandpa used to say that an expert was a man 50 miles away from home with a white shirt and a tie. Today people might be considered an expert if they have a large following on Facebook. If a person can get a number of people to agree with a certain point of view, that person might be considered an expert. Usually, we can find someone that will agree with us on almost every position we take. Today in our world there are a number of “experts.” They are not 50 miles away from home with a white shirt and a tie. They are on all the major outlets such as: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and others. These “experts” are believed because their information agrees with others, not necessarily with the truth.
    Some people are “experts” regarding the Bible. Some who don’t study the Bible much or not at all would tell you about what they did to be saved. Their salvation experience often doesn’t line up with what the Bible says. It always bothers me when someone will tell me what I ought to do as a preacher; or, they will tell me that I ought to know certain matters pertaining to the Bible. I guess they would be “experts” in their own eyes. In Acts 5:36, a man named Theudas rose up. He claimed to be somebody. Perhaps he would have called himself an “expert.” He failed, as did those who followed him.
    Some people are experts regarding life. These “experts” would say that anything in moderation is okay. They would also say that since certain habits or practices have not hurt them that they are immune to problems. Some people don’t like others telling them what to do with their lives. The medical people advice otherwise. Yet these “experts” ignore the advice of the real experts and do their own thing. The expert, James stated, “For what is life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away (James 4:14).
    Some people are experts regarding Christianity. These “experts” will tell of their experience and what others have said. They will elevate the traditions of men over the Word of God (Mt. 15:9). These “experts” would say it doesn’t matter what church you belong to or how you worship, just so long as you are sincere.
    Are you an expert? God is. He knows all that we need and He gives us what we need. Sometimes what God gives is a test. God gives us blessings. He always gives us what He wants to help us through life (2 Pet. 1:3). Do you want all that God has to give or are you going to be the “expert” and do it your own way?
- Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://marionchurchofchrist.com/


Christianity and Halloween

By Ronald Bartanen
 
    It’s that time of year again—the approach of my least-favorite holiday, Halloween, a contraction for “All Hallow’s Evening.” Many scholars believe it to be a Christianized version of Celtic harvest festivals and other pagan festivals. Others disagree, believing it to have solely Christian roots. The Celtic-view suggests its origin to have been in the Roman festival of Pomona , , goddess of fruit and seeds, which was observed at the end of summer, on or about Oct. 31-Nov. 1. At such festivals the souls of the deceased were invited to attend, places even being set for them at the table. Evil spirits were warded off by such fall customs as bonfires and what we know as jack-o-lanterns. The latter in those early days were not made from pumpkins, however, but from turnips, with grotesque faces representing evil spirits or goblins, and sometimes the souls of the dead. Those holding to more Christian origins believe these were used to scare witches, reminding them of their future punishment in hell. The wearing of costumes (“guising”) began to be practiced in English-speaking countries in the 18th century, as children and adults would sometimes go from house to house in guise, singing songs in exchange for food or cakes. Such customs did not make their way to North America until the late 18th and early 19th century. The Puritans were strongly opposed to such customs. It was not until early in the 20th century that Halloween was popularized. I recall wearing a Halloween mask and going to houses, accompanied by my parents, while living in my earlier years in Indianapolis , which would have been possibly 1939.
    While some debate the origin of the holiday—whether pagan or Christian—some churches use the day as an opportunity for religious celebration and activities. Some visit graveyards, placing flowers and candles on the graves of loved ones. In Poland , believers pray aloud while walking through the forests to give comfort to the souls of the dead, while in Spain priests ring church bells as a reminder to congregants to remember the dead. Some observe the season as a time for fasting and prayer. Some Protestants observe it as Reformation Day, inasmuch as Martin Luther chose this day to nail his Ninety-Nine Thesis to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg . Sometimes children dress as Bible characters and Reformers. Many take advantage of the season to include tracts as children go trick-or-treating.
    Some Christians fear the day trivializes, or even celebrates, such things as paganism and the occult. Orthodox Jews, as well as many Christians, resist observance of such customs on the basis of Leviticus 18:3, in which God’s people were warned against observing the traditions or customs of the Egyptians.
    One thing is sure: Halloween has everything to do with death, witches, skulls, graveyards, etc., and nothing to do with life. Perhaps it could be said its only benefit would be to remind us of the reality of a fearsome realm of evil, of which we must beware. Jesus, however, glorifies life, not death. He is “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). He said, “I am come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10), laying down His life for us, and taking it up again in His resurrection (vs. 17-18). Every day, for the believer, is a celebration—not of death, but of life in Jesus Christ.
- Ronald Bartanen is a retired minister who for many years served the Lord's church in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee. He may be contacted at: ron33dor@yahoo.com


Monday, October 11, 2021

Special Notice:


October 7, 2021 marked the passing of longtime contributor, faithful gospel preacher, and friend, R.W. McAlister of Jonesboro, IL. In honor of R.W., today will mark a departure from our usual weekly posts on the various platforms utilized by BulletinGold (our website, Facebook page and Facebook Group). Below is one of R.W.'s articles he had graciously submitted for use in BulletinGold. Prayers are extended to R.W.'s family as they go through this difficult time.

What Constitutes a Saint?

By R.W. McAlister

         With the recent declaration of Pope John the XXIII and Pope John Paul the II as saints, it makes one wonder, "What is involved in becoming a saint?" Notice the following from CNN.com: 
"To be named a saint involves a series of steps, but the qualifications are straightforward, according to the veteran Vatican analyst John Allen. 'You put a holy life and two miracles together, according to the Catholic system, you've got a saint,' he said.'"
Is that a Biblical teaching? 
         Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writes to the church at Rome in Rom. 1:7: "To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints:" Who are called to be saints? The beloved of God.  
         In I Cor. 1:2, in writing to the Lord's church at Corinth, Paul penned these words: "…to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:" Who are called to be saints? All who are 1) sanctified (set apart) in Jesus Christ, and, 2) those who call upon the name of the Lord. So, what does it mean to call upon the name of the Lord? 
         In his sermon on the day of Pentecost, Peter declared: “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). In view of this statement, folks sometimes ask: "Why do members of the church of Christ insist that baptism is a requirement for being saved?" You see, calling upon the Lord’s name, and being baptized, are synonymous obligations. 
         It's clear that simply “calling” on the name of Christ is not enough to bring salvation since Jesus Himself declared in Matt. 7:21: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”  
         Clearly, therefore, “calling” on Christ involves more than a mere verbal or mental plea. Calling on the name of the Lord includes repentance and baptism. 
         In Acts 2, the same apostle who promised salvation to all who “call on the name of the Lord,” also commanded: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (2:38). 
         Since the “shall be saved” of 2:21 is equivalent to the “forgiveness of sins” in 2:38, it necessarily follows that “calling on the name of the Lord” includes both repentance and baptism. 
         Note Acts 22:16. Ananias instructed Saul as follows: “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”
          All who wish to enjoy the remission of past sins, and thus be saints, will call on the name of the Lord by obeying the gospel plan of salvation. When Paul addresses Christians, he refers to them as saints (Rom. 1:7; I Cor. 1:2; I Cor. 14:33; I Cor. 16:1; II Cor. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; 2:19, and many other verses). In becoming a Christian, one becomes a saint. How does one become a Christian? By hearing the word of God preached (Rom. 10:17), believe it - believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Heb. 11:6), repent of your sins (Luke 13:3), confess faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God (Acts 8:36-37), be baptized (Acts 2:38; I Pet. 3:20-21), and live faithfully unto death – (Rev. 2:10).  
         The Catholic church says John Paul miraculously cured Marie Simon-Pierre, a French nun stricken by Parkinson's disease, several months after his death.         
         Also according to them, the second miracle occurred when a Costa Rican woman with a brain aneurysm recovered after praying to John Paul. 
         John XXIII, revered for his role in the Second Vatican Council, is only recorded as having performed one miracle after his death in 1963. (It seems they even violate their own laws, not just God's!) 
         There's no need to perform even one miracle. None of us can do that anyway. The power to perform true miracles ended upon the completion of the New Testament (I Cor. 13:8-10).  
         Furthermore, Jesus teaches us to pray to God, the Father (Matt. 6:9), who is alive on His throne in Heaven (Rev. 7:15), not to any mortal who has passed from this life. Let us understand what the Bible says and abide by it in all things.
- R.W. McAlister served as a minister to the Anna Church of Christ in Anna, IL until his death in October 2021.This was his own home congregation in which he grew up. R.W. was a beloved member of his community and a popular teacher in the agriculture department at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, MO. To visit the congregation's website go to: http://www.annachurchofchrist.com/