Monday, May 20, 2024

Press On Toward Jesus Throughout the New Year

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By Joe Chesser


      The New Year has arrived and is stretched out before us. The holidays are over (whew!), and most of us are ready to get back to normalcy (whatever that means for you). Back to work. Back to school. Back to normal sleeping. Back to diets. Back to routine.          

    However, it is the New Year, and many of us have been thinking about how to make personal improvements (physical, family, financial). And as you know, making resolutions and commitments sounds great. The difficulty comes in fulfilling these goals. You know that. This is not something new to you, is it? How many times has your diet fizzled out after as few weeks or months? How many times have your exercise plans come to nothing?  How many times has your new budget been blown?  How many times has your family time vanished for one reason or another? It’s tough for these hopes and dreams become reality.

    Sadly, what’s true with our physical goals is just as true with our spiritual goals. We want to read our Bibles and pray more than we did in the past. We want to attend more Bible classes and be more involved in church activities than before. We want to be faithful to the Lord in every way. But even these awesome spiritual desires sometimes fade into the background and get replaced with inferior life situations.

    God knows we struggle with life decisions such as overtime opportunities at work; house and yard repairs; vacations; sports; hunting and fishing, grandkids, etc.  He knows our hearts and how even good things can distract us from better things. He knows what Satan uses to temp or divert us.  

    And so He encourages us to put first things first (Matthew 6.33); to press on toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3.12-14), to be steadfast and unmovable (1 Corinthians 15.58), to set our minds on things above, not on the earth (Colossians 3.1-2) and to die to ourselves every day and follow Jesus (Luke 9.23). He also warns us about looking back at what we left (like Lot’s wife -  Genesis 1); about making excuses regarding following Jesus (Luke 9.57-62); about taking our eyes off of Jesus (like Peter did – Matthew 14) and about becoming entangled in the worldly ways again like a dog returning to his vomit (2 Peter 2.20-22).

    Being committed to Jesus is never presented in Scripture as something easy and carefree. As noted above, it is presented as a battle, as a sacrifice, as a challenge. But it’s not a challenge we have to face alone. We are promised help, guidance and comfort from the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5.16; Romand 8.26-27; Acts 9.31). And on top of that we are promised unimaginable blessings if we die in Christ (1 Corinthians 2.9; Revelation 14.13; 2 Timothy 4.7-8; James 1.12).

    What a great time for all of us to renew our commitment to press on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus! Don’t let anyone or anything distract or deter you from holding true to what you have attained from God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3.16)! May God bless you and me as we press on toward Jesus in 2024!!!


- Joe Chesser worked for years with the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO. Now retired from full time preaching, he may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com



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Craving Approval

By Joe Slater


    We like to be liked and love to be loved. It’s normal. And like most normal things, we can carry it to unhealthy extremes. How many “likes” did I get on my Facebook post? Only fourteen? Woe is me!

    The earliest Christians in Jerusalem were “praising God and having favor with all the people” (Acts 2:47). The general population looked on those disciples approvingly as they saw them living reverently before God and taking care of the needy (2:42-45). Does our example today encourage our community’s approval? “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

    Before long, however, those positive feelings turned into bitter opposition and persecution. Proclaiming the risen Jesus as the Messiah didn’t set well with the religious elite. How disappointing! Our ancient brethren, however, didn’t despair, nor did they modify their message or their conduct. Even when beaten, they thanked God for the privilege of suffering for Jesus (Acts 5:41).

    When the world looks favorably upon you as you do right, that’s icing on the cake! But don’t allow yourself to develop an unhealthy craving for people’s approval. Remember these words from Jesus: “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26).

“For if I still pleased men, I would not be a

bondservant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10).



- 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



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A Tale of Two Churches

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By Jared Green


    To begin the book of Revelation, Jesus reveals to John in a vision the content of letters that he was to write and send to seven churches in Asia Minor. In the letters, Jesus gives a specific, pertinent message to each church. Jesus’ purpose is to both fix any issues going on within the churches and encourage the Christian recipients with messages of hope to remain faithful to Christ amid difficult times. 

    In 2:8-11, Jesus writes to the small but strong church in Smyrna. To them he says, “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are of the synagogue of Satan” (2:9). While the Christians who made up this congregation felt the sting of persecution and poverty—and maybe were struggling to remain faithful because of their struggles—Jesus reminds them that they are rich. According to Jesus’ message, their riches come not from monetary gain but from something much greater. In encouraging the Smyrnaeans to remain faithful as they experience persecution, he says to them, “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (2:10). The Smyrnaeans’ riches were a result of God’s grace in salvation, and Jesus encouraged them to use that grace to stand firm. 

    Later, in 3:14-22, Jesus writes to a church that, from the outside looking in, seemed to have everything together. The reality, however, was much different. Jesus tells the Christians in Laodicea that he will spit them out of his mouth due to their lukewarm nature. They are neither hot (actively for Christ) nor cold (actively against Christ). Jesus goes on to explain the reason: “For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked” (3:17). The lukewarm nature of the Laodiceans came from their desire to rely on themselves rather than Christ. 

    When studying this tale of two cities, Jesus clearly gets to the heart of the matter. In Jesus’ mind, the church who had nothing really had everything, while the church who had everything really had nothing. In a world full of trials, Jesus calls for churches to rely on him rather than themselves. In a world full of trials, Jesus calls each individual Christian to rely on him rather than himself or herself. As tempting as it is to feel as though we have ‘made it’ when we are rich by worldly standards, may we always be a people who seek to be rich in our Savior’s eyes. God loves you, and so do I. 


- Jared Green preaches the Calvert City Church of Christ in Calvert City, KY.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.calvertchurchofchrist.com


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Armed for Battle

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By Andrew Beasley


    Imagine sending a soldier off to war without any weapon or armor to defend themselves. Would you expect them to last very long against the enemy that they are tasked with fighting? The implication of Paul’s statement in Ephesians 6:11 is that by putting on the full armor of God it is possible for you to go out and to wage war against our enemy, the devil, and to be successful in doing so. Of course the other side of that coin is that if you do not put on the full armor of God, what chance do you have in a fight against him?

    There is more to simply putting on the armor that goes into the process as a Christian. We must learn how to use each piece of armor that God has given us to wield. An aspiring football player would not play without first learning how to throw, or carry, the football and without knowing how to put their pads on with an understanding of what each piece does to protect them. Remember when David was preparing to fight Goliath and King Saul offered him his armor (1st Sam. 17:32-40)? David’s response, while gracious, was that he could not use it because he had not tested it out.

    Instead, when David went out to fight the battle with Goliath he went out armed with God on his side and the tools that he was accustomed to. It takes time. It takes diligence. But mostly, it takes courage to prepare for the battle that God has called us to, to get ourselves ready, and to put on the full armor that we might wage war against our great enemy, Satan. 


- Andrew Beasley serves as a minister with the Northwest Church of Christ in Greensboro, NC. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: https://nwchurchofchrist.com/about/


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Peter’s Final Words

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By Edd Sterchi

    The great apostle and evangelist, Peter did some amazing things in his preaching career. In Acts 2, he delivered the first gospel sermon after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. Acts 2:41 records that an astounding number responded to this and were baptized into Christ – almost 3,000! Peter continued preaching even though arrested several times, beaten, and threatened with his life if he continued to proclaim the name of Christ (cf. Acts 4-5). He was also the first apostle to take the gospel to the Gentiles, with the conversion of Cornelius and his friends and family in Acts 10.
    After Acts 15 where Peter is involved in an apostolic gathering, we know very little of his activities. I agree with George DeHoff concerning Peter in that “As the years went by he was mentioned less frequently in the sacred writing probably because he was away from Jerusalem preaching in distant places.” (DeHoff’s Bible Handbook)
    Peter, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, wrote two epistles later in life. They were written to encourage Christians, especially new converts, to withstand the trials and persecutions that they were about to encounter. Likely this is in reference to Nero’s persecutions. It is believed that Peter’s second epistle would have been written shortly before his death. If that’s the case, then the last words of the second epistle of Peter would have been his final words of encouragement.
    Peter’s last words in chapter 3 of his second epistle are a reminder for all Christians to be diligent to...
...be sanctified (v.14)
...be studying (v.15-16)
...be steadfast (v.17)
Christians, let’s make sure that we are cleansed by the blood of Christ and living pure and righteous lives, searching and studying the Scriptures for all they’re worth, and remaining faithful and true to God . It’s Peter’s lasting wish for us.
“but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To
Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.” (2 Pet. 3:18)

- 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/


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Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Deliver Me from Temptation

 

By Glen Elliott


    Jesus was tempted (Mt. 4:1-11; Heb.4:15). We struggle with temptation. It is simply part of the human condition. Each of us battle inward desires which can bring sin into our lives (Jas. 1:13-15). Satan is the tempter (Mt. 4:3). We must engage him in spiritual warfare by the strength which God supplies (2 Cor. 10-4-6; Eph. 6:10-13). We better get our minds firmly set on the life and death struggle each of us must face or be lost through our own carelessness or neglect!

    Satan makes temptation attractive. He sugar-coats sin. He wraps it up in a nice, little package. Sin has pleasures associated with it (Heb. 11:25). These pleasures manifest themselves in many ways. Satan knows that all people are not tempted in the same way. So, like a skillful fisherman, he makes each lure appropriate to the person being tempted. Each person is “tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own desires” (Jas. 1:14). Sin feels good. But, its consequences are heart-breaking (Rm. 6:23).

    No one is immune to the evil influence of Satan’s temptation. Deliverance is more than a sentence-prayer (Mt. 6:13). We must not be ignorant of Satan’s schemes against us (2 Cor. 2:11). We must keep watch in prayer (Mt. 26:41). We must treasure up God’s word in our hearts as a safeguard against sin (Ps. 119:11). We must trust God completely rather than lean on our own strength (Prov. 3:5). We cooperate in the process of deliverance by making firm resolutions (e.g. Dan. 1:8); by putting ourselves in the company of those who will encourage right choices (Heb. 10:23-25); and, by fleeing before temptation has opportunity to ensnare us in its web (2 Tim. 2:22). Above all, remember that God is faithful and will provide the way of escape (1 Cor. 10:13).  Deliverance is ours through faith in Christ Jesus (1 Jn. 5:4; Rm. 8:37).


Glen Elliott preaches for the Greenbrier church of Christ in Greenbrier, AR. He may be contacted through the congregation's website - https://www.gbcofc.com/



Honesty, the Only Policy

 

By David Bragg


    A professor at Harvard Business School, who specializes in studying ethical behavior, has completed a research project on honesty. She found herself in hot water when she faced allegations of falsifying results. According to a report from NPR, the instructor was accused in June 2023 of changing data in her honesty study. As investigators dug deeper into her work, they reportedly found a disturbing trend reaching back over ten years of her career.

    Even in a dishonest world, where people expect to lie and be lied to, they react in shocked amazement when someone in a position of authority is caught up in dishonesty. The driving instructor caught driving under the influence. The marriage councilor getting a divorce. The truancy officer skipping work. Sometimes you wonder, who can you really trust?

    Honesty is a basic trait of God (Num. 23:19; Titus 1:2; Titus 1:2). You can trust God. He is ALWAYS truthful. His promises are kept, His word is always found reliable. Christians ought to always be honest, too. Even a cursory reading of the Bible reveals that wants His people to be honest people (Eph. 4:25; Col. 3:9; Rev. 21:8). The old saying is true: honesty is the best policy. In fact, it is the only policy that really works. It will keep us true to God and at peace with others. To be holy is to be honest, only then will I be ready for eternity. 


- David Bragg is co-editor of BulletinGold. He may be contacted through his blog: http://davidbragg.blogspot.com/