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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Instant vs. Delayed (or Denied) Gratification

By Lance Cordle

    “Give me what I want, and I want it right now,” seems to be a message that is prevalent in our world today. In years past it was normal for children to go through the stage of selfishness. It was just  as  normal  for parents   to  recognize selfishness and help the child through that  by taking their focus off their wants and wishes and directing them toward more responsible  choices. Unfortunately, the desire for instant gratification is present in many adults.
     However, taking one’s focus off their own wants and needs serves at least three purposes: 1) It helps them see the value of patience and hard work.  2) It helps them realize their responsibility to other people. 3) It helps them see that there are things they should not have—ever.
     Patience and hard work have long been recognized as virtues. Employers look upon these characteristics as desirables one for current and  prospective employees. But when people are not taught these virtues, goals are pursued without them. The results will be decreased  quality and productivity.
     Beyond the damage to one’s own productivity and worth, is the impact that selfishness has on society. Whether we realize it or not, we depend heavily on others and they in turn, depend upon us. Going into debts which we know we cannot pay will not only hurt us, but our community as well.
     Finally, there is  the matter of wanting things (more specifically, relationships) we should (morally) not have. It might be reasoned, “If I can have the things I want, why can I not have the relationships I want.” Should it surprise us then, that in a materialistic society, fornication and adultery are rampant? Recent societal consequences of such behavior have been minimal at best. The need for companionship can be supplied through seeking someone who is eligible to be in a lawful relationship with us.
     Often when we read of Samson, we focus upon his exploits as a strong man—He killed a lion with his bare hands, moved the gates of a city to a hill, etc. We neglect however, a very important statement, made by him, which reflects an attitude of selfishness. He saw a woman he should not have considered as “wife material.” Instead of dealing with his desires, and bringing them into line with what was best for him and the people around him, he told his father, “Get her for me, for she looks good to me” (Judges 14:3). Samson’s father followed his wishes, and Samson, and those around him, suffered the consequences. Getting what we want when we want it may seem good, but it is not always best.

- 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



Be Of Good Cheer!

By R. W. McAlister
     When problems strike, how do we handle them? Everyone responds differently; some choose to overcome, and others choose to be overcome. I’ve encountered both types during my time in the ministry (indeed, during my lifetime) – those who allow adversity to make them become better, and those who allow it to make them become bitter. For those who have confidence in the Scriptures, Christ provides the answer for how we should deal with adversity. Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation …” (John 16:33). Most of us look ahead for good things to come in our futures, but that’s not always the case. How do we deal with unexpected and depressing events?
     No man can know tomorrow, but it’s certain we’ll have unforeseen difficulties that take us by surprise – everyone does. On the surface, some appear to live a fairly problem-free life, but we can’t know what may be happening below the surface in the private parts of their lives. The story has been told of Ludwig Von Beethoven, one of history’s greatest composers, who was also nearing deafness at the age of 32. His condition was pressing upon him so heavily that he considered suicide.
     Thankfully, he didn’t yield to his despair. If he had, the world would have never experienced his impressive musical talent.
     What about the countless “ordinary” people who feel they have nothing of such great value to offer the world? Recall the parable of the talents in Matt. 25. Verse 15 says of the man traveling to a far country: “And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability...” You’ll notice that there was no zero talent man! We may not have some unique genius to offer the world, but that doesn’t mean we have no value! When we face challenges, we may have no special passion from which to draw strength, as did Beethoven. How can we overcome despair?
     The answer is as simple as Jesus Christ. Christ came into the world to save sinners (Romans, 5:8; I Timothy 1:15). What Christians do have is the knowledge of the gospel (John 8:32). Therein lies the Christian’s gift to the world (Romans 1:16). This is his purpose and strength for living! He knows all about the cure for spiritual diseases, far greater than any cure for physical diseases and more important than all the medical knowledge the world over!
    We have a certain strength for living that outweighs any possible unforeseen challenges and discouragements: if we have obeyed the gospel and we are living with sincerity and diligence, with heaven as our primary objective.
     “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33). Our time here is but a vapor that appears for a little while, then vanishes away (James 4:14). We can have peace in Christ, and being “in Christ” puts on the winning side! So, be of good cheer!
  - 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/

Monday, December 19, 2011

“My Help Comes From the Lord”

By Bryan McAlister

     “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
     Finding a companion is a blessing, one to be cherished. If that companion stumbles or is hurt, there is one who is ready to help in time of trouble and need. It is a fitting theme for marriage, but that is a theme fit for another day. For now, with the hearts of many of our brethren hurting and wearied for various reasons, we look to scripture, the source of God’s words to us, for a companion who is eternal and untouched by the troubles of our hearts. We look for a companion stronger than us, wiser than us, and holier than us. We look for a companion who is not burdened by our weakness or our worry. We look for a companion who is able to conquer what we encounter.
     Scripture reveals Who that companion is for us. “I will lift up my eyes to the hills - From whence comes my help” (Psalm 121:1)? A person’s eyes can tell the whole story. In one look you can see pain or pleasure, sorrow or surprise. With one look you can know if a person is distracted, disappointed, or even despondent.
    The eyes are the window to the soul. “My heart pants, my strength fails me; as for the light of my eyes, it also has gone from me” (Psalm 38:10). “I am weary with my crying; my throat is dry; my eyes fail while I wait for my God” (Psalm 69:3). Did you see that? The light of life had been taken from the eyes of the one hurting. The eyes of the hurting had cried so much, their throat had gone dry and the eyes failed, they had no more tears to give. When the heart has reached its breaking point, when it has had all that it can take; when the eyes have cried all the tears they can cry and when there is an emptiness beyond description of words, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills.” Disease, divorce, death, discouragement, debt, disaster; if you stare long enough and intently enough at any one of these, your eyes will be filled with the pain of these moments. “From whence comes my help?” It was rhetorical, because deep down inside, cutting through the pain, was the reminder of truth, “My help comes from the Lord.”
     The transitions our soul will encounter are too numerous to name here. Suffice it to say, whether it is a course of life, a change in season of living, a new year of work, school, or general alteration of any thing, I hope you know, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills - From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord.”

- Bryan McAlister preaches for the Centerville church of Christ, in Centerville, TN.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.centervillechurchofchrist.org


I Will See Him

By H. L. Gradowith

I may not see the top of holy Sinai,
Or the land that once with milk and honey flowed;
I may not, like a bird, soar up through the sky,
Or have on me the honors of men bestowed...
But I will see Jesus! O! Yes! I’ll see Him,
And when He comes for me I will go to Him!
And then I’ll see Heaven – where I’ll live with Him!
O! Yes! I’ll see Jesus! I’ll surely see Him!

I may not find the cure for some dread disease,
And thereby astound the experts of the world;
I may not end war and bring to all men peace
And see one flag over all unfurled...
But I will see Jesus! O! Yes! I’ll see Him,
And when He comes for me I will go to Him!
And then I’ll see Heaven – where I’ll live with Him!
O! Yes! I’ll see Jesus! I’ll surely see Him!

I may not have a friend to stand by my side,
Or even one to help as His work I do;
I may not see bad men here success denied,
Or good men exalted when the day is through...
But I will see Jesus! O! Yes! I’ll see Him,
And when He comes for me I will go to Him!
And then I’ll see Heaven – where I’ll live with Him!
O! Yes! I’ll see Jesus! I’ll surely see Him!

I may not, in this world, know the precious rest
That the Lord has promised those who would be true;
I may not have the things others count as best,
With precious little I may have to make do...
But I will see Jesus! O! Yes! I’ll see Him,
And when He comes for me I will go to Him!
And then I’ll see Heaven – where I’ll live with Him!
O! Yes! I’ll see Jesus! I’ll surely see Him!

I may not overcome all the foes I face,
Or see the weaknesses that hindered me gone;
I may not ever find for myself a place...
Or see the works He gave me at long last done...
But I will see Jesus! O! Yes! I’ll see Him,
And when He comes for me I will go to Him!
And then I’ll see Heaven – where I’ll live with Him!
O! Yes! I’ll see Jesus! I’ll surely see Him!

- H. L. Gradowith  For more information on H. L. Gradowith and GRADOWITH POEMS e-mail group visit http://www.geocities.com/fp5699/ - the website of Tim Smith, minister of the Enon church of Christ in Webb, AL.


Families Need Teamwork

By Mike Haynes      In life, as well as in sports, it is vital to know that “we” is more important than “ me. ” the USA basketball team did not win a gold medal in the 2004 Olympic Games. The U.S. team was loaded with NBA all stars. Yet, they lost to Argentina, Lithuania and Puerto Rico. How could that happen? It is a  good question. John  Wooden, the former UCLA basketball guru, offered this explanation: he said, “The U.S. sent great players; the opposition sent great teams.” The U.S. had superstars; but they could not compete with a super-team!”
     Ego management is a big concern for every supervisor, teacher or leader. Some individuals have over-inflated egos. They think too highly of themselves. Others have under-inflated egos. They have low self-esteem. The antidote for too much ego or too little ego is the team concept. Teaching is usually required in the area of team spirit. Some people have been encouraged to be rugged individualists. They are independent in thought and action. Their natural inclination is to watch out for self. Personal glory is more important than team success. And, of course, there are times in life when one must stand alone. But, there is also the matter of community.
     There is value in being a part of a learning organization (job, church, school, family, etc.). I was reared in Oxford, Alabama, near the Talladega Speedway. The influence of NASCAR was certainly felt in my community. The big-named drivers, of course, got most of the publicity and attention. But, a big-named driver can’t do it all by himself. One, in a sense, isolated individual, must pour gas into the tank of the race car. Another person is responsible for removing and replacing lug nuts. One person removes the worn tire. Yet another person puts on the new tire. One person stands by with a fire extinguisher in case a problem arises. All of these individuals realize they are team members. The family, in a very real sense, is a team. Successful families have a team or family spirit. Parents are responsible for teaching family members about team work. Such teaching will strengthen the family and prepare family members for participation in other groups.

- Mike Haynes received his training at Freed-Hardeman University, Southern Christian University, Auburn University, and Nova Southeastern University. He supervises a number of forensic programs for the Alabama Department of Corrections. [This article originally appeared in the Spring/Summer issue of Our Families Magazine]; via
The Family Friend, a monthly newsletter published by the Calvert City church of Christ, Calvert City, KY.  It is an excellent resource for articles relating to the family.  To learn more consult the congregation's website: http://www.calvertchurchofchrist.com

God Knows and Meets Our Greatest Needs

[Hebrews 9:11-14, 10:1-4 and 11-14]
By Gerald Cowan
     It can be said in this way: If our greatest need had been for information, God would have sent us an educator. If our greatest need had been for technology, God would have sent us a scientist, a technician, or an engineer. If our greatest need had been money and material wealth, God would have sent us a financial adviser, an investment broker. If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer. If our greatest need had been to be served, God would have sent us a servant. If our greatest need had been for freedom, God would have sent us a deliverer.
     We do have a need for information – about God, about our world, and about ourselves. So God sent men inspired by His Spirit to tell us about himself and the world and how to relate to properly to Him and the world. He endowed us with intelligence and rationality; He made us able to investigate and learn how to develop and use the resources at hand. Of course we got sidetracked by the desire to possess more and more of the things that became available to us and God-sent teachers could never convince some of us of the futility and transience of earthly treasures, though they often stressed the point. The search for entertainment is mostly man-made, and God does not supply it. But the need for information about how to relate to God has never gone away, so God’s inspired persons prepared us for life in His kingdom, life in the called-out church of His Son. He revealed through them all we will ever need to know to function properly in the Kingdom/Church of the Lord, to please Him and secure a place in His heaven (1 Peter 1:1-9, 2 Peter 1:3-4).
     Jesus was called The Teacher, and was surely the greatest teacher ever in things pertaining to God and the spirits of men. He knew the mind of God and was able to put God’s will into understandable words for us, to give us a perfectly understandable and applicable object lesson in how to live and please God. In him we could see God and hear God – we could know and experience God for ourselves by following his words and example (John 14:9, 15:1-8). He did not come to entertain us or make us feel good. But he did tell us how to be blessed and how to be a blessing, how to enjoy life – abundant life – how to be truly happy, satisfied, and always rejoicing in God (Mt. 5:1-6, Phil. 4:4). He supplies all our real and abiding needs through His Son, Jesus Christ (Phil. 4:13, 19).
     God knew that our greatest need was not to be free from all others, or to be served by others. We can be submissive to masters, rulers, and other authorities under whom we are placed – that kind of adjustment is required for happiness and satisfaction (Rom. 13:1-7, Eph. 5:21-6:9). Our greatest needs are spiritual. God knew our greatest need would be for the forgiveness of sins, errors and mistakes – whether deliberate and willful or inadvertent and accidental – our weaknesses, failures, shortcomings, and doubts. Our greatest need was for salvation. So God sent us a Savior, a Redeemer and Deliverer for our spirits. He sent a Sacrifice who was able to remove all our sins and give us the peace of mind that can only come from a clean and clear conscience (Heb. 9:26-28, Phil. 4:6-9). In giving himself Jesus became the servant of all, serving and ministering to our greatest needs. His service can be rejected and his gift not received, but if that is the case, nobody else can make up for the loss (John 13:6-17).
     In the process of providing for our salvation God made it possible for us to live in peace with Him and with each other. He also made it possible for us to be at peace within ourselves, with untroubled hearts looking forward to the consummation of all things in heaven (John 14:1-9) where neither He nor we shall ever fade away (1 Peter 1:3-4).
 
- Gerald Cowan preaches for the Dongola church of Christ in Dongola, IL.  He may be contacted at Geraldcowan1931@aol.com

Monday, December 12, 2011

Can You Count the Apples in a Seed?

By Mark Adams
     In 1877, James A. Harding (for whom Harding University is named) went to Clark County, Kentucky, where he held a gospel meeting. When asked how the meeting went, one of the elders at the congregation responded, “It was not much of a meeting.
     Oh, brother Harding did his usual powerful preaching, the attendance was fair, but the results were negligible. Only little Jimmy Shepherd was baptized.”
     God doesn’t always perceive things the way that we do. When we work hard to serve people in the name of Christ and few respond to our message, it is easy to think, “The results of my work are negligible.”
    But we must never underestimate the power of one seed that really takes root. In the case of little Jimmy Shepherd, the sole response to Harding’s preaching in that guospel meeting, he stayed dedicated to the cause of Christ all of his life. He is better known to some as James W. Shepherd. While he was in college, he began preaching. In 1883, he helped to establish the Berea Church of Christ in Madison County. In 1888, he left with his family to do mission work in New Zealand for several years, preaching all around the country, as well as in Australia.
    Upon returning to the states, he worked from 1905 to 1912 as the office editor of the Gospel Advocate, where he both wrote and edited some works that have been treasured for decades.
     In Luke 8:8, Jesus is teaching a parable about a sower. Though much seed might never take root or grow, the seed which does take root can produce “one hundred times” what has been sown. Every seed you plant matters, because only God knows just how much good can be done when a person plants a seed through a single act of Christian conviction.

- Mark Adams; via
The Encourager, the weekly bulletin for the Calvert City church of Christ, Calvert City, KY.  Lance Cordle preaches for the congregation.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.calvertchurchofchrist.com

“AND DEAR GOD, PLEASE HELP ME TO GROW...”

By Lynn Parker
    Those words, often uttered in prayer, make up a proper request. We all should desire to be stronger spiritually (II Pet. 3:18). We should indeed long for growth (I Pet. 2:1ff). Let us examine this prayer request, as well as our attitude and efforts toward spiritual growth.
    What would you think of a man who prayed, “God, please help me not to lose my job,” and then that same man slept in and was late to work every day? I have heard both men and women who say they want to be stronger spiritually. I have heard some say they want to know the Bible better. I have heard some folks piously sing, “More, More About Jesus.” And then I have seen the very same souls skip Bible classes on Sunday and Wednesday. Any wonder why there is no growth????
    When ones attendance at worship assemblies is “hit and miss,” then that person will exhibit spiritual stagnation. When a tree in the orchard does not grow, we give it extra attention. When a Christian does not grow, we try to give some extra attention as concerned brethren. After all, we have an obligation to build up each other. “So then let us follow after things which make for peace, and things whereby we may edify one another” (Rom. 14:19).
    Your brethren cannot help you grow if you do not engage in really challenging, serious Bible study. Some brothers and sisters have been in the church for 10 years or more and never yet made 10 pages of study notes. Folks, casual reading of the Bible is not Bible study. We cannot edify you if you are not in the assembly of the saints on a regular basis. If students at public school attended like some of my brethren attend the worship assembly, they would be charged with truancy!
    We cannot help you grow if you persist in saying, “This is not a convenient time” or employing similar excuses. Everyone is busy. Everyone has more to do than week to get it done. Still, if heaven is really important to you, you will make time to sit down and study. We have the teachers. We have a strong desire to see you grow. We can come to your house and spend an hour a week in diligent study with you. We are ready. Still, we cannot help you grow if you never make an effort or lift a finger. We will make the time—will you?

- Lynn Parker, New Braunfels, TX; via the Belvedere Beacon, the weekly bulletin of the Belvedere church of Christ, Belvedere, SC.  Ken Chumbley preaches for this congregation, and he may be contacted at their website: http://www.belvederechurchofchrist.org 

The Importance of Reputation

By Jonathan B. Jones II
     A recent Wall Street Journal interview with Google CEO Eric Schmidt revealed some disturbing realities about privacy and reputations in the digital age.
    The Google CEO says you may have to change your name to escape your past.
    The Internet-search-engine-giant's CEO stated, "I don't believe society understands
what happens when everything is available, knowable, and recorded by
everyone all the time." Because records are kept of all of your internet activity including internet searches, websites visited, and social networking posts, the indiscretions within the cyber world will scar your reputation and follow you throughout life. It is well known that many employers today will check social networking sites (such as twitter, Facebook, and MySpace) to evaluate the character of a prospect before serious consideration for hire. Google's CEO stated that the only way to "escape" such a wounded reputation in the future will be to legally change your name!
     Rather than trying to do “reputation damage control” after the fact, it would be far better to guard your reputation from being ruined in the first place. Scripture teaches us the importance of having a good reputation. The writer of Proverbs gives the true life-principle, "A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1).
    The Preacher of the book of Ecclesiastes seconds this advice, "A good name is better than precious ointment" (Ecclesiastes 7:1). As Christians we must care about our reputations. We should put a high priority upon the value of our reputations.
     We all make mistakes in the days of our youthfulness that we regret. David prayed to God, "Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions…" (Psalm 25:7). However, there is no excuse for "sowing wild oats" because we are young. God does not excuse the indiscretions of youth.
     Accountable young people must realize there are consequences to their choices--even choices made on-line. The young man Joseph is elevated in Scripture as a young man who continued to seek God when in a foreign land (Genesis 39:9).
    Likewise the young men Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego realized that they were accountable to God even when not around their parents (Daniel 1:8).
    Actions have consequences. We reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). We are to "sow for yourselves righteousness" (Hosea 10:12). If you sow to the wind, you can expect to reap a whirlwind (Hosea 8:7). May we all, both young and old, realize the importance of our reputations.

- Jonathan B. Jones II; via
The Encourager, the weekly bulletin for the Calvert City church of Christ, Calvert City, KY.  Lance Cordle preaches for the congregation.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.calvertchurchofchrist.com

Monday, December 5, 2011

Riches Within Reach

By Dan Chambers

     One day last week, Andrea called my attention to a news story that appeared on the homepage of “Yahoo.” The story told how in England back in 1945 a grandfather gave his seven-year-old grandson, John Webber, a mug to play with.  It was a golden-colored cup about 5 ½ inches tall, and was decorated with the heads of two women facing in opposite directions, their foreheads garlanded with two knotted snakes.
     Among other things, seven-year-old John used the cup for target practice with his air gun, but it survived intact, and eventually was stashed away and largely forgotten.  Sixty-three years later that mug was still languishing in a shoebox under seventy-year-old John’s bed.  When John moved last year, he decided to get the bronze cup valued.  As an English scrap metal dealer he believed he had a “good eye” for antiques.
     It turned out that the bronze mug wasn’t bronze at all.  It was actually a rare piece of ancient Persian treasure, beaten out of a single sheet of gold hundreds of years before thebirth of Christ.  Experts said the method of manufacture and composition of the gold was “consistent with Archaemenid gold and gold smithing” dating back to the third or fourth century B.C.  The Archaemenid empire, the first of the Persian empires to rule over significant portions of greater Iran, was wiped out by Alexander the Great in 330 B.C..  The cup will go up for auction in England in June 5, and is estimated to fetch around 500,000 pounds, which is about $1,000,000.
     Imagine that—for over six decades there was a treasure within John’s reach that would make him rich beyond his wildest dreams, and he didn’t even know it.  John’s story reminded me that every person in this world has within his or her reach a treasure that will make him or her rich beyond their wildest dreams and most don’t even know it, or they don’t do anything about it.
     Of course I’m talking about the treasure of eternal life through Jesus Christ.  In Romans 10:12-13 Paul says, “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for, Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  Notice that, through the Holy Spirit, Paul uses the word “riches” to describe the salvation that the Lord offers everyone.
     If you’re a Christian, do you realize how rich you are, and do you thank God every day for making you so rich? And, if you’ve not obeyed the gospel, I hope you’ll realize the treasure that’s at your fingertips and do something about it today.

–Dan Chambers, via THE SOWER, a weekly publication of the Arthur church of Christ, Arthur, IL. Ron Bartanen, who serves as minister and editor, may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.arthurchurchofchrist.com


Things The Church Is Not To Do

By James W. Boyd
    It is not God’s intention that the church direct the affairs of civil government. While we have legitimate interest and concern about civil affairs as citizens of our country, we should not involve the church in these matters that are purely political, economic, and government policies regarding trade, foreign affairs, police work, elections, road building, etc. But in matters of morality, ethics, truth, though often thrown by some into the political arena, the church should and must be involved because that involves the business of righteousness. For example, the issues of abortion, alcoholic beverages, gambling, same sex marriages, the teaching of evolution, intrusions against the moral standards of God, these are the concern of the church.
    The church is not intended to provide for the social life of its members – furnishing entertainments, sports, gymnasiums, playgrounds, camps, recreational facilities, etc. To those who think so, we simply ask for the Scripture that authorizes such things. The craze to have the church to entertain has, in some digressive churches, turned the worship services into near revelry, show, "a holy wow," and a religious Hee Haw.
    While places for assembly and facilities to do the work are necessary, it is not the work of the church to simply build buildings, temples, sanctuaries, etc. For too long many have depended upon glamorous buildings to be the attraction of the church. Disproportionate amounts of money have been spent building and maintaining elaborate buildings. But the church grew more rapidly, physically and spiritually, when our buildings were more “on the other side of the tracks.”
    The church is not in the money making or money saving business. Some churches hold huge savings accounts, drawing interest, hoarding funds, while people all over the world are dying lost without the Gospel. Good stewardship of funds is one thing. Greedy and grasping brethren who just hold on to money while the work languishes is something else. I would fear to be an elder of a church presiding over large savings while the Gospel is not being preached.
    It is not the work of the church to provide secular education. Secular schools are businesses and do not belong in the church budget. For many years school people have dug into the treasuries of churches for their school work. Christ did not die to provide chemistry labs, tennis courts, computers, or make “scholars.” Schools can be helpful or harmful to the cause of Christ. At present, 1997, most of the colleges established by brethren, have become enemies of the cause of Christ rather than friends because they have led the way into digression and apostasy. Brethren have for too long bought the false teaching that whatever an individual can do, the church can do.
    The church is not simply to make people feel good, draw crowds, build self esteem, get numbers and funds, be accepted by the community, etc. The church should seek to please God, not men. You will never please all men anyhow. It's like the man and boy and the donkey. They started out with the man riding the donkey and the boy walking. Some criticized, thinking the man should let the boy ride. So they changed places. Then some criticized because the boy should have had more respect for the man than to ride while the man walked. So both got atop the donkey. Again, some criticized because they thought both of them on the donkey was too heavy for the donkey. So they both walked. Then they were accused of being fools for having a beast of burden but not using him. You cannot please everybody. Why try?
    Some have befuddled the work of the church by seeking to do something without authority, but then asking, "What's wrong with it?" If it is without authority, it is wrong. We must have authority for the work of the church as we must have it for the worship, the plan of salvation, organization, and terms of entrance.

- James W. Boyd, McMinnville, TN; - via the Belvedere Beacon, the weekly bulletin of the Belvedere church of Christ, Belvedere, SC.  Ken Chumbley preaches for this congregation, and he may be contacted at their website: http://www.belvederechurchofchrist.org


Whether Yes or No or More or Less – Give Thanks to God


      There is much that each person can do for himself and much that one can get only from others. And when he gets something from others he should certainly acknowledge it and be grateful.
 In Luke 17:10-19 Jesus told a story in which nine out of ten did not even say thanks for a great gift of healing – from leprosy. All ten had the same problem, all asked for and received mercy and help, all were healed and cleansed. All received the same charge. All should have made the same acknowledgment of gratitude. Nine failed.
     Humans do not seem to be  “naturally” grateful. Not to parents. Not to each other. Not even to God.
     For what should a Christian thank God? For every good thing, for every YES answer to a prayer. Can one be thankful for burdens and troubles, hardships? Perhaps not for the thing itself, but certainly for the lessons learned, and more than that, for the strength God supplies so one can keep the faith even in difficult times. If nothing else, trouble can open one’s eyes to his need for God.
     Here are a few things you may not have thought of, for which you owe God thanks.
– If you have more health than illness, thank God. Millions of people will not survive this week.
– Hundreds of millions have endured
battle, imprisonment, and the pangs of starvation  this year. Thank God if you are not one of them.
– If you can meet in the name of God for worship without fear of harassment, persecution, loss of possessions or loss of life, you are more blessed than three billion others in the world. Thank God.
– If you have enough food, a safe shelter, a little money in the bank, and do not have to worry about whether you will have those things tomorrow, you are better off than 92% of the people in the world.
– No matter what you age, if your parents are still alive and married to each other, you are in a very select minority.
– If you hold up your head and smile and are truly thankful, whether you have little or much, you are a true blessing. Almost everybody can, but most do not. 

- via The Encourager, the weekly bulletin for the Dongola church of Christ, Dongola, IL.  Gerald Cowan serves the congregation as minister.  He may be contacted at Geraldcowan1931@aol.com 

If You Can

If you can start the day without caffeine,
If you can always be cheerful,
     ignoring aches and pains,
If you can resist complaining and
     boring people with your troubles,
If you can eat the same food every
     day and still be grateful for it,
If you can understand when your
     loved ones are too busy to give
     you any time or attention,
If you can take criticism and
     blame without resentment,
If you can conquer tension without
     medical help,
If you can relax without liquor or
     sedatives
If you can sleep without the aid
     of drugs...
Then you are probably the family dog.

- Author Unknown; via THE SOWER, a weekly publication of the Arthur church of Christ, Arthur, IL. Ron Bartanen, who serves as minister and editor, may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.arthurchurchofchrist.com


A “Can Do” Attitude

By Jason Hart

    “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).  Allow me to create what I call a “step study.”  A “step study” may seem a bit tedious but it can greatly help in the application of a passage.
    “I” - Because of the first person pronoun “I,” the reader automatically becomes a part of the verse.
    “I Can” - Saying “I can” leaves out any “I think,” “I might,” “I could,” or “I should.”
    “I Can Do” - When we say, “I can do,” what we mean to suggest is that we can put our lives into action with confidence.  I’s not just a passing thought.
    “I Can Do All Things” - Everything within righteous reason is possible with the right attitude.
    “I Can Do All Things Through” - There is a powerful source through which we can accomplish much.  It is not beside of, over, or under - it is through.
    “I Can Do All Things Through Christ” - Christ is the central force through whom all righteous things can be accomplished.
    “I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens” - It is Christ, who, as our Savior, Redeemer, Mediator, High Priest, and King, provides insurmountable strength to those who love Him.
    “I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me” - Last but not least, the reader is not only encouraged by the strength that Christ provides, but by the strength He provides on an individual basis.

- Jason Hart (adapted); via the weekly bulletin of the Harrisburg church of Christ in Harrisburg, IL.  


Giving Thanks

By David A. Sargent

    On Friday evenings about sunset, on a lonely stretch along the eastern Florida seacoast, one could regularly see an old man walking -- white-haired, bushy eye-browed, slightly bent.  Each and every Friday night, until his death in 1973, he would return carrying a large bucket of shrimp. The sea gulls would flock to him, and he would feed them from his bucket.  And he would thank them when doing so.
    To the casual observer, his actions would be met with some mixture of bemusement, ridicule and pity. But those who had insight and understanding saw something far different.
    The old man was Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, the most decorated American ace pilot of World War I.  Many years before, in October, 1942, Captain Rickenbacker was on a mission in a B-17 to deliver an important message to General Douglas MacArthur in New Guinea.  But then the unexpected occurred…
Somewhere over the South Pacific, his plane -- the Flying Fortress -- became lost beyond the reach of radio. Fuel ran dangerously low, so Rickenbacker and his passengers ditched their plane in the ocean.  For nearly a month Captain Eddie and his companions would fight the water, the weather, the scorching sun, and their most formidable foe: STARVATION.  Eight days out, their rations were long gone or destroyed by the salt water.  Their situation looked very bleak.
    At one point, Captain Rickenbacker was dozing with his hat pulled down over his eyes when something remarkable happened: ”Something landed on my head. I knew that it was a sea gull. … Everyone else knew, too. No one said a word, but peering out from under my hat brim without moving my head, I could see the expression on their faces. They were staring at that gull. The gull meant FOOD … if I could catch it.”
Captain Eddie caught the gull. Its flesh was eaten. Its intestines were used for bait to catch fish. The survivors were sustained and their hopes renewed because a lone sea gull, uncharacteristically hundreds of miles from land, seemingly offered itself as a sacrifice.
    And… Rickenbacker never forgot to remember that one which, on a day long past, gave itself without a struggle, a sacrifice that meant salvation to him and others. *
Every Sunday, there are people in various parts of the world that pause
to reflect on the ULTIMATE Sacrifice that has been made for mankind. 
The memorial is the Lord’s Supper (see 1 Corinthians 11:23-30) and the participants are Christians.  They are commemorating the death of Jesus, God’s Son, who died on the cross to pay the redemption price for the sins of the world (Eph 1:7; 1 John 2:2).
    YOU can also receive the benefits of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice if you will:
place your faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Him before men (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized (immersed)
in His name for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).  Then, as Christians, we continue to follow Him and look forward to an ETERNAL home in heaven (Revelation 22).
    Won’t YOU gratefully accept His offer of salvation on His terms?

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

[* Adapted from “The Old Man and the Gulls” from Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Storyby Paul Aurandt, 1977, quoted in Heaven Bound Living, Knofel Stanton, Standard, 1989, pp. 79-80 as qtd. in “Sermon Illustrations,” www.Bible.org]