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Monday, February 24, 2014

"Done Enough"

By Lewis G. Hale

     A dear preacher friend said to me, "It really disturbed me when my saintly grandmother was approaching death and said to me, "Howard, I'm afraid that I haven't done enough to be saved."
     This made him wonder if in our preaching we have left people with the idea that they have to be "good enough" or to "do enough" in order to be saved.
     Just how much would be enough? Match what the Apostle Paul did in a lifetime? Pretty tough assignment. Heaven's population might be as scarce as Noah's ark.
     Do not mistake me. God expects us to do good and to live righteous lives. He does not give His children license to sin.
     On the other hand, we could never do enough to be saved. Jesus paid the full price for our salvation. He expects us to have an obedient faith to claim the gift He so freely provided.
     We should never rob people of hope and peace of mind by laying an unnecessary guilt trip on them. But, we should encourage them to live faithful devoted lives and to bear the fruit of the Spirit in their daily lives.
     The down side of that is this: there are many people who seem content to do nothing. "to him that knoweth to do good and doeth it not, to him it is sin" (James 4:17). We call that a sin of omission.
     If I am deluded with the notion that I have to be good enough or do enough to be saved, I will never have peace of mind nor have any sense of security. I would go to the grave in despair.
     What is the solution? For me, it is to have deep and abiding faith in the goodness and mercy of God and to believe He will keep his promises. When I falter, repent and ask God to forgive me and get up and start again.

- 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

Reasons I stopped attending sporting events—

     Take some of the most common excuses for not going to church and use them to stop attending sporting events, and here’s what you get
* Every time I went, they asked me for money.
* The people I had to sit by didn’t seem very friendly.
* The seats were too hard and not comfortable at all.
* The coach never came to call on me.
* The referee made a decision with which I could not agree.
* I was sitting with some hypocrites—they came only to see what others were wearing.
* Some games went into overtime and I was late getting home.
* The band played some numbers that I had never heard before.
* The games were scheduled when I want to do other things.
* My parents took me to too many games when I was growing up.
* Since I read a book on sports, I feel that I know more than the coaches anyhow.
* I don’t want to take my children because I want them to choose for themselves what sport they like best.

- 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

Self-Examination For Church Members

      How many morning services would we have had this past year if everyone had stayed ay home when I did? How many times would the evening services be omitted if no one had gone except when I was there? How many times would the Sunday school have met if they met only when I was there? How much Christian instruction would the children of my community have received if everybody gave as much as I do? How many people of darkened lands would have heard the gospel, if every was as interested in them as much as I am? How many of my neighbors would have been invited to service, welcomed at the church; how many prayers would have been offered for my minister, my neighbors, my church? How many words of testimony spoken for Christ?
      What kind of a Christian am I anyhow? Do my excuses stand before Christ? What kind of a church would this be, if every person was just like me?

- Author Unknown; 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

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Friendship Evangelism

By Mark Posey

     The Institute for  American Church Growth asked over 10,000 people this question: “What was responsible for your coming to Christ and this church?” They replied as follows…
I had a special need -3%
I just walked in -3%
I liked the minister -6%
I visited there -1%
I liked the Bible classes -5 %
I attended a gospel meeting -0.5%
I liked the programs -3%
A FRIEND OR RELATIVE INVITED ME-79%
    “Go ye” means, “Go me.”   Evangelism  that  is  most  productive  is  PERSONAL evangelism. It is seeing the soul as the most important thing in the world and targeting those with whom we come in contact each day. In this evangelism becomes PURPOSEFUL.  We can target the entire world, but we must proceed one soul at a time. Read the following passages: Philippians 2:19-24; 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10.                                  

- 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

Eight Gifts That Do Not Cost a Cent

    (1) The Gift of Listening...But you really must listen. No interrupting, no daydreaming, no planning your response. Just listening.
    (2) The Gift of Affection…Be generous with appropriate
hugs, kisses, pats on the back, and handholds. Let these small actions demonstrate the love you have for family and friends.
   (3) The Gift of Laughter…Clip cartoons. Share articles and funny stories. Your gift will say, “I love to laugh with you.”
    (4) The Gift of a Written Note...It can be a simple “Thanks for the help” note or a full sonnet. A brief, handwritten note may be remembered for a lifetime and may even change a life.
    (5) The Gift of a Compliment…A simple and sincere, “You look great in red,” “You did a super job,” or “That was a wonderful meal” can make someone’s day.
   (6) The Gift of a Favor…Every day, go out of your way to do something kind.
    (7) The Gift of Solitude…There are times when we want nothing better than to be left alone. Be sensitive to those times and give the gift of solitude to others.
    (8) The Gift of a Cheerful Disposition…The easiest way to feel good is to extend a kind word to someone, really it’s not that hard to say, “Hello” or “Thank you.”

- Author Unknown; via The Central Message, the weekly bulletin of the Central Church of Christ in Paducah KY.  Jim Faughn serves as an elder and preacher for the congregation.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website at:
http://www.centralchurchofchrist.org

Joking About God

By Charlie Gamble

     An airliner was having engine trouble, and the pilot instructed the cabin crew to have the passengers take their seats and get prepared for an emergency landing. A few minutes later, the pilot asked the flight attendants if everyone was buckled in and ready. "All set back here, Captain," came the reply, "except the lawyers are still going around passing out business cards."
     It is common for people to make jokes about lawyers until they need one. I see the same thing happen when some consider God. They make light of things holy and then cry out to God when life goes sour. It would be good for them to consider Psalm 2:
     Why do the nations rage, And the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, "Let us break Their bonds in pieces And cast away Their cords from us." He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, And distress them in His deep displeasure:  "Yet I have set My King On My holy hill of Zion." "I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter's vessel.' "Now therefore, be wise, O kings; Be instructed, you judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, And rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, And you perish in the way, When His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him. Psalms 2:1-12 (NKJV)
     It won’t be so funny when God is doing the laughing.

 - Charlie Gamble preaches for the Brunswick Church of Christ in Southport, NC. He may be contacted at
cgamble64@gmail.com

A Higher Power

By Alan Smith

    Sunday school teachers are sometimes amazed at some of the things their children say in class.  One Sunday, a class was studying the power of kings and queens in Bible times.  After talking about a few examples, the teachers said, "There is a higher power.  Can anybody tell me what it is?"
    Without hesitation, one child blurted out, "Aces!"
    Somebody's been playing too much poker!  The correct answer, though, is one that we all tend to overlook.  Our Lord God Almighty is a higher power.  Higher than kings and queens.  Higher than presidents and prime ministers.  We tremble at world leaders like Adolph Hitler, Idi Amin, and Saddam Hussein.  We sometimes tremble at the powers of our own government when matters of morality are disregarded.  We feel helpless when it seems like the "kingdoms of this world" are gaining the upper hand.
    We need to remember, though, that the final victory is assured for God and His followers.  Our confidence is not in any worldly leader.  Our confidence is in the God who is over all nations.
    "How awesome is the LORD Most High, the great King over all the earth!....For God is the King of all the earth; sing to him a psalm of praise. God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne." (Psalm 47:2,7-8)
Have a great day!

- Alan Smith, author of the popular "Thought For Today," and minister for the Fayetteville Church of Christ in Fayetteville, NC, may be contacted at
alansmith.servant@gmail.com

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Monday, February 10, 2014

20 Seconds of Courage

By Austin Johnson

      20, 19, 18, 17…3, 2, 1. That’s all it takes—20 seconds of courage. When we look at monumental moments in life, could they not all be boiled down to 20 seconds? The greatest baseball play you have ever seen is shorter than 20 seconds. The most spectacular dunk of the basketball season could be replayed 5 times in 20 seconds. A job could be won or lost within the first 20 seconds of the interview.
      What really made me think of 20 seconds of courage is the movie “We Bought a Zoo.” In this movie Matt Damon, as Benjamin Mee, notices that his thirteen-year- old son has a crush on a girl he has gotten to know. However, his son is too scared to make a move and say something to the girl. While sitting down and talking to his son, Damon makes a statement I will never forget, “… it only takes 20 seconds of courage.” His point was if his son could muster the courage to talk to his “crush” for 20 seconds, it could potentially change his life. Could 20 seconds really change a life?
      I think about the time it took Jesus to tell his apostles “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” in Matthew 28:18-20.
     I know this took less than 20 seconds and in this time Jesus started something that would change the history of the world!
      So, here is my challenge for the day; give God 20 seconds of outrageous courage! Whether you will fight off that nagging temptation that Satan continually throws at you or finally talk to that one friend about salvation, give God 20 seconds of courage. God has already changed the history of the world once in 20 seconds. What will you let Him do through you in 20 seconds today?

- Austin Johnson serves as youth minister for the Calvert City Church of Christ in Calvert City, KY.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.calvertchurchofchrist.com

Martha, Martha ... From One Negative, Comes Two Positives!

By Avis Corely Porter

      As Jesus traveled, He came to Bethany where He visited with Mary, Martha and their brother, Lazarus. While Jesus was teaching in their home,  Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and listened.  Martha, how- ever, was “cumbered about with much serving.” She came to Jesus and asked him to have Mary help her serve. 
      Instead of Jesus honoring her request, He answered and said, “Martha, Martha, thou art troubled about many things.  But one thing is needful and Mary has chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41,42) 
      This is the only negative thing the Bible reveals about Martha, while there are many good things she said and did, especially in connection with the  death and resurrection of her brother, Lazarus (John 11:1-45). 
      From this one negative, there are positive lessons to be learned. First, Martha should have been more concerned with the spiritual than with the physical.  Centuries later, we are still in need of learning that lesson and applying it to ourselves. We are to put God first in our lives and love Him more than any human or anything else. 
      A second lesson we can learn from this incident is to realize our many blessings and appreciate them. If you had lived back in the days of Mary and Martha, wouldn’t you have loved the opportunity to personally hear Jesus teach?  So seize whatever opportunities you have to do God’s will today.  May you, like Mary, make the right choice -- choose the “good part which shall not be taken away.”

- Avis Corely Porter; via Magnolia Messenger, a publication of the South Huntington St. Church of Christ in Kosciusko, MS; Volume 35 Number 3; Fall 2013; p 21.


“Three Areas Under Five”

By Bill Brandstatter

      As I listen to the news, I notice three areas that are under fire today. These three areas used to be pretty clear. They used to be better than today. They were at one time plain for all to see. Not anymore.
      The first is authority. There is a battle going on between federal and state rights. This is seen in the gun issue and gay rights. The Supreme Court is handling cases now that wouldn’t have been heard years ago.
      What is right or wrong depends on the individual today. For a person to declare there is one exclusive way is considered to be judgmental; yet there is a way that is right that can never be wrong. God’s way is always the best way. Yet often man considers God to be unfair. Jesus said all authority was given to Him, “in heaven and on earth.” (Matt. 28:18)
      The second is attitude. It is obvious that many attitudes are changing. The attitude of many today is that of a victim. Others believe the government owes them something. Personal responsibility and commitment are becoming ancient words from another time. The Bible tells us we are responsible for our behavior. Paul stated, “Whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.” (Gal. 6:7) Long before this Ezekiel stated, “The soul who sins will die.” (Ez. 18:20 NKJV) We bear the responsibility for our own actions. Good and bad choices are ours to make. God wants us to make the good choices. (Deut. 30:15)
      The third is assurance. With job losses, home foreclosures, businesses closing, pensions threatened, there is little or no assurance today. What once was a sure thing is now in question. We need assurance in our troubled times. God is always the same. He can give assurances that man cannot. He carries out all that He says. What God says will happen. Paul stated, “All the promises of God in Him are Yes; therefore through Him is our Amen, to the glory of God through us.” (2 Cor. 1:20) Christians can be assured that God will answer prayer. (1 Cor. 5:14) The assurance of a better world beyond this one can take Christians to new heights. (2 Cor.5:1-8) Thank God for His promise of eternal life to the faithful. Jesus promises, “He that believes and is baptized shall be saved.” (Mark 16:16) Salvation through His blood is possible when we obey Him. (Heb. 5:8, 9) A crown of life awaits the faithful. (Rev. 2:10) Do you have that assurance?

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

A Real Hate Crime

By Clifton Angel

     Recently, a group of people visited my home. During their visit, I was able to observe a most intriguing event—a father disciplining his son. The three of us were in my kitchen. The young boy, not even able to talk, was attempting to get into the cabinets. His father called him by name and plainly said, “No.” The child looked at his father and immediately turned back to the cabinets to continue his endeavor. And so, the father took his son’s hand, spanked it, and repeated the command, “No.”
      The process had to be repeated at least once more, but eventually the young boy stopped, turned to his father and with outstretched arms and a smile on his face ran into his father’s arms. While such a response to discipline is less common, it speaks volumes. You see, that father was expressing tremendous love toward his son. It was cabinets—what’s the big deal? Actually, such a “small” expression has a larger impact than one may think. While I did not care so much about anything he could damage of mine, the father was teaching his son about the respect of others’ property. While the son did not know it at the time, the father was preventing him from potential greater harm; for, behind some of those cabinets are toxic chemicals. The father was teaching his son about obedience. And he was teaching his son about authority. Each of these is a great expression of love.
      Each of the things this father did is a Biblical principle of discipline. “The rod and reproof give wisdom; But a child left to himself causeth shame to his mother” (Proverbs 29:15). “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; But the rod of correction shall drive it far from him” (Proverbs 22:15). “Do not withhold correction from a child, For if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with a rod, And deliver his soul from hell” (Proverbs 23:13–14, NKJV). Dear friends, the translation of the Hebrew into English is not advocation of physical abuse. It is a proper use of physical force stemming from a rooted love. This father lovingly provided for his son prevention, protection, submission, and correction. In so doing, he showed the opposite of hatred toward his son: “He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Proverbs 13:24, NKJV).
      Daily, our world is trying to redefine things which are holy as hatred. Often, there is the push to make loving endeavors into “hate crimes.” It is past time that we see one of the greatest of true “hate crimes”—a lack of discipline. “He who spares his rod hates his son.”
- Clifton Angel preaches for the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. He may be contacted through that congregation's website: http://www.coldwatercofc.com/

Friday, February 7, 2014

The Cost of Your Sins

By David Ferguson

    The Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 6:14 (NAS), “But may it be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”
    Whether we like it or not, the Cross of Jesus has become a Christian symbol.  It really is amazing that one of the worst devices of torture and execution ever devised in the mind of man, crucifixion on a cross, could evolve into one of the most beloved symbols of all time.  But it is not the cross itself, per se, in which Paul says he boasts, but in the One Who went to His Cross, and what that great and tremendous sacrifice meant personally to Paul, as well as to all of mankind.  The context Paul wants his readers to focus upon is not just any cross, but the Cross of Jesus Christ, where His life-giving blood was shed in ransom for the sins of the world.  It is only through the blood poured forth from Jesus on His Cross that men can be at peace once again with the Father: “For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross: through Him, I say, whether things on Earth or things in Heaven” (Colossians 1:19-20, NAS).
    It is the example of Jesus the Apostle Peter advises his readers we need to follow, even if it means our own death.  Peter writes, “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, Who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth: and while being reviled, He did not revile in return: while suffering He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.  For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls” (1 Peter 2:21-25, NAS).
    May the Lord bless you as you fix your gaze upon His Cross and remember what your sins have cost the Son of God.

- David R. Ferguson preaches for the Lakeland Church of Christ in Mattoon, IL.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website:
http://lakelandchurchofchrist.web.officelive.com/default.aspx

The Maturation of Time

By Ron Thomas

     “Why does the Lord not bring judgment to those who stand in strong opposition to His will? Why does He not just condemn them and be done with it!”  A strong emotional sentiment, wouldn’t you agree? The Scripture actually tells us why.  In the context of Paul’s response to the hypocrisy of some in the church in Rome , Paul said this: “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4, ESV, italics added).
     This can be a tough pill to swallow, but to the Lord, it is important that we understand a particular point.  God is not justifying deeds done that are in opposition to Him—only that is not his desire to destroy that which He loves (cf. 1 Timothy 2:4).  While an evildoer presumes on the Lord’s will, the Lord is allowing the maturation of time to register with the evildoer, helping him see the light that he will see soon enough if he does not change his ways.
     There is coming a day when the Lord will bring all the works of man to the light.  If the impenitent does not change his way, the Lord will address his refusal then (and Paul makes this clear in Romans 2:5-11).  I think all of us are grateful for the Lord’s slow response with regard to self.  In the meantime, let us be mindful of why the Lord is “slow”, and seek to do what we can to encourage others to hear His saving message.

- Ron Thomas serves as preacher and an elder for the Highway Church of Christ, Sullivan, IL  He may be contacted through the congregation's website:
http://www.highwaycofc.com

Are You Helping This Church To Grow?

By Edd Sterchi

It Is Easy For The Church To Grow When We...
* Have a deep concern for the lost.
* Enter the worship with preparation and enthusiasm.
* Are interested in intense Bible study.
* Work together on church projects.
* Encourage those who are serving the Lord.
* Dedicate ourselves to keeping our lives pure.
* Express brotherly love to all church members.
* Get along, are at peace, and harmonious.
* Help others in the name of Jesus.
* Are willing to be teachers.
* Commit all our ways to the Lord.
* Demand preaching the whole counsel of God with love.
* Are optimistic.
It Is Difficult For The Church To Grow When We...
* Are not concerned about lost souls.
* Stay away from worship and Bible class.
* Rarely read our Bibles.
* Refuse to participate in church activities.
* Complain and criticize others.
* Live ungodly lives.
* Never associate with the brethren outside of worship.
* Cause discord and are contentious in the church.
* Selfishly serve ourselves.
* Never desire to improve ourselves.
* Only serve God when we feel like it.
* Only like “feel good” type of sermons.
* Are pessimistic.
“Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.” (Acts 9:31)

- Edd Sterchi preaches for the Broadway Church of Christ in Campbellsville, KY.


Four Acts of Kindness

By Charlie Gamble

     Maybe because I have been preaching from the beatitudes, I am more aware of good deeds, lately. This past week I saw four of our members performing an act of kindness. I am confident there have been more than that. In one case, I do not think that the recipient is even aware of who did the good deed.
     Serving others is a good indication of the heart of a person. Jesus lives there. Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. (Matt 5:8). Those who serve others with no ulterior motive other than to be a blessing to them are a blessing to the Lord. They encourage others by their actions. They have taken the Word of God from the written page and allowed it to become written on the heart.
     Christianity is a “doing” life. May God bless all of our “doing kindness” members.

- Charlie Gamble preaches for the Brunswick Church of Christ in Southport, NC. He may be contacted at
cgamble64@gmail.com