Tuesday, December 29, 2020

What Think Ye of Christ?

By Ron Bartanen

     While the  Pharisees questioned Jesus, testing Him, Jesus challenged them with a momentous question: “What think ye of Christ? Whose son is he?” (Matthew 22:42).  They responded with reference to the Old Testament prophecies that foretold that the Christ (the anointed messiah that would come) would be “the Son of David,” to whom would be granted the throne of David over Israel.  Jesus followed with a second question: “How then doth David in spirit (by spiritual inspiration) call him Lord, saying, the LORD (God, the Father) said unto my Lord (the messiah), Sit thou on my right hand (enthroned with the Father) till I make thy enemies thy footstool? If David then calls him Lord, how is he his son?” Jesus’ response had left them speechless.  The only obvious answer was that the Christ would not only be a son or descendant of King David, but at the same time He would be the Son of God.
      While many likened Jesus to some of the prior prophets (mere mortals), the disciples of Jesus acknowledged Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:13-17).  In all of earth’s history, only one individual can truthfully be regarded as both a “Son of man” and “the Son of God”—both fully human and fully divine, with Mary, a virgin, as His mother, and God as His Father.  It was even as an angel broke the news to Mary: “…[T]hou shalt conceive in thy womb and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.  He shall be great and shall be called the Son of the Highest” (Luke 1:31-32a), and as the angel of the Lord explained to Joseph, her betrothed, “That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.  And ye shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name J\ESUS, for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20b-21).  Only in this manner could the Creator become a part of His creation, and vicariously die, the Just for the unjust, to redeem His creation.  At  the time of the sin in Eden, God made the promise of deliverance through the “seed” of the woman (Genesis 3:15), not the seed of the man.  The seed of the woman would defeat Satan.  We see the same promise given 700 years before Christ was born, as the “messianic prophet”, Isaiah writes, “”Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (God with us)” (Isaiah 7:14; cf. Matthew 1:22-23).  The apostle Paul would later speak of the virgin-born Christ as “made of a woman” (Galatians 4:4) that He might redeem us from sin, thus qualifying us, through the merit of Christ, to be accepted as the children of God (v. 5).  Such is the glorious message of both the Old and New Testaments, as summarized by Paul as he wrote the young evangelist, Timothy: “And without controversy God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (1 Timothy 3:16).
    How would you answer Christ: “What think ye of Christ? Whose son is He?”
- Ronald Bartanen preaches for Arthur Church of Christ, Arthur, IL.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://arthurcoc.com/

If Not for the Dikes

By David Bragg

    In a 2017 editorial for the Gospel Advocate Gregory Allen Tidwell reflected on a long ago visit to the Netherlands. He wrote, "I was fascinated with the ongoing struggle the Dutch fight with the ocean" (Keeping the Sea at Bay, August 2017, 2). Through a series of dikes north of Amsterdam the people of the Netherlands have reclaimed and developed farmlands that used to be beneath the North Sea. Known as the Zuiderzee, this land had formerly been a shallow bay gradually pushed back by a huge dam constructed in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
    Protected by the sea wall of dikes must be constantly maintained to keep the sea's pounding waves at bay. He concludes: “The view is dramatic. On one side of the walls, the Dutch are going about their industrious lives. On the other side, the surging North Sea pounds and rages.”
    If not for those dikes a sixth of the country would be swallowed up again by the sea.
    If not for the cross, we would be swallowed up by the eternally raging fires of Hell.
    If not for the cross, we would be helpless in the hands of Satan.
    If not for the cross, we would be would have no hope.
    If not for the cross heaven would be an impossible dream.
    If not for the cross, we would be forever lost.
- David Bragg serves as one of the ministers at the Northwest Church of Christ in Greensboro, NC and is co-editor of BulletinGold. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.nwchurchofchrist.com/ or his blog: http://davidbragg.blogspot.com/

Reasons We Fear

By Ron Thomas

    There are many things in life that generates fear. Frequently, the fear generated is associated with the unknown. If a person has a clear vision about what is ahead, the person can prepare him or herself for the journey and the obstacles that might present themselves, thereby eliminating some of the unknowns. On the other hand, if the journey is into the realm of the unknown, there is apprehension, and sometimes that apprehension turns into fear. Fear is controlling.
    Do you remember when you were a little boy or girl and the anticipation of getting in trouble? I do. I would do what I could to squirm out of it, but the punishment always found a path to my rear end! While I did what I could to avoid the blows, because of the blows, I was made a better person. This is not the case with many today. There is fear of the government when parents seek to discipline the children because the parents do not know what government will do, if they do anything. When children learn of this, they (fear) control the parents.
    The Lord talked about fear also. He said to His disciples, “And be not afraid of them that kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28, ASV). This seems easier to understand than it is to apply. All we have in this world is our own experiences; with these experiences, all we know is the life we live. The idea of not fearing for one’s life seems unnatural – and surely it is. Yet, the Lord said His disciples are not to fear those in the flesh. The reason for this is clear to the spiritually minded person. What is your life but a vapor in time? If that is so, then once the vapor vanishes, are you prepared after one’s physical life is over?
    This plays well with what we read in Acts 9:31. “So the church throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria had peace, being edified; and, walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, was multiplied.” If only New Testament saints would live in accordance with this sentiment would the church grow as it should, but it doesn’t, so what does that say about the local New Testament church? Maybe we need to fear the Lord! Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “Knowing therefore the fear of the Lord, we persuade men, but we are made manifest unto God; and I hope that we are made manifest also in your consciences” (2 Cor. 5:11).
    While many people fear the unknown, the unknown is very much known to us, so what is there to fear? Those who have identified themselves as Christians, but are not living a life of holiness, they have everything to fear. They should fear greatly because the so-called unknown is NOT unknown. They know very well the Almighty before whom they will stand. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb. 10:31). Since we know these things, “How then should we live?”
- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website. http://sunrushchurchofchrist.com/

Home For the Holidays

By Bill Brandstatter

    Home becomes a magnet for the heart at this time of the year. The holiday season is when  Americans go home. Families separated by miles or years come together. Children who have left home to  pursue dreams and careers come back trying to recapture whatever it was they left to escape! This human  desire for home is a reminder of some great spiritual truths.
 * God Gave Us Earthly Homes To Prepare Us For A Heavenly Home.
    We have an instinctive longing for home. That is due in part to the fact that the home and family are  creations of God given for the good of mankind. (Gen. 2:18-19) God’s intent is for the home to be one of the  sweetest blessings which this world can provide. To that end, God has given us laws to regulate the home so  it can be all He intended it to be. (Ephesians 5:22-23) The Bible tells us that “Those who say such things  declare plainly that they seek a homeland.” (Heb. 11:14 NKJV) Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that God has set  eternity in our hearts. In all of us there is an instinctive longing for home. Later, Solomon writes, “For man  goes to his eternal home.” (Eccl. 11:5) That instinct is rooted in heaven. Popular wisdom says, "You can't go  home again"; but God does not place any longing in us which He Himself cannot satisfy! We can't go back,  but we can go forward to our greater home. (John 14:1-3) God gives us “A house not made with  hands, eternal in the heavens.” (2 Cor. 5:1) 
 **Christ Left Home So We Could Go Home.
    Being separated from those you love, especially at times like the holidays, is painful. Our most tragic, most  serious separation is separation from God. God created us; He loves us; but we become estranged from Him  because of our sin: “Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy,  that it cannot hear.” (Isaiah 59:1 -2, NKJV) God devised a plan to bring us back home. To accomplish  that plan, when the time was right, He sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law that we  might receive adoption as His children. (Galatians 4:4-5) The Bible says Jesus Christ was “in the form of God”  (Phil. 2:6). He changed form and took the form of a bondservant and came in the likeness of man (Phil.  2:7). Christ gave up His home in glory in order to come to this world on a mission of reclamation! Paul  writes in 2 Corinthians 5:19; “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” In His last years on  earth, Jesus had no home: "...The Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head..." (Luke 9:58) During those  years of service and sacrifice and suffering...did He long for the home in which He had grown to manhood?  Did He long for His mother’s cooking? More to the point, did He long for the home he had left in glory? He  could have had it; but Christ deliberately chose to leave home for our sake! "For the Son of Man has come to  seek and to save that which was lost." (Luke 19:10) Today, God invites you to become a member of His family  and He offers the promise of an eternal home. Home for the Holidays? The real question is, will you be  going home for Eternity? 
***Christ Gives us a Home Better Than Our Earthly Home.
    Christ is making mansions (John 14:1-4). Paul identified the fact that we are not citizens  here. (Phil. 3:20) The Bible often uses the term  “stranger” or “pilgrim” to describe the Christian’s stay  here on earth. (1 Peter 2:11) Sometimes the word  “sojourner” is used. All these describe the individual  who is out of place. A “pilgrim” and “sojourner” gives  the idea of someone just passing through an area on  the way to somewhere else. Notice what Paul says in 2  Cor. 5:1-9: “For we know that if our earthly  house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building  from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in  the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly  desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is  from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we  shall not be found naked. For we who are  in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we  want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that  mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He  who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who  also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So, we  are always confident, knowing that while we are at  home in the body, we are absent from the Lord. For  we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident,  yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body  and to be present. Wherefore also we make it our  aim, whether at home or absent, to be well-pleasing  unto him. (ASV) 
- Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://marionchurchofchrist.com/


By Joe Chesser
    Blessings probably aren’t what you think they are.  I may be way off base, but I have a sneaky suspicion that when most people think of blessings, they only think one dimensionally.  Blessings are things that make us happy or satisfied or comfortable.  For most people, blessings are only things that are good and/or pleasing, such as good health, good jobs, good families, good times, good church, etc.  Blessings are things like having a safe trip or having a good meal or having a comfortable place to sleep.  Indeed, these truly are blessings, but ….
    On the other hand, it’s rarely considered a blessing to have a car wreck or to lose a job or to get sick.  It doesn’t seem like much of a blessing to have the stock market drop or to not get a promotion.  Things that happen which are not only unpleasant but that may even be harmful are rarely seen as blessings.  Generally speaking, from the world’s view point, blessings are defined as things or events that are good within themselves.  That’s why the dictionary defines “blessing” as “a thing conducive to happiness or welfare.”
    Thankfully, God sees “blessings” much differently and enables Christians to see “blessings” through His eyes, not the eyes of the world.  While the world seeks events and circumstances that bring pleasure for the moment, God sees a much broader picture. He works things out for our good in relation to eternity (Romans 8:28).  The journey may not be pleasant at all, but the destination brings the greatest possible reward (Hebrews 11:25-26; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18).  God knows how to turn tragedy into triumph.  But even more important, He has promised to do it for each and every one of us who “love him, and are called according to his purpose.”
    For the Christian, blessings must be seen only through the eyes of God.  Knowing that God wants only what is best for us, knowing that God can turn anything Satan can do into victory for His people, and knowing that God is more concerned about creating God-like character than about providing pleasant circumstances, allows us to understand His “blessings” in a much different way.  Job’s faith and understanding of God made it possible for him to endure the loss of his flocks and herds, his children, and even his own health without blaming God.  In fact, he “fell to the ground in worship” and said “may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:20-21).
    So, when you don’t get the job you wanted, you know it is a blessing from God.  When your prayers aren’t answered in just the way you expected them to be, you know that God is blessing you in greater ways.  When life hands you a lemon, you don’t have to make lemon-aide. Just see the lemons as blessings from God and wait on Him to make whatever He wants out of those lemons.  One thing’s for sure – it will be a blessing!
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com

Monday, December 21, 2020

Getting Through Life Alive

By David Bragg

    Under the dark shadow cast by COVID-19 during the summer of 2020 more American families opted for vacationing in the great outdoors. With camping and campers on the rise, the National Park Service issued guidelines for safety when encountering a bear in the wild. Their advice ...
    • don't run (bears will chase you)
    • don't climb a tree (bears can climb too)
    • don't push!
NPS officials actually warned campers, “Do NOT push down a slower friend (even if you think the friendship has run its course)” (Kootenai Valley Times, Bonners Ferry, Idaho).
    We are all pilgrims on this physical journey through life (1 Peter 1:1). Our goal is to fully realize the eternal life Jesus promised to those who obey and follow Him (John 14:1-4). On this journey we need the support and encouragement of fellow Christians. Satan, however, uses any means possible to keep us from attaining those precious promises, even if it is getting us to turn on each other, "pushing each other to the bears."
    Isn't it wonderful that the church of the New Testament is infused with love? Love for God. Love for the Son. Love for the Bible. Love for one another (1 John 4:21). As Christians, we need each other to help us get out of this life to live forever.
- David Bragg serves as one of the ministers at the Northwest Church of Christ in Greensboro, NC and is co-editor of BulletinGold. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.nwchurchofchrist.com/ or his blog: http://davidbragg.blogspot.com/

Lord, Be In My Heart

By Gerald Cowan

I have often been deterred  
And with God do not stay,
Not because I do not know
Or understand His way – 
His Word makes it very clear
There is no other way. 
But some desire clouds my mind
And causes me to stray.
Forbidden fruit is tempting,
And stolen water sweet.
Tasted, it grows in allure                        
And calls me to repeat
Once more, and then again
Until I know defeat
And I am helpless to resist.
My shame is now complete.

Can I ever then be saved
And make another start?
Jesus promises to be
In every opened heart,
But He will not force His way
Into an unreceptive heart.
Each one chooses for himself
To stay, or to depart.

I know He wants me to come,
And to Him give my heart.
Forgiv’n by Him I will be clean.
He will allow me a new start
And help me never more to stray,
Never from Him depart.
To own me now and always, Lord
Come in, stay in my heart.
- Gerald Cowan, a longtime preacher and missionary, is retired from full-time pulpit preaching. Gerald publishes an e-mail newsletter entitled GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICAL WRITINGS. He is available for Gospel Meetings and he may be contacted at Geraldcowan1931@aol.com

The Destructive Nature of Sin

By Edd Sterchi

    Timothy Treadwell was a self-taught bear expert who spent 13 summers in Alaska studying them. He felt very comfortable around them and would even walk up and touch some of them. Over the years, Park Service officials, biologists and others expressed concern about his safety and the message he was sending. In October of 2003 his remains were found. He had been mauled and partially eaten by a bear. From this horrible tragedy, some truths about some people’s careless attitude toward sin can be gleaned:
    To call sin OK is unsafe. Many people say, “It’s just a little sin, it’s not that bad.” This is an erroneous line of thinking. Sin is sin, and the effects are to be taken seriously. Isaiah warned God’s people, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil” (5:20). We can rationalize sinning any way we want, but the bottom line is that we need to take heed, or we will fall (1 Cor. 10:12). A lackadaisical approach toward sin is foolish.
    The closer you get to sin, the more danger you are in. How many times have we heard someone (or ourselves) say, “I’ll be OK, I can handle myself.  I won’t get in too deep.” That type of arrogant attitude toward sin will result in disaster. The Proverb writer rhetorically asks, “Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?” (6:27). Too many people are seeing how close to sin they can stand and not get burned instead of fleeing tempting situations (2 Tim. 2:22).
    Sin will leave you dead. Some folks say concerning their sins, “I can quit anytime I want.” Then why don’t they? Don’t they realize that the result of unforgiven sin is separation from God and spiritual death (Isa. 59:2; Rom. 6:23)? We reap what we sow (Gal. 6:7-8). If we live in sin, we will die in sin (Jas. 1:15). Given the opportunity, sin will turn on us with unrelenting vengeance.
    Tom Smith, a research ecologist with the Alaska Science Center of the U.S. Geological Service declared that Treadwell “...was breaking every park rule that there was, in terms of distance to the bears, harassing wildlife and interfering with natural processes.” Referring to Treadwell’s death, Smith concluded “It’s a tragic thing, but it’s not unpredictable” (source: Wikipedia). So also it is when we mess with sin. 
- 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/

The Incredible Willpower to Become

By Joe Chesser
    God created within humans something that nothing else in creation has – the will and power to become. Trees have no desire to be anything but trees. Animals can be trained to do extraordinary feats, but only if they have a trainer to teach them to shake hands or ride a bicycle or jump through fiery hoops. Only humans have been given the vision and ability to alter their course and fulfill their dreams. God has created within us the incredible willpower (will and power) to become more than we are. In fact, God desires for us to choose to become more than we are. Jesus purposefully gave up equality with God to become like us so that we could choose to be transformed into His likeness (Phil. 2.6-7; Rom. 12.1-2). Believers were predestined to “be conformed to the likeness of his Son” (Rom. 8.29).
    But that will not happen without disciplined focus and intentional effort. Although many of us may attempt to do so, no one will drift into the likeness of Jesus. Drifters will give up long before the goal is reached. It’s just too much work. Unless we are fully committed to the end result of becoming like Jesus, trying to live for Jesus will be like the misery and frustration of practicing an instrument just   because that’s what your mom wants you to do. But if you can catch the vision of someday playing that instrument flawlessly in a great concert hall, then the misery turns into joy. Donald Whitney pointed out that if we can remember what we will become, the effort will have its reward. But discipline without direction is drudgery.
    No wonder Paul could endure such hardships. He saw the challenges of the moment merely as stepping stones to achieving his goal, becoming like Jesus (Phil. 3.10-14). He then considered his difficulties as “light and momentary troubles” because he exercised the God-given ability to fix his eyes on Jesus (2 Cor. 4.16-18). Most of our spiritual drudgeries are due to taking our eyes away from Jesus and looking at anything else around us: friends, travel, sports, family, work, rest, entertainment, etc. These things are not wrong in themselves. But they do distract us from keeping our eyes on Jesus as the focus of our heart. It is inevitable that if Jesus is not your focus, your spiritual health will diminish dramatically, and you will lose the joy of living for him.
    The good news is that God has created within each of us the incredible and life-changing willpower to train our hearts and actions towards godliness (1 Tim. 4.7). God will help you; so can others. But the decision to exercise this power is only yours to make.
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com

Examples From Little Children

By Bill Brandstatter

    The Christmas season is here. The excitement in the eyes of children during this time of year  is always wonderful. The young children at Christmas time have enthusiasm from which many  Christians could learn.
    Children are innocent and pure. They are not born with inherited sin. Jesus used the  example of a little child to show how we should be in the kingdom. Jesus stated; “unless you are  converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 18:3 NKJV) If children were sinful creatures, Christ would not have used them in this
    Isn’t it interesting that young children have no bias, hard feelings or hatred? In Christ, we  too, should have that attitude. God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). We shouldn’t be  either. 
    What children learn is also important. Children can learn a great deal. In order to be saved,  a person must learn something (John 6:44, 45). We too should desire to learn God’s Will like children. (1 Pet. 2:2) 
    May we have the desire and enthusiasm of little children when we look at the Word of God. Let us study with a hunger and listen with attentive ears. May we be recipients of Jesus’ statement; “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be  filled.” (Matt. 5:6 NKJV)
    May we become like little children not just during this time of year but all year long as we rely on our Father and diligently desire the milk of HIS Word.
- Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://marionchurchofchrist.com/

Monday, December 14, 2020

Church Business

By Al Behel

    In the past I did a lot of business consulting and coaching on success in the business world. Once I worked with a national chain with more than 800 business locations throughout the United States. They are successful because there is a constant focus on improving customer satisfaction and delivering the best service possible.
   Fifty percent of new businesses fail in the first year and 95% fail in the first five years. While there are other factors contributing to their failure, many of them fail because they fail to recognize that the business of business is not business, but the business of business is people. When there are no customers or consumers, there is no business.
   When Jesus was unintentionally left behind in Jerusalem at age 12, Hhis frantic parents returned to find Him in the temple discussing Scripture with the teachers of the law. When they verbally reprimanded Him, He responded, “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” A provacative question. Does that mean God has a business? Yes, His business is people. People who are lost and need a Savior. People who cannot save themselves.
   God’s business is church business. It is the business of the Kingdom. While there is no product to peddle, there is a message to be shared, a grace to be experienced, and a redemption to be received. God’s business is our business. We are about the Father’s business. That’s the business of the church.
   When the church ceases to focus on the needs of people it will face a sudden demise. Henry Ford said a man should never leave his business, but should think of it by day and dream of it by night. Our Father’s business is open 24 hours a day. It never closes, but welcomes the downtrodden, the lonely, the alienated, and struggling sinners. Mediocrity is not enough. We must provided exceptional service.
    Our Father’s business requires dedicated servants whose primary goal is the success of the business. They think about it by day and dream about it by night. They know that its success depends on their continuous and effective performance, doing the Father’s will. 
- 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 Would It Take?

By Adam Faughn

    When I was growing up, one of our odd family traditions happened on Christmas Day. If we were going to be anywhere near a Wal-Mart, we would drive by, just to see it totally empty. Of course, with coronavirus, you can drive by any night and see the store empty, but, at the time, it was so odd to see the parking lot totally empty of cars and no people going in and out of the store. It sort of made you wonder, what would it take to shut down a store, other than some type of natural disaster or other frightening situation?
    A Wal-Mart store in Oklahoma recently got a more humorous answer to that question when they had to shut down midday for a little while, but it was not because people were in any danger of being hurt by some storm or an active shooter, or anything of that sort. It was because they were in danger of not smelling very good, as a skunk some-how wandered into the store and was seen in the men's shoe department.
    Think about that for a moment: it takes a dangerous situation--or one where people are concerned about leaving with a serious stench on them--to close those huge retail stores. It just makes me wonder, how much does it take or us, spiritually, to wake up and realize when we are needing to shut something down that is pulling us away from God?
    Too many people soften Jesus' words in the Sermon on the Mount, but they are a powerful reminder of how seriously we should take sin:

If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. (Matthew 7:29-30)

    In the immediate context (see verse 28), Jesus was speaking about the allure of sexual lust. Certainly, our Lord was not advocating dismembering our body to avoid temptation. Many people make sure to mention that, but too few stop there and fail to see just how seriously Jesus was telling us to take avoiding temptation. Whatever it is that is tempting us needs to be put away from us!
    When it comes to temptation, we need to avoid it with everything we have. But how many of us see how close we can get to temptation instead of how far away we can get from it? Is that not a major part of the point Jesus was making in this section of that famous sermon? He was basically saying that, yes, adultery is wrong, but so is allowing ourselves to be drawn into the sin of the heart, which is sexual lust. He would say similar things about hatred and murder, retaliation, and other subjects in this sermon.
    His point was that we need to recognize sin from the outset and not give it one tiny inch of our heart. If we fail to do that, we will be going on a road that will lead further into a harder heart and further sin. When we fill our minds with filth, how can we claim to be keeping ourselves pure for the service of the Lord?
    I am very glad that I was not at that Wal-Mart in Oklahoma when that skunk was found. More than that, I am glad I was not the one who spotted it! But I have to believe that the decision to evacuate the store, while not easy, was made very quickly because of the awkwardness of it, and also because of what it could have led to. If that skunk had, well, done its thing, can you imagine the clean-up it would have taken to so much of the store (and possibly the clothes of customers and workers)? So, clearing out the store, even though it probably cost the store some sales in the short-term, was a fairly easy decision. It made the long-term far easier to deal with because the issue was taken care of as soon as it was noticed.
    Deciding to avoid sin –whether, through certain relationships (including online friendships), movies we watch, the music we listen to, websites we visit, and more –may mean that we miss out on some things the world does. We may not know all the latest trends or have seen all the blockbusters. We may not feel as if we fit in at school or with our coworkers.
    But we also will not have to have a heart and mind filled with things that are keeping us from the purity of following God. We will be closer to Him and ready to give Him our all. What will it take for us to realize that?

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scoffers. (Psalm 1:1)
- Adam Faughn preaches for the Central Church of Christ in Paducah KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.centralchurchofchrist.org Visit the Faughn Family blog, A Legacy of Faith.

Winners and Losers

By David A. Sargent

     Jimmy Valvano is remembered for running up and down the court after winning the 1983 NCAA basketball championship, after his NC State Wolfpack upset the Houston Cougars (including Clyde “the Glide” Drexler and Hakeem “the Dream” Olajuwon).  Valvano is also remembered well for some of his speeches.
     Valvano was diagnosed with bone cancer in June 1992.  In July, he found out that it had metastasized.  He died less than a year later on April 28, 1993.
     One of Valvano's most memorable motivational speeches was delivered February 21, 1993 at Reynolds Coliseum on NCSU's basketball court during the ten year commemoration of the University's 1983 NCAA championship.  It was during this speech that Valvano stressed the importance of hope, love, and persistence and included his famous quotation:  "Don't give up, don't ever give up.”
     Gary Smith once shared another message from Jimmy V:  Suffering from terminal spinal cancer at the age or 47, former North Carolina State basketball coach Jim Valvano spoke with a reporter.  He looked back on his life and told a story about himself as a 23-year-old coach of a small college team.  “Why is winning so important to you?” the players asked Valvano.
     “Because the final score defines you,” he said, “You lose, ergo, you're a loser.  You win, ergo, you're a winner.”
     “No,” the players insisted.  “Participation is what matters.  Trying your best, regardless of whether you win or lose -- that's what defines you.”
     It took 24 more years of living.  It took the coach bolting up from the mattress three or four times a night with his T-shirt soaked with sweat and his teeth rattling from the fever chill of chemotherapy and the terror of seeing himself die repeatedly in his dreams.  It took all that for him to say it: “Those kids were right.  It's effort, not result.  It's trying…  What a great human being I could have been if I'd had this awareness back then." *
     If our identity is defined by winning and losing, then we are all losers, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  That is true of every human being, no matter how hard we try not to sin.
     But God loves us anyway and He desires to save us from our sins (1 Timothy 2:4).  He gave His one and only Son to die on the cross for our sins so that we can receive the forgiveness of our sins and the gift of eternal life (John 3:16; Romans 6:23).  “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
     Jesus won the victory over sin and death.  And, if we will submit our lives to Him, we can share in His victory.
     God will save, give eternal life, and share the victory with those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).  He will continue to cleanse from sin those who continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7-9).
     Through Christ we can be victors, not losers – because He won the victory for us!    “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).
     YOU can share in Christ’s victory by trusting and obeying Him.  Won’t YOU?
- 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
* Gary Smith in Sports Illustrated, quoted in Reader's Digest and shared in www.sermonillustrations.com.

Two Men Hanging

By Ron Thomas

    Two men hanging on their respective crosses. Both hurling  insults at Jesus. As their energy drained and life slipped  away, they heard people on the ground talking aloud about  the One between them. After much listening, one of the  two hanging (a thief) had a change of heart; he tired and  felt guilty about insulting the One between them whom, he  gathered, was guilty of no wrong. More than that, he heard  people assign divinity to him. He heard that himself when  he walked freely. Now he is beside Him; he had seen and  heard enough that his regrets came rushing to him like a  tidal wave. The other thief kept hurling insults, but the one  with a change of heart had heard enough nonsense. He  forthrightly declares, “But the other answered, and rebuk ing him said, Dost thou not even fear God, seeing thou art  in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we  receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath  done nothing amiss” (Luke 23:40-41, ASV). 

1) easily it could have been one of us hanging  on the cross beside Him who experienced no sin;
2) life’s  experiences have a way of teaching powerful lessons, some  of them come late;
3) when those teaching moments come,  be sure to act on them for the promise of another day is not  given;
4) with the thief on the cross, we have an extraordinary circumstance; He who gives life has within Him that  very life to give (John 5:26); the occasion of the thief does not warrant our approach to follow the same pattern. The Lord’s pattern is in John 3:3-5 (Acts 2:37-38), follow that pattern.
- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website. http://sunrushchurchofchrist.com/

Secret Sin

By Joe Chesser

    Since Cain killed Abel, people have been trying to hide their sins from God and those around them.  That’s why Cain lured Abel to go out to the field with him (Gen. 4.6).  No one would see what he was going to do.  No one would know about it.  Even when God asked Cain about his brother, he tried to deflect responsibility and truth by saying, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4.9).  God gave him a chance to admit his sin. He had urged him to do what is right and to master his sin (Gen. 4.7). But Cain, like the rest of us, chose to try to keep it secret.
    Of course, he couldn’t.  God sees and knows everything, and had to punish Cain because of his sin.  Cain, like his parents when they sinned, was sent away from the Lord’s presence (Gen. 4.16).  Yet, from the time of Cain until this very moment, people from all generations, cultures and nations have attempted to hide their “secret” sins from God and each other, and have suffered the same result … separation from God.
    The Bible is filled with warnings about secret sins. “You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence” (Psalm 90.8). “The sons of Israel did things secretly which were not right against the Lord” (2 Kings 17.9). “Woe to those who deeply hide their plans from the Lord, and whose deeds are done in a dark place” (Isa. 29.15). “It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret” (Eph. 5.12). “Everyone who does evil hates the light … for fear that his deeds will be exposed” (John 3.20). Thus, the admonition, “The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So, let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Rom. 13.12).
    With our laptops, tablets and smart phones, secret sin is easier than ever to conceal.  But the availability of pornography, vulgarity and impurity on these devices also makes it easier for others to view that as a greater evil, and to ignore the secret sins they practice: envy, gossip, hatred, anger, slander, greed, etc. As with Cain, the opportunity to sin (secretly or otherwise) is only a part of the temptation. A wicked and evil heart is where temptation begins. When an evil heart has an opportunity to fulfill the evil desire, that is temptation.  When the heart gives in to the temptation, that is when sin is committed (James 1.14-15).
    There is no such things as secret sin in God’s eyes (Num. 32.23). All sin must be confessed and covered with the blood of Jesus to avoid separation from God. Cain had an opportunity to master his sin, but chose otherwise. What about you?
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com 

Monday, December 7, 2020

On Board?

By David A. Sargent

    Dr. John Goetsch had spoken at a youth rally in Norfolk, Virginia and was ready to fly home. A youth minister drove him to the airport in Norfolk to catch his flight which would include a stop in Philadelphia and then on to Baltimore.
    Goetsch told of his experience: “When I arrived, there were no lines at the ticket counter, whatsoever. I proceeded to the kiosk where I checked in without a problem, and then I headed for Gate A-11. The terminal was amazingly desolate. I breezed through security in about fifteen seconds! Gate A-11 was at the end of the terminal, and when I arrived, the flight was scheduled to leave in about forty minutes at 7:50 pm, but there was not a soul in sight! After checking my emails and phone messages, I made my way back down the terminal to see if I could find someone – anyone.
    At about Gate A-6, I spotted a US Airways agent and asked her about my flight. She quickly checked the computer and said, ‘Oh, yes, that flight is on time, and you are checked-in and ready to go.’ I made my way back to the gate and was pleased to see that another passenger had arrived — a college-aged young lady, who smiled and said: ‘It doesn’t look like many people are going to Philadelphia.’ I jokingly remarked, ‘Well, I just checked, and they said that you were flying the plane and I’m serving the peanuts.’
    An agent appeared about ten minutes before our flight was to leave and called us to the gate — both of us! We were the only two passengers on a plane that easily could seat over one hundred people…
    We climbed the stairs to the plane and were met by a very friendly stewardess and our pilot and co-pilot…
    We were informed that our pilot and co-pilot together had over forty years of flying experience, and our flight attendant had been doing her job for over ten years. It was amazing to realize that these three people had been trained and were being paid to fly just the two of us to our destination.
    During that one hour night flight, my heart was saddened as I thought about what we were experiencing. Many people were involved in making that flight possible. The pilots, the flight attendant, the air traffic controllers, the baggage handlers, the ticket agents, the crews that had fueled the plane and did the maintenance — hundreds of hours of preparation all for just two people!” *
    Then Goetsch thought about this application: “My mind thought about Heaven and all of the preparation that has gone into making that destination possible…”
    That preparation included a plan that preceded the creation of the universe (1 Peter 1:18-20), God sending His Son into the world (John 3:16), the cruel death of Jesus on the cross (1 Peter 2:24), the resurrection of Jesus from the grave (Matthew 28), the inspiration and preservation of God’s message of salvation in the Bible (Galatians 1:11-12), the institution of the local church to proclaim the message (Acts 2ff), and preachers and teachers faithfully proclaiming the message (Romans 1:16). In addition, the Lord Jesus ascended back into Heaven saying, “I go to prepare a place for you” (John 14:1-3).
    Goetsch pondered: “I wondered how many people have a ticket and are checked-in to that destination?”
    Are YOU onboard?
    God will save and give eternal life to those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). He will continue to cleanse from sin those who continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7-9).
    Please “get on board” by trusting and obeying Jesus. He is the way to life eternal in heaven (John 14:6).
- 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 “Empty Seats” by Dr. John Goetsch as quoted in Ministry 127, https://ministry127.com/resources/illustration/empty-seats 

You Are Not Replaceable

By Adam Faughn

    Let’s be honest: in many areas of life, you can be replaced. That’s not to say that someone else is just like you, but it is to say that many of our roles in life will eventually be filled by someone else.
    Don’t believe me? Just quit your job and see if they don’t hire someone else.
    Even Oscar Meyer’s Wienermobile driver can be replaced. In fact, they are currently searching for a new “hotdogger” to drive the famous car all over the place.
    Know that we are replaceable can be depressing. It certainly is a shot to our ego; that’s for sure.
    But there are other areas of life–in fact, the most important areas–where you are simply not replaceable. Literally, no one else can do what you can do, and it is up to you to fulfill those roles.
    For example,
  • No one else can be the mother or father to your children that you are.
  • No one else can be the spouse that you are.
  • No one else can reach and evangelize the people you can.
  • No one else can fulfill the exact combination of roles in your local congregation that you can.
  • No one else can stand before the Lord in judgment for you.
    When we look at things that way, don’t you feel not just important, but don’t you feel a great weight of responsibility and motivation?
    So, why not get out there, do those things that only you can do and do them to the very best of your ability! After all, if you don’t, literally no one else will!
“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might...” (Ecclesiastes 9:10)
- Adam Faughn preaches for the Central Church of Christ in Paducah KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.centralchurchofchrist.org Visit the Faughn Family blog, A Legacy of Faith.

Unconditional Love

By Ron Adams

“I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)
    Christians are admonished not to be conformed to this world. However, it is often difficult to be different and continue to be different from the world. We live in the world. We are surrounded by many people who are not transformed: relatives, neighbors, co-workers, people in leadership positions. Often they don’t understand or appreciate our holy calling, and their influence is great.
    While persecution of Christians is probably the most painful, it is not the most dangerous. The greatest threat to Christians is being “conformed to this world.” The major way such conformity happens is by Christians accepting the wisdom of this world.

Unconditional Love
    In an effort to have peace among men, unconditional acceptance, unconditional self-regard, unconditional self-acceptance, and unconditional love are being presented as a panacea. It sounds so non-judgmental, so loving, so caring. So much so, many who profess faith in Christ have been beguiled.
    Some think they find these concepts in Scripture, such as in Romans 5:8,“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” And Romans 15:7, “Wherefore, accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God.”
    God’s love is unconditional. But does He regard man as okay in his sinful state? Does He accept us into His kingdom just the way we are?

Acceptance by God
    The love of God is boundless. He “so loved the world...that whoever...shall not perish, but have eternal life.” There is not a soul that is not loved by God. In His great love, He has provided a means of salvation to all mankind. But note, salvation is conditional: “whosoever believeth in Him.” Faith is a condition of acceptance by God. Faith in Jesus is a condition of salvation. “I said therefore to you, that you shall die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins.” John 8:24. Godly-living is a condition for having a part in the kingdom, “Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.

    While it is good to accept ourselves for what we are, it must not be seen as an excuse for not changing for the better. “That’s just the way I am” is nothing more than a rationalization, a cop-out. God showered us with His love while we were sinners in order to free us from the guilt and practice of sin. He saves us from our sins, not in them. Repentance is a condition of salvation. 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”

Worldly Wisdom
    The term “unconditional love” as used by some today is nothing more than psycho-babble. The figment of the imagination. Worldly wisdom. The practical application of such a theory is a permissive attitude in amorally nonrestrictive atmosphere. The result is nothing less than all-out abandonment of accountability.
    Christians must not be taken in by such “wisdom” as “I’m okay, you’re okay...Accept me the way I am...We all have a right to be loved unconditionally.”
    May our conduct be like Paul’s, “For our proud confidence is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in holiness and godly sincerity, not in fleshly wisdom but in the grace of God, we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially toward you.”
- Ron Adams publishes F.Y.C., a monthly publication. Bible references are from the NASB except where another translation is referenced. Back issues are archived at http://ra10ar.com Be thoughtful and kind. All rights reserved. © 2020

Love Shows

By Joe Chesser
     It probably happens most often in college. Your friend walks into the room and you immediately know something is different. There is a radiance that wasn’t there before. The eyes are brighter. The face is joyful.There’s a bounce in their step. The friend has fallen in love … and, like Andy Rooney once said, “When you’re in love, it shows.”
    You really can’t hide love. It’s easy to see when a husband loves his wife. It’s easy to see when a grandma loves her grandchildren. It’s easy to see when a person loves their job. It’s easy to see when a fan truly loves the Cardinals. It’s easy to see when a family had a great vacation.
     And it’s just as easy to see when someone truly loves the Lord. It shows. You just can’t hide true love. When you love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind (Mark 12:30) it transforms you.
    You will never hide your light behind dark shades, keeping it to yourself, but will expose it for the whole world to see (Matthew 5:15-16).  Love shows.
     You will never have to be shamed or begged to meet with God’s people for worship, study and fellowship (Hebrews 10:25), but will long to be with the church whenever it gathers (Acts 2:42) – even when it is difficult or inconvenient. Love shows.
     You will use your words to encourage and build, rather than to criticize and destroy – no matter what others are saying about you (Ephesians 4:29). Love shows.
     You will treat your fellow Christians with greater care and concern than you treat yourself (Phil. 2:3-4). This will be evident to the whole world (John 13:35). Love shows.
     You will not get stingy, resentful or angry when an opportunity comes from the Lord to share your financial blessings with others (2 Corinthians 8:1-5). Love shows.
     You will not pass up opportunities to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, shelter strangers, clothe the needy, or visit the sick and imprisoned (Matthew 25:34-46). Love shows (and saves!).
     You will stay in constant communication with the Lord by prayer and study (1 Thessalonians 5:17; 2 Peter 3:17). Love shows.
     You will not keep the saving message from the lost, but will share the gospel with all you can for as long as you can (Matthew 28:19-20). Love shows.
     Other people can see how much you love the Lord. The Lord can see how much you love Him. The challenge is to be honest enough with yourself to look deeply in your own heart to see if love for the Lord is truly there. Remember, love shows.
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com

Psalm 27—A Message in Life

By Ron Thomas

1. Life is in need of Courage. Some men prepare themselves for the battle ahead mus tering up courage to engage. For some, try as they might, it does not come easy. The  battle is engaged, they learn they had more within than they realized. Some Chris tians wonder about themselves when they face the enemy. Commitment to the Lord  means they are better prepared than they realize. 
2. Life is in need of Shelter. The battle is over, the scars are impressed on the body  and the mind. Lives are changed, sometimes not for the better. What to do? Stay  within oneself, seeking only self-consolation. Better still, turn to the Lord, though  one does not understand, there is understanding in the Lord. “O’ that I may dwell in  the house of the Lord forever.” It is there that I find the only relief that is long
3. Life is a great Teacher. The battle has been fought, the scars have made an impres sion, now how do I learn from these experiences to be a better person? So many ap peal to the Lord, but after the Lord has spoken, the Lord is not heard. To be a better  person, the Lord has to be THE teacher. There are experiences in life that are great  teaching moments, but what about the teachings moments that take us from this life  to the next? Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you  rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and  ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matt.  11:28-30, ASV). 
4. Life’s Exhortation. You are prepared; you enjoy life and try to be a person of joy to  others around you. You have been taught by the Lord, so you try to teach others.  Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I  say, on the Lord (Psa. 27:14, KJV).
- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website. http://sunrushchurchofchrist.com/

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

He Grew Up

By Adam Faughn
    Our world is in the hurry and bustle of the final days and hours before Christmas. Presents are being bought and wrapped, baking is being done, traveling is going on, and all sorts of other late-minute things are being completed so the holiday can be enjoyed by as many as possible.
    In the midst of all that preparation, many are also focusing on the birth of Jesus Christ. Certainly, we do not know the date on the calendar on which Jesus was born, but so many in our world are thinking about that event this time of year that it is to our advantage to speak even more openly and boldly about our faith. There is, in some ways, a clearer pathway to speak to people about Jesus when they are thinking about His birth during this time.
    What is difficult to get across to people, though, is that the baby in the manger grew up. Then, when that same baby was a man, He demanded so much of people and said things that are not always popular in our world. He told us that we have to guard our heart, or we are guilty of the most heinous of sins (see Matthew 5:23; 5:28; 5:44). He told us that families would be torn apart for following Him (Matthew 10:34-37). He made it clear that there is only one way to heaven (Matthew 7:13-14), and that only following Him would be that way (John 14:6).
    Ultimately, Jesus gave His life on the cross, but also demanded that we be willing to take up a cross each day, that we live in order to follow Him (Luke 9:23). Part of the life and teachings of Jesus is simply not what people want to hear, but we dare not shy away from the entirety of Who Jesus was (and is), and what He demands of people if they would be counted faithful and live eternally with Him in heaven.
    While so many are thinking about the baby Jesus in the manger, may we have the boldness to take this opportunity to boldly, yet lovingly, remind people that He grew up and that He is to be the Lord of all our lives. But we must also take every opportunity to show and remind people that following Him as Lord is not drudgery, but joy.
- Adam Faughn preaches for the Central Church of Christ in Paducah KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.centralchurchofchrist.org Visit the Faughn Family blog, A Legacy of Faith.                   

Urgency in Making Resolutions for the New Year?

By Johnny Hester

    Stress and pressure is building. Here I sit at my computer on the last day of year, and Linda still hasn’t told me what my New Year’s Resolutions are. It momentarily occurred to me that perhaps I should resolve to give up all of my annoying habits developed over the past seven decades, but then I remembered my old football coach once telling me: “No one respects a quitter.” An obvious dilemma, but I’m not going to worry.
    For multitudes of people, deciding to develop a healthier lifestyle is a common resolution with which to begin the New Year. However, to my pleasant surprise my annual yearend physical indicates that my weight is perfect! However, it seems that I am approximately two and a half feet too short in height. My carefully considered response is, in the words of one of my all-time favorite philosophers, Alfred E. Neuman: “What—Me Worry?” After all, years ago I memorized the New King James Version of Jesus’ question in Matthew 6:27, “Which of you, by worrying, can add one cubit to his stature?” So worrying would be a waste of time and it wouldn’t make me any taller.
    Now—if you detect a grinding noise, it’s my brain trying to switch gears. On a more serious level it should be observed that there is a difference between profitless anxiety and legitimate concern. Worrying about things over which we have no control brings frustration to the mind and negativity to the spirit. On the other hand, legitimate concern—if rightly directed—can produce noble resolutions and significant improvements in the life one lives.
    In Proverbs chapter six God warns us about the folly of indolence, discourages procrastination and commends to us the wisdom of acting with resolve and energy in our own best interest.
Go to the ant, you sluggard!
Consider her ways and be wise,
Which, having no captain,
Overseer or ruler,
Provides her supplies in the summer,
And gathers her food in the harvest.
How long will you slumber, O sluggard?
When will you rise from your sleep?
A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to sleep —
So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler,
And your need like an armed man.
    As we approach the new year we need to appreciate the need for urgency in setting worthwhile resolutions or goals.
    Love and Happy New Year to you and yours.
- Johnny Hester preaches for the Matthews Church of Christ in Matthews, MO. He may be contacted at johnnyhester@yahoo.com

The Value of Time

By Ron Bartanen
    Every turn of a calendar-page and every tick of a clock tells us that what has passed we will never undo, and we are responsible for what we have now. I have heard time described as “a section cut from the great circle of eternity.” We should view time as a priceless gift from God. As we soon go into the New Year of 2021, we should remind ourselves of time’s value. Once past, it can never be retrieved. It is ours now, but whether it will be ours one moment from now is in God’s hands. We have no binding claim upon time.
    The apostle Paul spoke of the value of time when he spoke of “redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16). Time is not just the accumulation of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years, but everything that time offers to us, including opportunities and privileges, and Paul, by inspiration, urges us to redeem such. Paul uses the language of the market-place  In the days, and even weeks, prior to Christmas, shoppers have been fervently in search of bargains, taking advantage of sales in stores and online, searching for best-buys  Should we be any less fervent in the pursuit of spiritual blessings that God has graciously made available to us?
    One opportunity that is overlooked by too many is the most valuable of all—the opportunity time offers us for salvation. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 6:2, reminds us, “Now is the accepted time: behold, now is the day of salvation.” Here is truly the “best buy” of all—salvation, a gift already paid for with the blood of Christ, as Peter reminds Christians: of the fact that we are redeemed (purchased) “with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).
    The opportunity of salvation is ours as God’s gift to man, but the acceptance of this gift rests with us. As Paul said, “Now is the accepted time…day of salvation,” but multitudes pass by this priceless gift as they seek the pleasures and treasures that will one day be no more. May all of us be reminded, “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust thereof: but he that does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:16-17). As we conclude the present year, and enter into the New Year, may we accept the gift that abides forever, “redeeming the time.”
- Ronald Bartanen preaches for Arthur Church of Christ, Arthur, IL.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://arthurcoc.com/