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Monday, August 17, 2020

Living In A Palace

By Donna Wittlif

"And who knows whether you are not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14).
      Perhaps all the young Israelite women who were captives in Persia thought Esther the luckiest woman in the world. She was so beautiful that she had been chosen over thousands to be queen. She had the best house for the king's women, and she had servants to wait upon her. She indeed was the most fortunate of all women.
      But maybe all that glittered was not gold. She probably had little freedom. After all, she had not been called to go in to the king for thirty days. What kind of marriage is that? If she failed to obey the king's every wish, she probably would end up like the deposed queen Vashti, or worse.
      We don't know whether Esther was happy or not in her new role as queen. But what matters is that guided by her cousin Mordecai, she saved her people. Her act of bravery did not come without fear and trepidation. After fasting for three days, she prepared to go unbidden to see the king. Her unselfish words were, "If I perish, I perish."
      We may not live in a palace, but wherever we are, God has work for us to do. Perhaps our Father has some special task for us to perform. Special? Yes. We don't know when some kind word or deed by us will turn someone to God. That someone might become a great worker in God's kingdom.
      Who knows whether God has placed us in the right place and the right time to be of great use in His kingdom? Each one of us is important and useful to Him.

- Donna Wittlif, the founder and first editor of BulletinGold, lives in Denver, CO. Donna is also a writer of fiction. Her novels, World Eternal: Promises and World Eternal: Proselytes, and World Eternal: Perils, and her newest book, Finding Her Heart,  are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other book outlets. For more information visit her website. http://www.donnarwittlif.com/

Your Soul, to Save or Lose

By Gerald Cowan

God gave you a perfect soul,
As pure and white as snow.
And everywhere you go in life
Your soul will also go.
Everything you do in life
Leaves marks upon your soul
For good or ill.  So guard it well,
For you must keep it whole.
It’s yours in trust and must return
Someday to God who gave it.
All that you do determines if
He can or cannot save it.
It’s up to you to save your soul,
No matter what the cost.
You cast the vote which will decide
If it is saved or lost.

Will you do what is needed to save your soul, to strengthen your soul, to secure your soul and keep it in God’s care and keeping now and forever.

- 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

God Give Us Men

By Gerald Cowan

Where can we find strong men to stand
With us and You against all odds?  
The time we live in now demands
Strong minds, great hearts, true faith, and ready hands
That will not yield to others what is God’s

Give us men of honor and good will   
Whom spoils of office cannot buy,
Men with great insight, strength and skill,
Whom lust and stress of office cannot kill.
Men of integrity who will not lie.

In public or in private thought
Help keep our heads above the fog
And empathize with all who’ve sought
To free us from some tyrant, and have fought
A selfish and self-loving demagogue.

While we are mumbling thumb-worn creeds
Strife rules the day and freedom weeps.
The darkness cannot hide their deeds;
Wrong rules the land. In vain the righteous pleads.
Let us not fear while waiting Justice sleeps.

God, let us be men, big in heart.
Armed with the Holy Spirit’s sword,
Let us be prompt to do our part
And stay with Him with whom we’ve made a start,
Not giving up to serve some other Lord.

When Christ returns we then shall know
The fulness of His wondrous love
Who, by his words and deeds, did show
That He from whom eternal blessings flow
Finds us the men He wants in heav’n above.  

How great to know that we can find,
In Christ, One who can make us free
Of stress, abuse, and strife from blind  
Unreas’ning hate-filled men of darkened mind.
God make us the men that You want us to be.

- 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

Joy Unspeakable

By Donna Wittlif

      Have you ever had a joy so heartfelt that you burst into song? A joy so deep that you felt there was no way you could express your thanksgiving to God except to sing? Paul and Silas did.
      "But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns unto God..." Where were Paul and Silas? Acts 16:23 tells us they were in prison. Not only were they in prison with their feet held fast in stocks, but the magistrates had torn their garments off them and had beaten them with many stripes.
      Can you imagine sitting in a cold and dank Roman prison with your feet in stocks and blood sliding down your back? The pain in your back would be bad enough to make you sick to your stomach. Your body might be in shock. What would you be doing if you had just been beaten and thrown into prison?
      Paul and Silas were praying and singing praises to God loudly enough that the other prisoners could hear them. Might this cause them to receive a worse punishment? That didn't frighten them because their trust was in God, and God rescued them. An earthquake shook the prison, the stocks holding them loosened, and the prison doors were opened.
      Paul and Silas had a joy buried so deeply in their hearts that they rejoiced no matter the circumstances that beset them. That joy was based on their faith in Jesus Christ, their obedience to Him, and the promises He had given them.
      Like Paul and Silas, may we have such great joy in the spiritual blessings that we have in Christ that we have to tell others. Our reason is the joy unspeakable we feel because of our belief in Christ.
Whom not having seen ye love; on whom, though how ye see him not, ye rejoice greatly with joy inexpressible and full

- Donna Wittlif, the founder and first editor of BulletinGold, lives in Denver, CO. Donna is also a writer of fiction. Her novels, World Eternal: Promises and World Eternal: Proselytes, and World Eternal: Perils, and her newest book, Finding Her Heart,  are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other book outlets. For more information visit her website. http://www.donnarwittlif.com/

Blemishes? What Blemishes?

By Joe Chesser
 

            Oh to be willing to see other Christians the way Jesus does!! Specifically, I’m thinking of how Jesus encourages husbands to see their wives as he sees his Bride, the Church.  Ephesians 5.25-28:
            “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave
            himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with
            water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church,
            without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”
God gives us choices when it comes to what we see in each other.

            The most natural choice is to see the warts and blemishes. That’s the easy thing to do because we all have them. They’re glaring. They’re obvious. I mean, who could miss the humongous moles on the lip and chin of Nanny McFee?! (If you haven’t seen the movie, just imagine them). Even if they are not that conspicuous, if we choose, that’ll still be what we focus on. (I know you’re thinking of someone.) It’s bad enough when the blemishes are physical (warts, scars, baldness, whatever). But it’s worse when we choose to focus in on each other’s spiritual flaws. Some are more obvious than others, but we all have them too, don’t we? (Weak faith, greed, divisive spirit, anger, unforgiveness, gossip, selfishness, etc.) Everyone has sinned (Romans 3.23). Everyone continues to sin (1 John 1.8-10). And so, the natural, the worldly thing to do is to allow blemishes to be what we see in each other.

            However, Jesus wants the church to choose to see each other differently, like he chooses to see us. He knows we have warts and wrinkles and blemishes, even after he has washed us clean with his blood. But he doesn’t choose to see us as anything but a radiant, blameless church. And neither does God! When because of faith in Jesus we are baptized into Christ, we are covered with Christ’s blood like clothes covers our bodies (Galatians 3.26-28, Romans 6.3-7). All of our past sinful blemishes are taken away. All of our present and future blemishes are continuously washed away by Jesus’ blood as we walk in the light (1 John 1.7). Consequently, all that is visible to God is a radiant, holy, blameless church. “In this same way, husbands are to love their wives.” Loving each other like Jesus loves the church means to choose to look beyond the blemishes and see the beauty of Christlike purity in each other. “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a  multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4.8). Loving like God chooses to be patient … kind … to keep no record of wrongs … to always protect, trust, hope and persevere (1 Corinthians 13.4-7). “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2.5).

This does not mean to ignore flaws.  We are to help each other overcome our sins (Galatians 6.1-2). It does mean that we refuse to let their blemishes define who others are.

How would refusing to focus on other’s stains and blemishes help your personal life … your family life … your church life?  Can you say, “Blemishes? What blemishes?”

- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com     

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

The Confidence of Prayer

By Bill Brandstatter

One of the great blessings of being a Christian is answered prayer. We can have confidence and assurance as we pray to God. Some Christians appear to lack the confidence they need. Often a person might say, “I hope God heard my prayer.” Others may state, “I think God heard my prayer.” John tells us in 1 John 5:14 that we have assurance and a confidence that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.

First, John states whose prayers will be heard. The simple word “we” tells us. He is writing to Christians; but He may also be writing to faithful Christians. He is writing to those who are born of God (1 Jn. 5:1,18). James reminds us that the “effective fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16 NKJV) If I am where I need to be with God, He will hear and answer my prayer according to His will.

Next, John states we should ask. Jesus had said on one occasion that the Father knows what we need before we ask (Mt.6:8). If that is so, why ask? God wants us to show our humility and our trust in him. We don’t ask just to be asking. We ask to show we know who can help us and that help is beyond ourselves. James tells us that sometimes we may not get what we need because we don’t ask. He writes, “Yet, you do not have because you do not ask.” (James 4:2 NKJV) So, we must ask God with confidence that He will answer our prayers.

Then, John tells us that prayer must be according to His will. The will of God is sometimes revealed to us in Scripture. It is the will of God that all men might be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:4). Paul prayed that the Ephesian Christians would understand what the will of the Lord is (Eph. 5:17). I can understand the Lord’s will regarding prayer as well. The Lord’s will is that I am righteous when I pray (James 5:16). It is His will that I should pray without doubting (James 1:6). It is His will that I pray without ceasing (1 Th. 5:16). It is His will that I put away sin, and worship Him so that He will hear me (John 9:31).

I don’t know how God will answer my prayers. John says He will. I also don’t know when. His answer may be yes. The answer may be no. The answer may be for us to wait awhile. When Paul prayed for his thorn in the flesh to be removed, he got a different answer than what he expected. It was an answer, however, according to God’s will. The response from God was “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9 NKJV).

He hears us. This is important to us. God hearing us simply means He answers our prayers. Some have argued that God hears all prayers. In the way John uses it, that is not so. God hears or responds to those who ask according to His will; but man sometimes blocks the connection. Here is what Isaiah adds, “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear.” (Isa.59:1, 2) What great assurance we have! If we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. The more we know about Him, the more confidence we will have of our prayers being answered. John writes in 1 Jn. 5:15--“And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”

One of the great assurances of the Christian is answered prayer. I am glad God hears and God answers, aren’t you?


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

Some Unproductive Exercises

By Gerald Cowan

It is generally known that exercise is good for one’s physical health. It helps the body to burn excess calories and prevents the build up of fat. It also helps keep the blood circulating freely, so that all parts of the body are properly nourished. It can reduce stress and help one relax. It has a way of helping one clear his mind, put things in sharper focus and proper perspective.
But there are some activities or exercises that do the body no good at all, nor do they do any good for the spirit that lives in the body. They burn no calories. They often increase stress and prevent relaxation. They are certain to keep one from functioning effectively. Here is a sample list of ineffective and unproductive activities, exercises we need to get along without. 
1. Beating around the bush.
2. Jumping to conclusions.
3. Passing the buck.
4. Throwing your weight around.
5. Patting yourself on the back.
6. Stirring up trouble.
7. Spreading gossip and rumor.
8. Adding fuel to the fire.
9. Dodging the issues.
10. Sidestepping responsibility.
11. Flying off the handle.
12. Grasping at straws.
13. Climbing the walls.
14. Running around in circles.
15. Jumping on the bandwagon.
16. Making mountains out of molehills.
17. Tooting your own horn.
18. Getting a jump on competitors. 
19. Holding back on  commitment.
20. Falling by the wayside.
21. Practicing deceit.
22. Interfering in others’ business.
23. Looking for trouble.
24. Promoting strife.
25. Pushing others aside.
26. Climbing the social ladder.
27. Digging in your heels.
28. Dragging your feet.
29. Killing time.
30. Carrying a grudge.
31. Driving an argument into the ground.
32. Sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong.
33. Splitting hairs.
34. Straining gnats.
35. Bending over backwards to get along.
36. Picking to pieces those who disagree with you.
37. Cutting others down to size.
38. Setting a bad example.
39. Joining the in crowd.
40. Polishing the boss’s boots.
41. Arguing against the truth.
42. Resisting authority.
43. Approving error.
44. Urging or tempting others to sin.
45. Rehashing mistakes of others.
46. Backing up when the Lord pushes you forward.
47. Leading someone astray.
48. Stepping on others to get ahead.
49. Defending the enemies of God.
50. Making excuses instead of corrections.
51. Stepping on others to get ahead.

- 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

Cancel Culture for Christians

By Edd Sterchi

We are in a time referred to as cancel culture. Cancel culture is the act of destroying someone’s life over the fact that they disagree with popular opinion. The Christian, however, should have a different take on “cancel culture.” Notice, for example: 

* We should cancel negativism and pessimism. 

* We should cancel prejudice. 

* We should cancel immoral thoughts. 

* We should cancel sin. 

* We should cancel false doctrine. 

Rather than focusing on destroying others’ lives, let’s focus on improving our own – by doing such we will be doing our part to make the world better. “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (Gal. 5:24-25) 

- 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/


Social Distancing

By Edd Sterchi

To start off this article, I was going to make up a joke about social distancing, but this was as close as I could get! (Give it some thought, it will come to you.)

Now that we are starting to get more and more out into society, we are asked to pay special attention to the social distancing measures that are in place. This is to prevent viral contraction of COVID-19 and becoming infected. The recommended distance to stay away from others is 6 feet. This is common sense.
 
There is another “social distancing” that God wants us to do. He wants us to social (and private) distance from sin. God knows that if we get too close to sin’s fire, we will get burned. Satan wants us to sin and turn our backs on God. That’s why he tempts us so – for he knows that temptation can lead to sin and sin to spiritual death (James 1:14-15). That’s why God wants us to practice social distancing from sin – so that we do not become spiritually infected.

The Bible is replete in warning us to practice social distancing from sin:

“Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn away from it and pass on.” (Pro. 4:14-15).

“For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God...Therefore do not be partakers with them.” (Eph. 5:5-7)

“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness” (Eph. 5:11).

“Do not...share in other people’s sins” (1 Tim. 5:22)

“Flee also youthful lusts” (2 Tim. 2:22)

“Abstain from every form of evil.” (1 Thess. 5:22)

- 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/

Why I Wear a Mask

By Edd Sterchi

Do you wear a face mask to help prevent the spread of coronavirus? I see a lot of people in society not wearing them. Many express that it is their right as an American not to wear one. I’ll be honest, when it was determined that wearing masks in public was a good idea, I did not originally do so. But after some reflection on the matter, I changed my mind and now I wear one. Here’s why. 

* The government has asked me to do it. As Christians, we are to follow the laws and regulations of the land (Rom. 13:1-2; 1 Pet. 2:13- 14). Of course, there is the exception of obeying God when God’s laws disagree with man’s (Acts 5:29), but, without a doubt, that does not apply here. Because the government has requested that I wear a mask, I should comply. 

* Compassion compels me to do it. The Bible instructs Christians to consider the needs of others even above their own (Phil. 2:3-4). Part of being a good neighbor is showing compassion for them and their needs (Luke 10:29-37). Because I could be a carrier of the virus and not know it, concern and compassion for others obligates me to wear a mask. 

* Love motivates me to do it. Agape love is a selfless, giving kind of love that acts on behalf of what is best for others (1 Cor. 13:4-8a). We are told that one of the greatest commands from God is to love your neighbor (Matt. 22:35-40). Love is a great motivator and true love for others should move us to wear masks when we are around them. 

When I consider all of the above, I can come to only one conclusion: Why do I wear a face make? Because God wants me to do it. It obeys the government’s wishes, it helps others, and it is a part of showing my love – and God wants me to do all of these to His glory. 

- 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/


Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Beyond the Mask

By Joe Chesser

    The title of this article comes from the title of a 2015 movie I recently watched. The hero of the story, William Reynolds, had to overcome an evil (but deserved) reputation in his attempt at redemption. To establish a better character he had to wear a mask, otherwise people who knew his past would not accept the changes he was trying to make. They wouldn’t be able to separate his present good life from his evil past. Bad reputations will sometimes mask repentance from those unwilling to look beyond the past (Acts 9.19b-27). In the meantime, Charles Kemp, his primary adversary and the true villain, wore a mask of a different kind. He portrayed the false appearance of being a just and good man when beyond that mask he was thoroughly corrupt. Truly a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
    The ancient Greeks had a word for it: ‘hypocrite.’ Originally the word ‘hypocrite’ meant someone playing a role in the theatre. Even today we sometimes find it difficult to separate an actor’s real life from the roles he plays in the movies. But as they often do, words tend to take on different meanings over time. Today, the word ‘hypocrite’ has mostly negative overtones. Like Charles Kemp, hypocrites wear masks to hide their true nature.
    The movie made me think about the masks we wear. Oh yes, we all wear them. We like to pretend everything is ok with us, when in fact we are hurting inside. We like to act like we are strong, when in fact we really need the strength of others. We like to give the impression we love God and the church, when in fact we are only going through the motions.  We like to arrogantly pass judgment on others, when in fact we are no different. We like to pretend we are patient, joyful and loving, when in fact we are not.
    We often hide behind a mask because we are afraid of showing others what we are really like. We are afraid of what they might say or think or how they might treat us if they found out the truth about us. And that deception often gives us temporary comfort.
    What we urgently need to know and  remember is that God can see beyond our masks, and He challenges us to look beyond them also. In warning his disciples about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, Jesus warned them (and us), “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs” (Luke 12.1-3).
    Our masks may at times prevent others from seeing who we really are, but they will never keep God from it. Our masks may offer us temporary, but false comfort. Our masks may give us temporary, but false courage. The more we hide behind our masks, the easier it will be to believe that is who we really are, and the more difficult it will be for us to look beyond these masks to see ourselves as God see us. But we must. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12.1). “Woe to you … hypocrites!” (Matthew 23.1-33).  We must learn to look beyond the masks to see the truth as God does.

- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com

Take Heed Lest You Fall
By David Bragg

    In May of 2017 a 67-year-old woman in Plainfield, NJ was caught on surveillance video walking down the street focusing on a cell phone. Her walk turns tragic as she bumps into, and then falls over, an open basement access door. She was ultimately lifted from the basement with serious injuries (mcall.com).
    As we walk through this world our focus must be on Christ and His Word because otherwise, we are in danger of falling spiritually. The inspired warnings echo from our Bibles.

  • 1 Cor. 9:27 - lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
  • Galatians 5:4 - who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
  • 1 Timothy 4:1 - Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith
  • Hebrews 3:12 - Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God
    Knowing that we CAN fall away is a vital realization in making sure that we DON’T fall away.

- 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/

Uncertain and Unprecedented”

By Bill Brandstatter

    Two words I am hearing a lot are “uncertain” and “unprecedented.” Simply put, this means the times we are in with COVID-19 are unlike anything that came before. Yet, as I am thinking about these words, every day has always been unprecedented and uncertain.
    No one knows what tomorrow holds. The phrase, “Here today, gone tomorrow” is very real to many of us. James stated that life is like a vapor (James 4:14). Moses wrote in the 90th Psalm, “The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; and it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” (NKJV) Every day we live is uncertain and unprecedented. Today is given to us. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow is not certain. Since life is that way, let us live each day. Jesus said, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matt. 6:34) I don’t know about you, but I am still working on this.
    No one knows when our Lord will return. Since tomorrow is not certain, our Lord could come back at any time. The rest of today may not remain. Preparing ourselves for that day is vital. I am convinced that if the Lord told us the exact day and exact hour when He would return that some people would wait till the last minute to make the necessary preparations; however, He does not tell us. He tells us of the uncertainty. He stated, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” (Matt. 24:36) Then He states, “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour you Lord is coming.” (Matt. 24:42) After illustrating that if the owner of the house knew when a thief was going to break in, he wouldn’t have allowed it to happen, Jesus states, “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Mt. 24:44 NKJV).
    No one knows what will happen after death. The Bible tells us some of what will happen. Paul tells us it is a mystery. In 1 Cor. 15:51, he writes, “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed.” Then he writes about the uncertainty. He continues, “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must but on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (1 Cor. 15:52, 53) He had already indicated the body we are in will be changed ( 1 Cor. 15:42-44). John helps us to understand the uncertainty of this by indicating, “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is (1 Jn. 3:2). So, our bodies will be changed. What exactly will we be like? We don’t know yet, but we will someday. It is uncertain now but will be certain one day.
    Based on the uncertainty of life and each day being unprecedented, let us live our lives looking toward heaven. Let us want to be with the Lord one day by living for Him now knowing that every moment we live is uncertain and unprecedented. Let us look, anticipate, and prepare for our Lord’s return.

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

One Thing We Must Never Cancel

By Adam Faughn

    Over  the  last  few  months,  the  word  “cancel”  has  been  heard more times than I can remember. Young people had graduations cancelled. Youth groups across the country had Lads to Leaders cancelled.  Camps,  vacations,  dentist  appointments...cancelled, cancelled,  cancelled.  Even  worship  services–either  in-person  or even all together–were cancelled.
     Then, of course, the term leapt into our social world with the so-called “cancel culture.” As political and social unrest have seemingly  come  in  waves,  everything  from  actors  to  cartoons  have been “cancelled.”
     It  seems  as  if  everything  around  us  has  been  cancelled  in  some fashion  over  the  past  few  months  or  has  threatened  to  be  shut down  anyway.  Some,  in  the  long  run,  don’t  matter  all  that much, while others are extremely important.
     As the time wears on and the frustrations mount, though, there is one thing we dare not cancel. With the virus, what started off as  “a  couple  of  weeks  or so”  has  now  turned  into months,  and now, we are being told that we have no idea how long we’ll be dealing  with  these  shutdowns  and  confusion.  With  the  “cancel culture,”  it  seems  as  if  that  will  be  around–at  least  in  fits  and starts–for a long time.
     And, as those things go on and on, we seem to be growing more and more testy. Our frustrations mount. We are becoming a little more entrenched in our beliefs, and a little more willing to get not bolder, but harsher, in what we say. Our language becomes more accusatory.
     But there is one thing missing from that, and it is the one thing we simply cannot cancel.

Compassion.

     As  we  grow  more  testy,  we  have  to  have  compassion  for  those with  whom  we  may  disagree.  For  example,  we  have  to  have compassion for those who are angry because people are wanting to  get  back  to  normal  and  on  those  who  are  taking  this  virus  a little more seriously than we might think they should. Both have valid arguments, and both are worthy of our respect.
     We must have compassion on those who are doing their best to make  decisions,  from  politicians  to  business  leaders  to  elders  to parents. They are trying to continually deal with various ups and downs and conflicting data while trying to make many different people happy. It’s an impossible place to be in, and we need to feel for them.
     In  what  we  say  and  in  what  we  share,  does  compassion  show through, or is it just shared in a way that tries to show that people  with  whom  I  disagree  are  foolish  and  backward  and  uncaring? A little compassion, by the way, might help you with your argument, as well as simply be the Christian way to do things.Let’s not cancel compassion. If it was ever needed, it is now.


- 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 From the Faughn Family blog, A Legacy of Faith.

Fearing God is Obeying God

By Rob Albright

    Proverbs 1:7 reads, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” A wise person will simply take the teachings (doctrine) that come from the Bible and make them a part of his or her life.
    Unfortunately, some choose to reject or ignore the teachings of Jesus. He is the Savior and Lord and is the perfect example of right living (John 8:24; Luke 6:46-49; Acts 4:12). Jesus is the only one who can bring us into a right relationship with God (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). It is a sad situation when people reject the only hope they have. Some feel His teachings are too restrictive so they shop around for a church that fits the way they feel about things. You hear them say things like, “This is my life and I can live it any way I choose.” Choosing our own way instead of following the way of God and His Son brings tragic consequences (Mark 7:9; Luke 10:16; 1 John 2:17b).
     Jesus came to save us from sin (Acts 4:10-12) and bring those saved into His church (Acts 2:47; 1 Corinthians 12:13) where we become “the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:17, 21). It’s all because of Jesus that we can become right in the sight of God. We have the Word of God where we can come to know about Jesus, learn to love Him, obey His words and follow His example. He is the perfect pattern for our life.


- Rob Albright serves as one of the ministers at the Northwest Church of Christ in Greensboro, NC. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.nwchurchofchrist.com/

Saturday, August 1, 2020

It Takes Two of a Kind

By Gerald Cowan

If all of the gossipy tongues could be stopped,
I doubt they would ever be missed.
Of all the most unwelcome things in the world,
The gossipy tongue tops the list.

A gossip can take the most harmless event
And, if he is evil at heart,
He can clothe it with many imagined details,
With rumors that linger and smart.

He may season his story with envy and spite,
Then whisper, “They say” or “I’ve heard,”
And tell you in most sanctimonious tones
The tale he’s distorted and blurred.

A life is dishonored, stained, and destroyed
By rumors with no shred of truth
Which one person dreams in a feverish brain
And another accepts – without proof.

Now the gossipy tongue can never succeed
In causing such heartache and tears
Unless it is helped by the misguided soul
Who possesses the gossipy ears.

For the acid that drips from the gossipy lips
Would tarnish the purest of gold.
But its power depends on the gossipy ears
Which believe and repeat what they’re told.


“Have you heard?” and “They say,” which go floating about
Spreading envy, injustice, and fears
Would lose all their force were they quickly shut out
By the one with the gossipy ears.

So whenever someone with a gossipy tongue
Tells his stories of evil and strife,
And says, “Have you heard?” look him straight in the eye
And say, “Just what is your mission in life?”

Don’t give him a chance to tell and retell
The false empty rumors he hears.
He ought to be locked in a small narrow room
With someone who has gossipy ears.
                               
- 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

Your Identity in Jesus Christ

By Jeff Arnette

    Do not forget these words: You are not who people say you are and not even who you feel you are! You are who God says you are!
    Few things in life shape a person like the words used to describe them. I will never forget the first time someone called me a preacher. I almost panicked and was visibly shaken by those words. I will always remember being told that I was a loser and would never amount to anything. Words have a way of changing the way we see ourselves that is both good and bad.
    To make matters worse, we cannot unhear the things that people have said about us, but we can choose to replace those words with what God says about us. As soon as you can, take some time and meditate on these passages. Each one speaks powerfully to your identity in Jesus Christ.
    You are royalty – 1 John 3:1-2. In this passage, we see our new standing given to us in Jesus Christ. You are the Child of God, who has been lavished with all of His love and blessings. Do not ever accept that you are anything less than royalty, meant to rule this life as conquerors (Rom. 8:37).
    You are righteous – 2 Corinthians 5:21. Maybe people do not see you as special, as this great, holy Christian. Perhaps you don’t see yourself as some great Christian. Perhaps you’ve had a long history of being less than Christ-like (join the crowd), but God looks at you and says that you have become His Righteousness. He sees you as special, righteous, and holy.
    You are wonderfully made – Psalm 139:13-16. When God looks at you, He sees you as beautiful and perfect in every way. You do not need to impress anyone with your looks or accomplishments. You are His creation, and that makes you the most important person in this world. Do not let anything take that away from you.
    You are His masterpiece (Eph. 2:10), Heirs to God’s Kingdom (James 2:5), and have been given every Spiritual Blessing in Christ Jesus (Eph. 1:3). You have been gifted and empowered by God (1 Peter 4:10-11) so that you lack nothing in this life. You have everything needed to be a great Child of God (2 Peter 1:3-4).
    You have invaluable in Christ, not because of what you have done but because of what Jesus did for you. When it comes to understanding and owning your identity in Christ, the biggest roadblock will be your own feelings. Just remember…
                You are not who people say you are!
                You are not who you feel you are!
                You are who He says you are!

- Jeff Arnette preaches for the Central Haywood church of Christ, Clyde, NC.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: https://centralhaywoodcoc.com/

Love People; Use Things

By Joe Slater

    I expect you’ve seen the title of this article practiced in reverse, as I have: “Use People; Love Things.” Sad, but true. King Solomon observed, “The poor man is hated even by his own neighbor. But the rich has many friends” (Proverbs 14:20). Now, why would a poor man’s neighbors hate him? And why would a rich man have many friends? The poor man doesn’t have much to offer materially, so his neighbors can’t use him. The rich man’s “friends,” however, see opportunity to use him to their advantage. “Many entreat the favor of nobility, and every man is a friend to one who gives gifts” (Proverbs 19:6).
    Solomon’s half-brother, Absalom used people to acquire the power he wanted. See how he buttered up the citizens who came to King David with legal issues: “Look, your case is good and right; but there is no deputy of the king to hear you . . . Oh, that I were made judge in the land, and everyone who has any suit or cause would come to me; then I would give him justice” (2 Samuel 15:3-4). In short order, he conned them into proclaiming him king!
   The Pharisees in John 8 used the woman taken in adultery to try to put Jesus into a dilemma. They cared nothing for her soul. All they wanted was to have an excuse to criticize the Lord. By contrast, Jesus loved her and sought her redemption.
  The “good Samaritan” in Luke 10 loved his neighbor and used his money and other possessions to help him.  Love people; use things. The man who had been robbed and beaten could do nothing materially for the Samaritan. But he needed help, and the Samaritan provided it.
  As Jesus said, “Go and do likewise” (Lk. 10:37).

- Joe Slater serves as minister of the Church of Christ in Justin, TX. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://justinchurchofchrist.com

Baptism in Water

By Ron Thomas

    One of the hallmark teachings of the Lord’s church that separates it from churches that have their origin in man is the teaching of the necessity of baptism in water for salvation. This is something the Bible very plainly teaches. At the time of the Great Commission the Lord gave to His apostles the command to preach and declare, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16, ASV). There are two components to salvation in this verse; they are the words believeth and baptized. In the Greek New Testament, the verse literally reads, “The one having believed and having been baptized will be saved” (Greek-English Interlinear, Tyndale Houses, p. 192). There is an initial response of belief and trust, but after the initial response, there is a continuance of the same. The word baptized is associated with the death of one’s old life, a burial of that old life in water, with the subsequent resurrection coming up out of the water. The death, burial, and resurrection is connected with Jesus. Notice what Paul wrote, “We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection” (Rom. 6:4-5). Thus, without baptism in water, one is not and cannot be saved. 
    There are some who falsely accuse Christians who accept what the Bible teaches as teaching a “works salvation.” This is false because 1) the ones who so accuse have failed to understand the New Testament and how it speaks against “works salvation.” It is false, 2) because there is a failure to understand that obeying God’s commands can’t be properly interpreted as “works salvation” when one obeys from the heart what the Lord said because the Lord said it. It is false because, 3) because to attribute to a humble believer what the Scripture plainly teaches is to attribute to the Lord the same guilt since He is the One who said it. It is false, 4) because it is a plain denial of what the New Testament says. 
    Generally, an objection raised to those who insist on baptism in water for salvation is because, they assert, “The thief on the cross was not baptized.” This is an effort to negate what the Lord said elsewhere on the topic and it is a failure to understand something quite significant. Under the New Covenant, a cornerstone belief one must have is a belief in the resurrection of Jesus. Notice: “because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Rom. 10:9). Under the New Covenant, the thief could not have believed this. Also, since the Lord’s authority is what it is, He only is in position to address His words in ways that are different than what He revealed— and He revealed that baptism in water is necessary for salvation. It was Peter who said, “which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21). 
    Wouldn’t it just be easier to accept what the New Testament says rather than trying to dismiss it because of a man-made doctrine? 


- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website. http://sunrushchurchofchrist.com/

A Plan That Actually Works

By David Bragg

    In 1923 Otto Schnering came up with a plan to promote his new chocolate bar, Baby Ruth. He settled on a candy drop. A pilot was recruited for a plane, complete with the Baby Ruth logo, to perform some trick flying over Pittsburgh. As crowds gathered and curiosity rose hundreds of candy bars with little parachutes attached began falling from the plane. What happened next was not part of Schnering's plan. Office workers reaching dangerously out of windows trying to catch the candy. Children ran into the streets to catch or retrieve their prizes. And when some of the parachutes failed to open people were struck on the head and car windshields were broken by falling bars. Drivers, taking their eyes off the road, looked up instead as they crashed into other cars (The Memory Palace; Mental Floss).
    There are other seemingly good ideas that failed to come off exactly as planned (remember the Ford Pinto?). Unlike mere mortals, when God comes up with a plan, He is always successful in making it work. Isaiah said it best when he said that God’s word “shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper ...” (Isaiah 55:11).
    God has a plan that includes you. We should feel confident in conforming to the New Testament plan and design of Christ’s church. It is a kingdom of servants, joyfully serving their Lord and Master while sharing their hope with the lost. That is God’s plan.  Any plan of human origin is bound to have problems, but God’s plan actually works.

- 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/

God Is Listening

By Ed Wittlif

     "It came about after the Lord had spoken these words to Job, that the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, 'My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends, because you have not spoken of Me what is right as My servant Job has'" (Job 42:7 NASB). When you read the book of Job you see that his three friends began well. They sat with Job for seven days and seven nights without speaking (Job 2:13). They must have been good comforters just by their presence. However, then they opened their mouths and spoke of things about God and His purpose that they didn't understand.
     God said, "You have not spoken of Me what is right." Have you ever considered that God is listening to what you say? I will admit that sometimes it seems that when I open my mouth, I disengage my brain. James tells us to be "slow to speak" (James 1:19c). We have a saying, "Think before you speak."
     Jesus warns us, "But I tell that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned" (Matthew 12:36-37).
     It isn't just angry words that James was dealing with, or careless thoughtless words, or words that hurt. It is also what we say about God, like Job's friends. Misquoting God's words, or twisting His words like Satan, or presenting an untrue picture of God misrepresents God. God is listening to us even before the words come out of our mouths. "Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O, Lord, You know it all" (Psalm 139:4).
     God not only hears us, but He knows our motive for saying it. Therefore, think carefully before speaking and let your words be seasoned with grace knowing that God is listening.

- Ed Wittlif is from Denver, CO; via the Church of Christ in Justin, TX. Joe Slater serves as minister and he may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://justinchurchofchrist.com

Another Crisis Looking?

By Bill Brandstatter

     It appears we have become crisis oriented. There is always some big crisis looming. If it is not an oil crisis, it is a health crisis. It could be a crisis in the Middle East. The crisis could political or social. There seems to be no end. The problem with some of the so-called “crises” is that people stay in a constant state of uncertainty and anxiety over what the future holds. I believe we ought to be Christ-centered, not crisis-centered. Then, we need not worry about the future.
     We need to be Christ-centered regarding salvation. Today many will talk about the “Sinner’s Prayer”. Did you know that no one in New Testament times was ever saved just by praying? One man that was praying, Saul of Tarsus, was told to, “Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord. ” (Acts 22:16) Christ stated “He that believes and is baptized will be saved. ” (Mark 16:16)
     We need to be Christ-centered regarding the church. There are a number of groups today all claiming to be part of the church that we read about in the New Testament. Jesus is the head of the church according to Eph. 1:22, 23. Any church that does not have Christ as its center (head) is not Christ’s church.
     We need to be Christ-centered regarding our lives. Paul stated, “ I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me .” (Gal. 2:20) When we become Christians we are new creatures. (Rom. 6:4; Cor. 5:17)
     We need to be Christ-centered regarding His second coming. Twice in 2012 individuals were talking about dates for Christ’s second coming or the end of the world. Both predictions were wrong. Whenever man forecasts these events, they will always be wrong. Jesus stated, “ But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only .” (Matt. 24:36 NKJV)
     If we are Christ-centered in all the areas mentioned above, the man made “crises” of today will have little or no effect on us since our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20)

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

Building RESPECT FOR AUTHORITY in Your Children

By Jim Faughn

     “No!” – Some who will read this article will remember a time that now seems so long ago when that simple two-letter word put an end to misbehavior on the part of children. When that word was spoken by a parent, a teacher, or any other authority figure, it was typical for no further action to be necessary. On those occasions when further action was necessary, that action was carried out, usually without much delay. 
     How the tables have turned! In today’s world, it is not uncommon to hear that word spoken loudly, defiantly, and forcefully by a child to a parent, teacher, and/or some other authority figure who is attempting [in vain, it seems] to guide or correct the child. While one Christian or one family may not be able to change an entire society, Christian parents are concerned about instilling in their children a healthy respect for authority. They recognize that many of the ills of our society can be traced to a lack of respect for authority. They further realize that this is a matter of eternal importance. If a child does not learn to respect earthly authority figures, how can he or she learn to respect the One before whom all of us will stand in judgment (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:10)?
     Hopefully looking at some key words in the above title will be helpful to parents and others. 
     Authority – Whatever else one may say about the God whom we serve, it must be recognized that order is a fundamental concept. Fundamental to order is the concept of authority. We well remember the condition that existed in the days of the Judges when it was reported, “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25; see also 17:6). 
     Respect – Multiple citations could be given from the Scriptures to demonstrate God’s desire for His people to honor the elderly, governmental officials, elders, and other faithful servants of the Lord, parents, etc. A good summary statement of this concept may be found in Romans 13:7: “Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour.” 
     Children – While not inspired, there is more than a grain of truth in the statement, “As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.” Proverbs 22:6 still advised the reader to “Train up a child...” [emphasis mine]. How sad it is for parents to recognize far too late that they should have been trying to instill in their children a respect for authority from the earliest months of their lives onward. 
     Your – One of the “life lessons” that some parents and all children need to learn is that it is irrelevant what other families are doing with regards to honoring God and obeying Him. Christian parents in today’s society need to have the same attitude that Joshua of old had: “...as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). 
     In – Our Lord told us that thoughts, attitudes, and actions come “from the heart” (Matthew 15:18). It is to be remembered that true conversion takes place when one obeys "from the heart" (Rom. 6:17). Respect for authority must be instilled. 
     Building –
Just as there are certain things that are helpful in building a physical structure, there are similar things that are helpful in building a respect for authority in children. It is hoped that the ones discussed here will serve as a "springboard" for further study and discussion. While the following are not presented as being comprehensive, they are some of the things that are necessary.
     Time – No building of any significance is built in a day or two. Respect for authority begins to "take shape" over days, weeks, months, and years of effort. 
     Blueprint – We have the perfect blueprint. It has the words Holy Bible on its cover. Every parent needs to strive for consistency in applying its teaching. 
     Teamwork – Fathers and mothers [often with the help of some good brothers and sisters in the Lord] should work together—not pull in opposite directions—to achieve the worthy and eternally important goal of building respect. 
     Example – In human relations, a popular term today is "mentoring." In the building trades, a similar term and concept is that of being an "apprentice." Responsibilities are gradually "handed off" to the next generation which has learned much of what it knows from observation. We need to make sure we are "handing off" a healthy and proper respect for authority. 
     Foundation – None of the other things mentioned or any of the others that could be mentioned are of any value without a proper foundation. While we primarily think in terms of the church, it should be true as well with regards to families and individual lives that "other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:11). 
     Purpose – Why is the proposed structure being built? That will go a long way in determining how it is built. Parents should "build" respect in their children because they realize that the purpose for our existence is to bring glory and honor to our Father and to our Savior. 
      May God help all of us to strive for that in our own lives and to do all we can to instill that desire in those who are coming along after us.

- Jim Faughn, a retired preacher, serves as an elder for the Central Church of Christ in Paducah KY.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.centralchurchofchrist.org