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Monday, September 21, 2020

Life is too Short

By Bill Brandstatter

    One of my grandsons was married this year. Another grandson entered the sixth grade. Also, my wife and I will be celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary later this year. I also signed up for Medicare this year. It just doesn’t seem possible all those events are happening in the same year. It seems like I get up at six in the morning, and before I know it five in the afternoon is upon me. All this has caused me to contemplate life; what the Bible says about the brevity of life and how seriously we need to be to make the most of the life we have. The point of Biblical teaching is that the importance of life is not so much the quantity of years as it is the quality. The Psalmist wrote, “We spend our lives as a tale that is told,” (Ps. 90:9 KJV). What kind of tale is your life telling? In thinking about the quality of our lives, emphasis is placed on making the most of the time we have.
    We should pay attention and make the most of our lives on earth. The Psalmist wrote, “So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psa. 90:12 (NKJV) This is a similar thought Paul expressed when he wrote, “Redeeming our time because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:16) As we look back on life, do we have any regrets? As we look at the present, are there any changes we need to make? As we look toward the future, is there anything we can do now to affect the future?
    We can’t just compare our lives to others by indicating we are better than someone else. Our souls are precious (Mt. 16:26). We should do some serious thinking about where we are spiritually and where we want to be eternally. Peter told the Jews on Pentecost, “Save yourselves” (Acts 2:40). I have to do something because the future will be here before I know it.
    We should make the most of our lives because we don’t have long here compared to eternity. Peter described our lives as grass that eventually withers and falls away (1 Pet. 1:24). Life is compared in the Bible to: a sigh (Ps. 90:9); sleep (Ps. 90:5); a shadow (Eccl. 6:12); a moment (2 Co. 4:17); and a weaver’s shuttle (Job 7:6). Many of us can identify with these descriptions. We see how accurate these descriptions are every day we live.
    How are spending our lives? Do we pay more attention to the physical comforts of life than we do the spiritual? Jesus said, “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15). Let us be more diligent in our spiritual lives in case death comes too early for us and our lives are cut short.
Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://marionchurchofchrist.com/ 


“If They Do Not Listen …”

By Joe Chesser
 
    The story Jesus told about the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16 is fascinating on several points. It gives us insight as to what happens to us after we die. Lazarus was taken by angels to Abraham’s side, a place of comfort (16.25). When the rich man died he went to a place of torment (16.23). The story tells us that once death has taken place, our destiny is forever sealed (16.26). A great chasm is fixed to prevent movement from one place to the other (16.26). No second chances.
    But to me, the greatest impact of this story is how it ends. Why? Because the ending of the story affects every one of us now … today. The rich man could do nothing about where he was eternally, but he desperately wanted his five brother who were still living on earth to avoid ending up in torment with him. His hope was that if Abraham would send Lazarus back to earth to warn his brothers about the horrors of the place of torment, that they would pay special attention to someone who had come back from the dead, and repent. The rich man knew his five brothers were heading to the same place he was … and he didn’t want them to join him there.
    Abraham’s answer speaks volumes about how people listen to God and His word, both then and now. Abraham told the rich man, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead” (16.31). In the Scriptures God has “given us everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1.3). There is evidence enough in the Bible for everyone who wants to know how to go to heaven when they die to do so. No new miracles or signs are needed. The apostle John put it this way: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20.30-31). The problem is not insufficient information. The problem is that most people are not listening to the word of God and doing what it says. The rich man and his brothers had access to God’s way of salvation, but they chose not to live by them, as do many today.
    Over and over God warns us about listening to Him. That means hearing what He says and doing what He says.  Jesus said the wise builder is the one who hears God’s words and puts them into practice (Matthew 7.24). James warned his readers, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1.19). Only those who do the will of God will enter into his kingdom (Matthew 7.21). Your soul is too valuable for you to refuse to listen to and obey God.
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com 


Lights for the Lord

By Gerald Cowan

Holes in the darkness we would be
O Lord of light, O Lord of love.
The light and love that come from Thee
Who brought it to us from above,
Who opened up our eyes to see
And opened up our hearts to love.

Curtains of ignorance and doubt
Hide from our eyes, hide from our hearts
The Lord we willingly shut out.
The Lord from whom we stand apart
And whom we cannot live without,
Now threatens from us to depart.
   
Out of the dark abyss of hate
Can we still climb?  We try to crawl,
But selfishness does not abate,
Self pleasing sin has caused our fall.
Have our eyes opened Lord too late?
Is there a way to save us all?
   
Dressed in God’s armor we can find
Salvation and security.
Protected body, soul, and mind
In Christ we have immunity.
Our ever watchful Lord will bind
All threats to soil our purity.

We would punch holes of living hope
Into the darkness of despair
When we with troubles cannot cope,
Life seems destroyed beyond repair
And victory exceeds our scope,
Punch holes of our God’s loving care.

Holes in the darkness. Lord we yearn
To be in Christ, to be Christ-filled,
To overflow with what we learn,
With Him His cause on earth to build,
By overcoming with Him earn
The heav’n that for us He has willed.
- 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


Caught From Behind

By Ron Thomas

    The year, I think, was the Fall of 1981. I was playing rugby with the only team from Marion, Ohio; we were playing Ohio Wesleyan University on campus in Delaware. I don’t remember whether we won the match or not, but I remember very well being caught from behind. In rugby (similar to football) there are no forward passes allowed; all passing must be backward laterals. Defensively, I was playing outside center, which put me in perfect position to intercept one of those laterals. I did! As I was running with much energy down the field I was caught from behind by “Speedy Gonzales” (had to be his name!); not only did he catch me, but his tackle drilled my right shoulder in the concrete-hard dirt. I don’t remember much of the game, but I remember that.
    Do you try to outrun anything? There are many things in our past we try to outrun. They are scarred memories. Perhaps we never addressed them or, perhaps, we did but their imprint won’t leave us alone. If we have not addressed them then be sure your sin will find you out. These are the words of Moses to some of the tribes of Israel when they promised him they would cross the Jordan River and fight for their brethren as they settled the land (Numbers 32:23).
    You promised the Lord in your conversion He would be the One to whom you would devote your life. That means there is no other who has such a hold on you as the Lord does – and for good reason, the Lord Jesus died to give you His life. He is your everything, He is your all.
    It might be painful and embarrassing to give attention to a significant failing or failings in your life. It would be for any of us. True as that may be, what is the alternative? Carry it with you? You will be caught from behind.
- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website. http://sunrushchurchofchrist.com/


God, What Can I Do For You?

By Donna Wittlif

"Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always  abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord  your labor is not in vain" (1 Cor. 15:58, ESV).
    Fanny J. Crosby's blindness came from a doctor's  mistreatment for an eye infection when she was one year  old. Fanny did not let blindness hinder her, nor was she  bitter. However, her one wish was to be able to read. She  tried to go to school, but the teachers did not know how  to teach her, and they sent her home. But her  grandmother read the Bible to Fanny daily, and she  memorized what she heard. She often prayed to God,  asking, "What can I do for You?"
    Fanny's gift from God was her ability to compose  poetry, which she had friends write down. Her mind and  heart were filled with God's word, and she turned to it for  her poetry. During her lifetime she wrote and had set to  music hundreds of the hymns that Christians all over the  world sing. She was voted one of the most important  women in the United States.
    "What can I do for you today, God?" This is a prayer  we can say every morning. It will turn our minds from our  troubles to God's power and strength as He works for us,  with us, and through us. No matter what our  circumstances are in life, God will use us in His kingdom  when we give our lives and our substance to Him.
    Let God surprise you. You may think you have no  talents to use for Him, but He will show you what you can  do. Whether it be a cup of cold water given in His name,  or some great deed, God will guide you and bless you. As  James wrote, "But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law  of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who  acts, he will be blessed in his doing" (James 1:25). May God  bless you as you work for 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/

Monday, September 14, 2020

The Family

By Ron Thomas

    The smallest unit in society is the individual. An individual, however, does not desire to be alone so; as the Lord set it up, marriage takes place wherein the two become one (Genesis 2:21-24). This is exclusively for the male and female, a heterosexual relationship. The Lord does not recognize homosexual relationships; in fact, He considers homosexuality an abomination. The natural outgrowth of this heterosexual relationship is a small family, starting with the husband and wife; the union between the two results in children. As the family starts with two, with children it goes to three, then four, perhaps more. Whatever the number, the smallest unit in society has now turned into a family with a generation to follow.
    Because of confusion, there are some in society who take unnatural relationship, relationships the Lord considers an abomination, and try to make it natural. It won’t work! That which is unnatural has its origin in this world, from the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4). In the Lord’s plan, the male/husband/father is the leader in the family, the female/wife/mother is in submission to his leadership. His leadership must be patterned after the Lord's way, a way of love and righteousness. If the family is not patterned after the Lord’s way, the family sways to and fro, like a boat on the water with wave after wave, no steadiness in the hand that leads. With no steadiness at the helm, where does the ship with a family on it go? Perhaps into the realm of the unknown, directed by hearts uncertain about what to do, how to do it. If a person says he/she knows what to do and how to do it, then this family on a ship tossed back and forth in the midst of a tumultuous sea will arrive at a destination not of their choosing. In either case, without the Lord, not much of a journey!

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


Sometimes Family Members are Wrong!

By Ron Thomas

    As important as one’s family is, sometimes family members are very wrong about others. Two examples: consider Jephthah. He was the son of his father Gilead, but to a woman not the mother of his siblings (Judges 11). When the children were grown, because Jephthah was not a “full-blooded” member of the family (i.e., having the same mother as they), they kicked him out and down the road (so to speak). Because he was thrust out from the family and on his own, he had to make his own way; he learned how to be a warrior. A portion of Israel was in trouble, the children of Ammon were beating down the door (if you will) and because Jephthah proved himself a man of valor, Jephthah was called to lead them in this difficult time. They judged him unacceptable, but then changed their minds when they were in a hard spot.
    Second, David was the youngest son of Jesse, a devoted man to the Lord. David was a man of valor, but his older brothers did not see him the way the Lord did. David was a courageous man. On one notable occasion, when his older brothers fought for King Saul in the Israelite army, a huge man named Goliath called out Israel for a warrior to do battle. David asks about this and his older brother took exception to David’s inquiry. Nevertheless, David steps forward during Goliath’s mocking. In the end, David is victorious.
    Sometimes families get things wrong. If they judge family members wrong, people they know well, how well will they judge things they don’t know as well? If you have family members against you or who are not sure about you (including the church family), be reminded there were others before you. What should you do? Stay the course of righteousness, trust in the Lord and do not lean on your own understanding about how to navigate uncertainty. You will also be victorious.
- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website. http://sunrushchurchofchrist.com/


Only Pay For What You Need

By Joe Slater

    I suppose you’ve seen those obnoxious insurance commercials insisting that you should switch to that company because you’ll only pay for what you need. Unless your name is Rip Van Winkle, you know that all insurers let you select the coverage you want. If your vehicle has no loan against it, you aren’t required to have full coverage. Not exactly news, right?
    How does “only pay for what you need” apply to our relationship with God? Just how much religion do you need, and what will it cost you?
    Some would say they don’t need much at all. “I’m a good person. I don’t drink or cuss or smoke or . . . (you extend the list as far as you like). So why would I need religion?” Let us be reminded: “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). I doubt that you’re any better than Cornelius (Acts 10), who needed to hear “words by which you and all your household will be saved” (Acts 11:14). Cornelius needed full coverage; so do you!
    As to what it will cost you, the premium is astronomical. If you had all the money in the world, you couldn’t start to commence to begin to make a down-payment on the interest! Fortunately for us, Jesus paid the price for our redemption: His blood (1 Peter 1:19).
    There is a sense, however in which it will cost you everything. Jesus said, “Whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:33). We’re not talking dollars-and-cents here. We’re talking about dedication and willing surrender to the will of Christ – not half-hearted lip service, but genuine commitment to the Lord.
    Jesus paid for everything you need. Do you mean it when you sing, “I surrender all”?
- 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

A Halo Around the Hand?

By Gerald Cowan

Let your light so shine that men may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

Among the works of Rembrandt there is an etching which pictures Jesus driving money changers out of the temple (see John 2:14-17). The curious thing about this work is that there is no halo around the head of Jesus, as was customary in the art of that time. You’ve no doubt seen art works depicting Jesus or some member of the “holy family,” or a painting of angels or martyrs  or a supposed representation of God with a nimbus of light, a halo, around the head. But in this picture by Rembrandt instead of a halo around the head of Jesus there was a halo around the hand holding the whip. What is the explanation?  Some art experts argue that since Rembrandt was a Protestant  he probably did not understand the proper use of halos. That may be. But I wonder if anybody in Rembrandt’s time thought to ask him what he meant by this particular painting.
A halo around the hand! That circle of light called a halo was an artistic convention  used at times to identify deity or divine purpose, or to call attention to some divine act. It could be used to indicate dedication to the will and purposes of God – pictures of apostles and other ministers and special servants of God  are often haloed. Perhaps what Rembrandt was trying to show is the hand of Jesus Christ dedicated to God and doing the work of God. “Zeal for Your house consumes me” (John 2:17). One could just as properly encase the whole body of Jesus in a halo.
Suppose that a picture could be drawn of you, one that attempted to symbolize your dedication to God. What part or parts of you would be haloed? Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength” (Mark 12:30). The apostle Paul urges that you “Present your body – your self and your all – as a living sacrifice” to the Lord (Rom. 12:1). Perhaps this kind of obvious dedication of oneself and one’s possessions and resources is what Jesus had in mind when he said, “Let your light – your haloed self – so shine before men that they may see....and glorify God.”
- 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


Ability Plus . . .

By Gerald Cowan

    What is a talent? How many do you have? According to the dictionary, a talent is a special ability, and no doubt this is the way most people use the word today. Whenever they read or hear the word talent, they assume it means ability. That often leads them to make an improper application of “the parable of the talents” that Jesus told (Mt. 25:14-30).
    The talents in that parable are not abilities but rather sums of money entrusted to servants whose abilities were known and appreciated by their master (just read verse 15 for the point about ability, and then read verse 27 to notice that the talent here was money). The talents in the parable amounted to opportunities to use one’s abilities in the service of the master. The point for us: God knows our abilities and gives each of us opportunities to use them in His service. The money and other resources one has constitute only one of the opportunities God gives him for service in the kingdom of Christ. The principle “Ability Plus Opportunity Equals Responsibility” applies to service of any and every kind.
    For the moment let us put aside the parable (do not forget the principle) and talk about talents as abilities, and ask the question again: How many do you have, and how are you using them? Ability alone does not make one acceptable in the Lord’s service. Nor does opportunity alone mean one is approved by the Lord. Only when ability is applied to opportunity and results in service can one really expect approval from God. If you want to be sure you are using your talents properly, you will need to develop some other important characteristics. Here is a list of five abilities: the first four are optional or elective. The last one is mandatory; it cannot be rejected or avoided. Do not jump down the page to number 5. Read and think about the others, in the order listed.
    AVAILABILITY.  It doesn’t really matter how “talented” you are if you are not available. There are people who could do many things, but you can’t get them to do much. So, are you available to do whatever you can, whenever you are called upon?
    DEPENDABILITY. Some accept assignments but you never know if they will actually follow through and do what they agree to do. Are you reliable? Can you be depended upon to do what you say you will do?
    DURABILITY.  Someone has said that it isn’t just how well you start but how long you last that really counts. How long will you last? How long can you be depended upon? Will you give up when the going gets tough, or will your see the job through to the end, as long as you are able?
    EXCITABILITY. Enthusiasm! How enthusiastic are you?  Is service a burden or a joy? 
    Be sure that you develop all these qualities, because – remember the principle – ability plus opportunity adds up to ACCOUNTABILITY. We are responsible, whether we accept it or not. When the Master returns, every one of us will have to give an account of our service, and the Master will respond appropriately to each one. And that is what the parable of the talents is all about.
    Perhaps we should ask about one more. What is the PROBABILITY that you will  apply this lesson to yourself and receive any personal benefit from it?
- 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



Monday, September 7, 2020

A Passenger on a London Train "Made My Day" **

By Gerald Cowan
    Like the people in many other big cities, people in London tend to be cold and suspicious. To smile at a stranger or even to make eye contact can invite unwelcome attention from people wanting things you don’t want to give or offering things you don’t want to receive. This cold and forbidding attitude can throw a gloomy overcast on your whole day. You can feel very much alone, even in a crowd of people. You yearn for someone to notice that you exist, to acknowledge that you have value, to make some sort of contact that will identify both of you as persons.
    One day I was a standing passenger just inside the doorway on a over-crowded subway train (London Underground Railway). I engaged in a little people-watching. A young woman was seated facing me caught my attention, although, to tell the truth, my thoughts about her were not approving or complimentary. Wild clothing, wild hair style and makeup, black lipstick, black  nail polish on fingers and toes, hair bleached to the consistency of straw, spiked and spray painted purple and green, multiple rings in her ears, metal studs piercing everything, a lot of bare skin and some inappropriate tattoos. I said to myself, “That is weird – that is really weird!”
    The train broke down between stations, and it quickly got very warm – no air flow, and all those bodies packed closely together. I got very hot and was soon sweat drenched, and no doubt very red-faced. Nobody said anything to me, and nobody seemed to care. I took off my raincoat and my suit coat, loosened my tie, opened my collar, and fanned myself with my cap. Not much help. I had a rising sense of panic. Then I noticed one person looking at me, and when she caught my eye she mouthed the words, “You OK?” I just nodded at her and said, “I’ll be OK. Not to worry.” And I really did feel better, somehow. Somebody did care, after all! She kept monitoring my condition,  nodding several times reassuringly – she even offered me her seat, but I didn’t take it.
    About a half-hour later we were pushed bucking and bouncing into the next station. Paramedics were there to make sure everybody was OK. As I left the train the same person caught my eye again, gave me a thumbs up sign, and smiled. Now a smile is a universal sign of good will. Everybody understands a smile. That one smile really made my day. It changed my perspective about the person too. Yes it was the same person I had thought was so weird, but by now I wasn’t thinking much about the black lipstick and nail polish, the green and purple spiked hair, the rings and metal studs, and all the rest of it. A person had smiled and said, “I’m glad you’re OK.”  She made my day.
    I learned a lot from that girl on the train in London. I learned that I do not enjoy being treated as non-existent, a non-person, a non-entity. I decided that most other people probably feel the same way. I learned that you can’t really judge a book or a person by the cover, by anything external. The sense of reassurance I felt from a little bit of concern a stranger showed to me taught me that others might feel the same way if I showed concern for them as persons.
    The Lord Jesus interacted as a person with other persons – he wanted his involvement with humanity to be personal. He sends us into the world as persons, not only to be involved with other persons, but to lead others to become involved with him as personal Lord and personal Savior. If you want to make somebody’s day and life and eternity, introduce him or her to Jesus Christ. Don’t forget to add the smile and the evidence of interest and concern for a fellow traveler – everyone you see is a passenger with you on the way to somewhere.

**Reprint from 30 years ago.  I lesson I needed to learn again.  Maybe it will help you too.
- 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


Religious Experiences

By Joe Slater

    Does having a “religious experience” save you (or prove that you are saved)? Some religious groups require one to relate a religious experience; then they decide whether that experience shows the person is saved and should be granted membership. How does this compare to the New Testament record?
    In Acts 2, the Jews in Jerusalem definitely had a religious experience! “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they (the 120) were sitting . . . And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language” (2:2, 6). But even though it was supernatural, that “experience” didn’t save anyone! When the apostles preached the gospel, 3000 believed and responded in repentance and immersion, thus receiving salvation.
    Who can deny that Saul of Tarsus had a religious experience in Acts 9? “Suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’” (9:3-4). Contrary to popular belief, this experience didn’t save Saul. God sent Ananias to tell him what to do; Saul “arose and was baptized” (9:18).
    Cornelius certainly could lay claim to having a religious experience. An angel of God appeared, telling him to send for Peter (Acts 10:1-6). But that experience didn’t save him! Peter told him “words by which you and all your household will be saved” (Acts 11:14). Cornelius and his household obeyed the gospel just like all the others (Acts 10:47-48).
    Even if you had a supernatural experience today (which you won’t), that wouldn’t save you! “Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord!” (Acts 22:16)
- 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


God Offers Help With Our Emotions

By Joe Chesser

    When God created us, He created us capable of a wide range of emotions: amusement, anger, anxiety, awe, awkwardness, boredom, calmness, confusion, disgust, empathy, excitement, fear, joy, love, peace, and relief, just to name a few. Emotions are complex. According to some theories, they are states of feeling that result in physical and/or psychological changes that influence our behavior. Often our behavior is governed more by emotions than evidence. That’s not necessarily a bad thing … at least not always.
    One thing that many researchers fail to acknowledge is the spiritual nature of  our emotions as they connect with God. When guided by the Holy Spirit, emotions can greatly enrich our human experience. There is no love greater than knowing the love of God (Ephesians 3.16-19). No greater peace can be experienced than that which comes from God (Philippians 4.6-7). The Scriptures encourage us to allow God, with His help, to develop positive emotions within us, things like joy, compassion, trust, patience, etc. They also instruct us to avoid or control negative emotions like anger, hatred, envy, jealousy, etc. If we neglect the Spirit’s help in dealing with our emotions, we are left on our own to grapple with the ups and downs of life.
    For the past several months we have been bombarded with information and situations that are challenging our emotions. None of us have been unaffected by the racial unrest, the political division, the economic challenges, and our personal and governmental reaction to COVID-19. Our families, our communities, our nation and even our churches are experiencing emotional turmoil.
    The good news amidst all this bad news is that none of this is taking God by surprise, and, if we choose, we can depend on Him for help in sorting all of this out. This is not the first time people have been distressed, confused and brokenhearted, nor is it likely the last. No matter how many times it has happened or will happen, God always holds out his heart and hands to offer us help, even with our emotional responses to these things. Events in life may break our hearts and crush our spirits, but there is never a reason for despair. “When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all … fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Psalm 34.17-19; Isaiah 41.10). Fear not; troubled emotions are one of God’s specialties.
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com


For Productive Lives: Labor

By Ronald Bartanen

     God created man to be productive.  Even before the “fall,” Adam was given the responsibility of tending the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:15), with Eve as his helper (v. 18).  After man sinned, his labors were intensified (vs. 17-19).  Being without modern labor-saving dev ices, Adam had to rely upon his own ingenuity, God-given skills and hard effort.  While mankind has progressed technology to lessen the burdens, the mandate has not been lifted.  Adam was no “couch potato,” nor is it God’s will that any person of sufficient health and opportunity should shirk the responsibility of honest productive labor.  It may not always be physically strenuous labor, but productive labor nevertheless.  A part of Christian character is to endeavor to be productive in the care, not only of one’s self, but also one’s family.  So serious is this responsibility, that the apostle Paul declared plainly, “If any man provide not for his own, and especially those of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel” (1 Timothy 5:8).  The man who would purposely seek a lethargic lifestyle will certainly lose self-respect, the respect of others, and, most tragically, the respect of God.  While it is obvious that those unfortunates who, because of various handicaps, are unable to care for themselves and their families, are incapable of productivity, those who, with good health, class themselves as being worthy of “entitlements” are cursing themselves and all of society.  Paul encountered this attitude among the Thessalonian Christians, as some, possibly expecting the soon-return of Christ, sought to live off the brethren without laboring.  Of such, he wrote, “For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thess. 3:10), then urging that such “work, and eat their own bread” (v. 12).  The word of God gives no slack for those who are slothful.
     It is not surprising that God expects His children to also labor fervently in the spiritual realm, as well as the physical.  Jesus, in instructing His disciples, frequently compared service to Him in parables depicting laborers.  We are to be laborers in the vineyard of the Lord (Matthew 20:1 f.f.).  As farmers on the Lord’s farm, we are expected to put our hand to the plow, and not look back (Luke 9:52).   Upon the Lord’s return, we will give an accounting for our labors, and sadly, some will hear Him say, “Cast the wicked and unprofitable servant into outer darkness” (Matt. 25:30).  Referring to the Hebrew Christians’ “labor of love” and their ministry to the saints (believers),, the writer of Hebrews urges “diligence”, then admonishing, “that ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb. 6:10-12).  While there is no merit wherein we gain salvation through our good works, a genuine faith will be a faith that serves the Lord to the extent of one’s ability and opportunity.  If we were to be perfect in our works, we would still have to admit ourselves to be “unprofitable servants,” inasmuch as we have simply “done that which was our duty to do” (Luke 17:10).  There will be no point in this life when we can say, “I’ve done enough.”  The Lord has no “retirement plan” for us in this life..  It is only when, after a lifetime of service, we “die in the Lord” that the faithful will at the close of day “rest from their labors,” with the assurance that the believers “works do follow them” (Revelation 14:13).  May we, therefore, be admonished by Paul: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as we know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” *1 Corinthians 15:58)
- Ronald Bartanen preaches for Arthur Church of Christ, Arthur, IL.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://arthurcoc.com/


I'm So Weary Of Living Here Below

By Joseph D. Chase

    Have you ever been so tired of the sin in the world that you just wanted to leave this world for Heaven? I think many godly saints have felt that way a few times. However, the darker and more sinful this world becomes makes it more necessary for us to be busy about the Lord's work.
    God has not given up so neither can we. I pray we will see each person as the soul that they are not the sins they commit. We should remember clearly, "but for the grace of God, there goes I."  We should feel like Paul...
Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”(1 Corinthians 15:8–10 ESV)
God will use us to accomplish His great work. He provides the increase when we plant and water.  It should break our hearts to see the sinner headed for judgment day. It should motivate us to action.
    Lord, God, I am so weary of what seems to be insurmountable wickedness in our world. But I know that the powerful word is able to accomplish what you send it to do. Give me the courage, strength, and desire to take your message to those who are lost in sin. Grant me the days and hours of strength to do what you have clearly bidden me to do. Lord, please send me fellows who have the same desire to win souls for Jesus. It is in His precious name that I beg these petitions.
- Joseph D. Chase serves the North Loop Church of Christ in Gladewater, TX. He may be contacted through their website: http://northloopcoc.com/


Tuesday, September 1, 2020

The Christian Tree

By Edd Sterchi

   If a Christian were a tree, what should it look like?
  • It would have roots that grow downward. Roots help with strength and stability. Roots also bring nutrients to the tree. Deeply rooted in the Scriptures the Christian can stand strong.
  • It would be healthy inward. A tree must be healthy from the inside out. Spiritual health for the Christian begins with the heart.
  • It would stretch up ever upward. A tree is always growing, stretching its leafy branches toward the sky. The Christian must ever be growing toward and pointing to heaven.
  • It would produce fruit outward. A fruit tree yields much produce. The Christian is to be productive in good works and fruit of the Spirit.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.”
(Jer. 17:7-8)
- 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/


When In Need

By David A. Sargent

    Recently Fresno (CA) police officers went to the home of Mayra Varela in search of her brother, Gerardo Varela, who was a suspect in a robbery committed the previous night.  Gerardo was in the home and tried to elude the police by setting fire to his sister’s home.  Gerardo was apprehended, but the house was lost.  That left Mayra and her three-year-old child homeless.
    Sgt. Stacie Szatmari was one of the police officers who responded to the call.  The plight of Mayra and her daughter touched her heart.  She resolved to try to help the small family.  Szatmari reached out to the police chaplaincy to get the family a room for the night.  She also contacted the Red Cross to secure more long term housing.  Szatmari also collected toiletries, clothes, and shoes for the family and delivered the supplies to the family last week.
    “It was like Christmas Day,” Valera told KFSN-TV, an ABC affiliate. “She was bringing Christmas gifts.  Some stranger just said, ‘Here's everything you need for your family now.’”
    When asked why she helped the Varela family, Szatmari responded, “That's the way I was raised.  If someone is in need, I need to help out.” *
    When we were in dire need, Someone came to our rescue.
    Our greatest need is salvation from sin.  Our sin puts us on the path to eternal destruction in the fires of hell (Matthew 7:13-14).
    But despite the fact that our sins are a direct affront to the God who created us, God loves us so much that He made provision for our salvation from sin.  He sent His one and only Son, Jesus, to our rescue.  Jesus had to give His life to pay the price of redemption for our sins.  He died for us so that we can be saved from sin and receive the gift of eternal life.  “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
    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).
    When “our house was burning to the ground,” God sent Jesus to save us.  Jesus “gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Galatians 1:4 NIV).
    Won’t YOU accept His offer of salvation and eternal life by trusting and obeying Christ today?

* Information gleaned from “California cop brings summer 'Christmas' to family left homeless by fire” by Julia Musto, www.foxnews.com, and “Fresno police officer helps family that lost home in house fire” by Nathalie Granda of KFSN Television, LLC - ABC30, www.abc30.com.
- 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 


As Time Speeds Up

By J. Randal Matheny

As time speeds up, the mind and body slow,
But hope we may that flowers of wisdom grow,
That roots of strength and peace may penetrate,
To right the tree of life in winds of fate.

Let seasons, dry or rainy, bear their fruits,
To praise the unchanging God of Absolutes,
And, in the final day, in spite of wrongs,
Receive me, Lord, to sing eternal songs.
- J. Randal Matheny edits and writes UPLift, an inspirational ezine. He
may be contacted here: <http://randalmathenycom/>. When reprinting this
material, please include the following:  
Copyright (c) 2020 J. Randal Matheny
All rights reserved. You may forward the
email to friends as is. You may not alter
it in any way or remove any text or
attributions.

Choose Life

By Rob Albright

     There are just two ways to go (Matthew 7:13-14). There is the way that leads to destruction and there is the way that leads to life. Even though there are many that choose the way of destruction, it is not the choice to make – choose life!
     Why choose life? Because if we don’t we will be in a deplorable situation -lost!
     To “enter by the narrow gate” takes some effort but the effort is worth it. Jesus said “there are few who find it.” The narrow way with the narrow gate is too restrictive for many. Many people just want to do what they want to do. Listening to the words of Jesus and following Him leads to life -choose life – choose to follow Jesus and His right ways.
     Jesus and His Words have the power to change us and set us on the right course. So, Sunday (March 29) at 10:30 am, we will study about what that change looks like. Go to the church website and click on Facebook and let’s study together.
- 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/


Constants in a Changing World

By David A. Sargent

    “The only constant in life is change.” – Heraclitus, ancient Greek philosopher
Who could have ever imagined the changes that COVID-19 and the pandemic have brought into our lives?  One wonders what additional changes lay ahead.
Living in a constant state of change, it is good to be reminded of some things that do not change.
    God is still God.  "For I am the LORD, I do not change” (Malachi 3:6).  The psalmist praised God saying: “Of old You laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands.  They will perish, but You will endure; Yes, they will all grow old like a garment; Like a cloak You will change them, And they will be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will have no end” (Psalm 102:25-27).  God is still God and is infinite in all of His attributes such as holiness, omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, and love.
    Sin is still the world’s greatest problem.  COVID-19 is a terrible problem in the world today, but it is not the greatest problem.  Sin is the greatest problem because it separates us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2) and dooms one to eternal destruction (Matthew 7:13-14).
    The Gospel still saves.  “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16).  The Gospel (“good news”) is that although every person has sinned and falls short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), God loves each and every one of us and wants to save us from sin (1 Timothy 2:4).  He loves us so much that He gave His one and only Son to die on the cross for our sins (John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
God will save those who obey the Gospel by placing their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turning from sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confessing Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and by being 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).
    Heaven awaits the faithful child of God.  An eternity in heaven where “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4), is God’s promised inheritance to His faithful children (Romans 8:15-18).  Please remember: earth is not heaven, so we cannot expect heaven on earth.  Christians, however, can look forward to “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for” them (1 Peter 1:3-4).
    In a world that is ever-changing, it’s good to hang on to those things that do not change.  God invites each of us to cling to Him and trust His promises.  What God has promised, He is able to perform (Romans 4:20-21).
    Won’t YOU cling to the Rock which shall not be moved through your trusting obedience?
- 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 


It’s All Up to Me

By Edd Sterchi

I cannot change others
But I can change me
I must learn to focus
Being the best I can be

When I change my outlook
And improve through and through
Amazingly I find
That others get better too

- 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/


When You Are in Over Your Head

By Johnny Hester

Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.
Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two.
And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said,
“Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’”
Having said this, He breathed His last. (Luke 23:44-46).
     “He breathed His last.” Those words cause one’s heart to sink. When Jesus exhaled for a final time on the cross, all the minions of Hell may well have thought that the battle was over and that victory belonged to Satan their evil commander. But how wrong they were! And how horrified they must have been just a short time later! Yes, Jesus suffered and died. He was buried. But then “He rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:4)! Furthermore, “He [The Father] has put all things under His feet” (v. 27)! Think for a moment about the wonderful implications of that truth that should compel us to praise, worship and live for God.
     “He has put all things under His feet” (v. 27). Do you ever feel that you are in way over your head with problems? That may be the case, but Jesus is over all things. He is in Heaven, interceding on your behalf! A glorious fact is powerfully declared in Romans 8:34, “Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” Where are your problems? “Under His feet”! Jesus is alive! He is in control! Jesus is coming again!
     Beloved, is there someone in your life who is hurting, suffering, struggling? Consider sending that person a note of encouragement and be sure to use Romans 8:34 as a closing verse of hope. Letting one know that Christ is alive, above, active and working on the behalf of His people can bring a comfort and strength that nothing else can produce.
- Johnny Hester preaches for the Matthews Church of Christ in Matthews, MO. He may be contacted at johnnyhester@yahoo.com


On Being One

By Rob Albright

     We might be tempted to pat ourselves on the back when all is well, but the praise goes to God for His care and protection. God is able to do more than we can ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20). God is faithful and there is no way we can be defeated if we walk in faith with Him. Every challenge and problem we have is an opportunity to show the power of God in our life. We serve a “can do” God.
      Notice I said “we” serve – another positive thing about our walk with the Almighty God is that we are not alone on this journey called faith. We lean on each other and help one another. We serve one another (Gal. 5:13), encourage one another (1 Thess. 5:11), and are devoted to one another (Rom. 12:10).
     Satan would love for us to lower our view of God and separate us as a unified body of believers, but God’s love for us (Romans 8:28-39) and our love for each other (John 13:34-35) is what makes us strong in the faith.
- 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/


A Life That Matters

By Joe Chesser
 
     This is a weekend for remembering. It’s a time to hold special services and a time for going to the cemeteries to decorate graves with flowers and pictures. We do this to remember and honor those who so gallantly defended our country’s freedom with their lives. This has been extended to also remember and honor those who hold a special place in our past – family, friends and other special people. We do this to keep alive in our memories those special people whose lives mattered to us.
     What is it that we remember? What is it that makes a person’s life live on after they have died? A popular inspirational reading captures some of what I am thinking:
            "What will matter most is...
            not what you bought, but what you built.
            not what you got, but what you gave.
            not your success, but your significance.
            not that you learned, but that you taught.
            not your competence, but your character.
            not your memories, but the memories that live on in those who love you.
     It’s so easy to major in minors, to let the insignificant dominate the important. It’s so easy to let making a living become more important than making a life. It’s so easy to believe that what you have is more important that who you are. It’s so much easier to buy gifts than it is to give yourself.
     You don’t have to be wealthy or talented or educated to live a life that matters. In fact, these are often the very things that prevent you from living a life that matters. Despite living in “extreme poverty,” the Macedonians lived lives that mattered. The rich young ruler didn’t (2 Cor. 8:1-5, Matt. 19:16-24). Though he had social status and education, the Pharisee did not choose to live a life that mattered. Yet, the humble tax collector did (Luke 18:9-14).
     Living a life that matters is not an accident. It’s about making the right choices. Choose people over possessions. Choose giving over getting. Choose others over self. Choose God over anything or anyone else.
      This Memorial Day weekend is a good time to remember how others had lived. While you are at it, take time to reflect on your own life. Are you living a life that matters? When others think of you, will they think of God?
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com


Troubled Hearts

By Al Behel

     A teenager took a rope and hanged himself in the family’s shed, depressed about his relationship with his girlfriend. A two year old is beaten with belts, her head repeatedly dunked into cold bath water, and is thrown to the floor because she doesn’t consistently say “please” and “thank you.” She dies from her injuries.
     These examples of troubled hearts are extreme, but frightening familiar. Most people don’t take their frustrations out in such violent ways. They may become depressed, have difficulty sleeping, eat too much, or turn to substance abuse to numb the pain. They may react in anger or internalize their stress. They are still very troubled, nonetheless. They have lost their sense of balance and meaning.
     We are told that everyone has a breaking point though few of us reach it. We ask how it could happen and why we didn’t see it coming. Could we have prevented it? What would have made a difference in the outcome? King David found the answer when he confronted his own enemies. He said, “In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears” (Psalms 18:6). He went on to tell of God’s powerful response in delivering him.
     Depression and despair that is borne of anger is like a brain cancer that eats away our peace. David continued, “Yea, you light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness” (18:28). The darkness of despair is made bright as day when we place our confidence in God. Unfortunately, many people never come to know the peace God provides.
     Where do you go when you are discouraged or troubled in heart? Do you turn to destructive actions or become bitter? Or do you sit quietly and call on the Lord? Do you lift Him up in your heart and listen to His voice? He will lift you up.
- 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/


Where You Are

By Donna Wittlif

"What ails thee, Hagar? Fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is" (Gen. 21:17, ASV).
    Do you ever feel like God doesn't hear you? That although your heart is full of sorrow, you're not as bad off as others to whom God must attend? Or perhaps you feel that you and what you are doing are not important enough for God to care?
    Hagar felt that way. Banished from the only home she had ever known, she wandered in the wilderness until her water ran out. She may have felt like she had nothing to live for, and she might have welcomed death, except for one thing. Her young son Ishmael was a stone's throw away under a shrub. She couldn't bear to watch him die, and she had given up hope.
    But God heard her voice and the cry of Ishmael. He told an angel to tell her that Ishmael would become a great nation. He opened her eyes to see a well of water. Hagar and Ishmael lived because God took care of them. The angel said, "God heard the voice of the lad where he is."
    God hears your voice too, wherever you are. Are you in a wilderness where you can't seem to accomplish anything? Maybe in a desert where you have lost all hope? Cry to God. He knows about your troubles, and he hears your voice where you are.
    When we feel lost and alone, may we say with the Psalmist, "I will lift up mine eyes unto the mountains: From whence shall my help come? My help comes from Jehovah, Who made heaven and earth" (Psalm 121:1, 2).

- 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 Finding Her Heart, and Donna's newest book, God's Desires for You: A Biblical Guide to Salvation, are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other book outlets. For more information visit her website. http://www.donnarwittlif.com/