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Monday, October 18, 2021

Lord, Teach Us To Pray

By Bryan McAlister

    “Lord, teach us to pray…”
    Is it any wonder that such a question would be asked of Jesus? Can you imagine what it must have been like to witness His prayer life? Jesus prayed at His baptism (Luke 3:21); Jesus prayed as often as He could (Luke 5:16); Jesus prayed as He called His Apostles (Luke 6:12); He prayed alone (Luke 9:18); He prayed with friends (Luke 9:28-29); He prayed for His friends (Luke 22:32); He prayed for His courage (Luke 22:41-44); He prayed at His crucifixion (Luke 23:34). It’s really is no surprise, all the time Jesus prayed, and at all the moments in His life when He chose to pray. Bear with me for a moment, hopefully you’ll see where we are taking this seemingly tangent of a thought, but, years ago a silly song asked the question, “Where do my socks go when I put them in the drier?” Out of our fear, I think the same bewilderment may sometimes capture our prayers. Where do my prayers go when I give them to God? Let’s see some principles concerning prayer.
    Who is Prayer to? – Prayer, in short is to God, but we do not need to think of God in singular form. God, as we encounter Him throughout scripture is revealed to us in three distinct personalities or identities. The Hebrews had numerous words/names to describe God. One of them is Elohim, which we might think of as a family name. Genesis 1:26 said, “Let Us make man in Our image.” Notice the plural and notice the family nature. When we speak of God, we speak of deity. When we speak of deity we speak of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, and through scripture all are revealed.
    Who is Prayer for? – Prayer is a spiritual blessing to those who are in Jesus Christ (Eph 1:3). “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers, but His face is against those who do evil” (I Peter 3:12). Prayer as it pertains to the relationship between God and the saved is wholly unique from prayer used by those outside the body of Christ, outside a covenant relationship with God. I’m thinking of the passengers on board a ship, bound for the city of Tarshish, when a violent wind began to endanger the ship and crew. All on board were praying to pagan gods, except one passenger, Jonah. Jonah was not praying at all, and his God was the true God, the God of Israel. The crew of the ship, began to pray to the God of heaven, in hopes that He would hear them and have mercy (Jonah 1:14). Incidentally, Jonah was on his way to a Gentile nation, to deliver to them a message of repentance. In the New Testament there is the example of Cornelius, a righteous man, who prayed daily, gave generously of his means, but he was not saved. He was praying, when an angel appeared to him, instructing him to send for Peter in Joppa, so he could teach Cornelius the gospel (Acts 10:1ff).
    These examples are simply to say, while prayer is reserved as a spiritual blessing, God is desiring of man to seek Him, and if man will seek God, he will find Him (Acts 17:27). Seeking Him, with an open and earnest heart will make the transformation of our life in every tangible and significant way.
- Bryan McAlister preaches for the Walnut Street Church of Christ in Dickson, TN. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: https://www.wscoc.com/


Wrapped In Light

By Al Behel

    When I read the Psalms I often wonder if I really know how to praise God. David and other Psalters seemed to grasp the essence of their Creator far better than we have done. Their recognition of His presence and power, as well as His love and mercy, caused them to lift up their voices is hymns of praise with hearts of devotion.
    One of those Psalms portrays the majesty of God by describing seven wonders of His creation. Following a declaration of God’s greatness as one who is “clothed with splendor and majesty”, King David outlines the various ways in which God has revealed Himself through His creation (Psalm 104).
    First, he declares that God “wraps Himself in light as with a garment; He stretches out the heavens like a tent” (v. 2). The sky is filled with evidence of His glory. The Hebrew word for “wraps” suggest that God “darkens” Himself with light. His splendor is so wonderful that man cannot see it, but can only stand in awe of it. We look at His creation and marvel at what He has made. The psalmist was able to look beyond the creation to the glory of the One who
made it.
    The second wonder David mentions is the earth, around which He has set a boundary (vs. 5-9). In another psalm he declared “the whole earth is full of Thy glory.” Next, he praises God for the water which God supplies to the earth and its inhabitants. When he looks at the grass and flowers and trees, he erupts in praise that the Lord has taken care of every need through massive vegetation. As one who spent many nights on the mountain ranges with the sheep he had shepherded, David couldn’t forget the moon and the sun. Their radiant beauty was a constant reminder that God was near. The sea, “vast and spacious” (v.25), is structurally balanced with the celestial realm of creation.
    The crowning part of God’s creation is man himself, to whom He has given life and for which He deserves to be praised and worshipped. David concludes his thoughts by saying, “May the glory of the Lord endure forever."
- Al Behel preaches for the Great Smoky Mountains Church of Christ in Pigeon Forge, TN. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://greatsmokymountainschurchofchrist.com/


What Kind of a Place is Heaven?

By Edd Sterchi

    From Rev. 21:9-22:5, we have an incredible description of heaven. Even though symbolic in language, we can still get an idea of what heaven is like.
    Heaven is a Beautiful Place (Rev. 21:9-27). When John tries to describe the most beautiful place which consists of nothing of the earth, he had to describe it in terms that we can relate to, thus he used precious gems, streets of gold, etc. There is no greater preciousness and beauty than what will exist in heaven.
    Heaven is a Bountiful Place (Rev. 22:1-2). John also describes heaven as a place where there is no want –everything is provided in the highest quantity and quality. In it is perfect life and health.
    Heaven is a Blissful Place (Rev. 22:3-5). John also wanted to remind us that heaven is a place of personal and permanent association with God – a place of peace and joy and love– forever.
- 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/


Are You An Expert?

By Bill Brandstatter

    My grandpa used to say that an expert was a man 50 miles away from home with a white shirt and a tie. Today people might be considered an expert if they have a large following on Facebook. If a person can get a number of people to agree with a certain point of view, that person might be considered an expert. Usually, we can find someone that will agree with us on almost every position we take. Today in our world there are a number of “experts.” They are not 50 miles away from home with a white shirt and a tie. They are on all the major outlets such as: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and others. These “experts” are believed because their information agrees with others, not necessarily with the truth.
    Some people are “experts” regarding the Bible. Some who don’t study the Bible much or not at all would tell you about what they did to be saved. Their salvation experience often doesn’t line up with what the Bible says. It always bothers me when someone will tell me what I ought to do as a preacher; or, they will tell me that I ought to know certain matters pertaining to the Bible. I guess they would be “experts” in their own eyes. In Acts 5:36, a man named Theudas rose up. He claimed to be somebody. Perhaps he would have called himself an “expert.” He failed, as did those who followed him.
    Some people are experts regarding life. These “experts” would say that anything in moderation is okay. They would also say that since certain habits or practices have not hurt them that they are immune to problems. Some people don’t like others telling them what to do with their lives. The medical people advice otherwise. Yet these “experts” ignore the advice of the real experts and do their own thing. The expert, James stated, “For what is life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away (James 4:14).
    Some people are experts regarding Christianity. These “experts” will tell of their experience and what others have said. They will elevate the traditions of men over the Word of God (Mt. 15:9). These “experts” would say it doesn’t matter what church you belong to or how you worship, just so long as you are sincere.
    Are you an expert? God is. He knows all that we need and He gives us what we need. Sometimes what God gives is a test. God gives us blessings. He always gives us what He wants to help us through life (2 Pet. 1:3). Do you want all that God has to give or are you going to be the “expert” and do it your own way?
- Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://marionchurchofchrist.com/


Christianity and Halloween

By Ronald Bartanen
 
    It’s that time of year again—the approach of my least-favorite holiday, Halloween, a contraction for “All Hallow’s Evening.” Many scholars believe it to be a Christianized version of Celtic harvest festivals and other pagan festivals. Others disagree, believing it to have solely Christian roots. The Celtic-view suggests its origin to have been in the Roman festival of Pomona , , goddess of fruit and seeds, which was observed at the end of summer, on or about Oct. 31-Nov. 1. At such festivals the souls of the deceased were invited to attend, places even being set for them at the table. Evil spirits were warded off by such fall customs as bonfires and what we know as jack-o-lanterns. The latter in those early days were not made from pumpkins, however, but from turnips, with grotesque faces representing evil spirits or goblins, and sometimes the souls of the dead. Those holding to more Christian origins believe these were used to scare witches, reminding them of their future punishment in hell. The wearing of costumes (“guising”) began to be practiced in English-speaking countries in the 18th century, as children and adults would sometimes go from house to house in guise, singing songs in exchange for food or cakes. Such customs did not make their way to North America until the late 18th and early 19th century. The Puritans were strongly opposed to such customs. It was not until early in the 20th century that Halloween was popularized. I recall wearing a Halloween mask and going to houses, accompanied by my parents, while living in my earlier years in Indianapolis , which would have been possibly 1939.
    While some debate the origin of the holiday—whether pagan or Christian—some churches use the day as an opportunity for religious celebration and activities. Some visit graveyards, placing flowers and candles on the graves of loved ones. In Poland , believers pray aloud while walking through the forests to give comfort to the souls of the dead, while in Spain priests ring church bells as a reminder to congregants to remember the dead. Some observe the season as a time for fasting and prayer. Some Protestants observe it as Reformation Day, inasmuch as Martin Luther chose this day to nail his Ninety-Nine Thesis to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg . Sometimes children dress as Bible characters and Reformers. Many take advantage of the season to include tracts as children go trick-or-treating.
    Some Christians fear the day trivializes, or even celebrates, such things as paganism and the occult. Orthodox Jews, as well as many Christians, resist observance of such customs on the basis of Leviticus 18:3, in which God’s people were warned against observing the traditions or customs of the Egyptians.
    One thing is sure: Halloween has everything to do with death, witches, skulls, graveyards, etc., and nothing to do with life. Perhaps it could be said its only benefit would be to remind us of the reality of a fearsome realm of evil, of which we must beware. Jesus, however, glorifies life, not death. He is “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). He said, “I am come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10), laying down His life for us, and taking it up again in His resurrection (vs. 17-18). Every day, for the believer, is a celebration—not of death, but of life in Jesus Christ.
- Ronald Bartanen is a retired minister who for many years served the Lord's church in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee. He may be contacted at: ron33dor@yahoo.com


Monday, October 11, 2021

Special Notice:


October 7, 2021 marked the passing of longtime contributor, faithful gospel preacher, and friend, R.W. McAlister of Jonesboro, IL. In honor of R.W., today will mark a departure from our usual weekly posts on the various platforms utilized by BulletinGold (our website, Facebook page and Facebook Group). Below is one of R.W.'s articles he had graciously submitted for use in BulletinGold. Prayers are extended to R.W.'s family as they go through this difficult time.

What Constitutes a Saint?

By R.W. McAlister

         With the recent declaration of Pope John the XXIII and Pope John Paul the II as saints, it makes one wonder, "What is involved in becoming a saint?" Notice the following from CNN.com: 
"To be named a saint involves a series of steps, but the qualifications are straightforward, according to the veteran Vatican analyst John Allen. 'You put a holy life and two miracles together, according to the Catholic system, you've got a saint,' he said.'"
Is that a Biblical teaching? 
         Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writes to the church at Rome in Rom. 1:7: "To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints:" Who are called to be saints? The beloved of God.  
         In I Cor. 1:2, in writing to the Lord's church at Corinth, Paul penned these words: "…to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:" Who are called to be saints? All who are 1) sanctified (set apart) in Jesus Christ, and, 2) those who call upon the name of the Lord. So, what does it mean to call upon the name of the Lord? 
         In his sermon on the day of Pentecost, Peter declared: “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). In view of this statement, folks sometimes ask: "Why do members of the church of Christ insist that baptism is a requirement for being saved?" You see, calling upon the Lord’s name, and being baptized, are synonymous obligations. 
         It's clear that simply “calling” on the name of Christ is not enough to bring salvation since Jesus Himself declared in Matt. 7:21: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”  
         Clearly, therefore, “calling” on Christ involves more than a mere verbal or mental plea. Calling on the name of the Lord includes repentance and baptism. 
         In Acts 2, the same apostle who promised salvation to all who “call on the name of the Lord,” also commanded: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (2:38). 
         Since the “shall be saved” of 2:21 is equivalent to the “forgiveness of sins” in 2:38, it necessarily follows that “calling on the name of the Lord” includes both repentance and baptism. 
         Note Acts 22:16. Ananias instructed Saul as follows: “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”
          All who wish to enjoy the remission of past sins, and thus be saints, will call on the name of the Lord by obeying the gospel plan of salvation. When Paul addresses Christians, he refers to them as saints (Rom. 1:7; I Cor. 1:2; I Cor. 14:33; I Cor. 16:1; II Cor. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; 2:19, and many other verses). In becoming a Christian, one becomes a saint. How does one become a Christian? By hearing the word of God preached (Rom. 10:17), believe it - believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Heb. 11:6), repent of your sins (Luke 13:3), confess faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God (Acts 8:36-37), be baptized (Acts 2:38; I Pet. 3:20-21), and live faithfully unto death – (Rev. 2:10).  
         The Catholic church says John Paul miraculously cured Marie Simon-Pierre, a French nun stricken by Parkinson's disease, several months after his death.         
         Also according to them, the second miracle occurred when a Costa Rican woman with a brain aneurysm recovered after praying to John Paul. 
         John XXIII, revered for his role in the Second Vatican Council, is only recorded as having performed one miracle after his death in 1963. (It seems they even violate their own laws, not just God's!) 
         There's no need to perform even one miracle. None of us can do that anyway. The power to perform true miracles ended upon the completion of the New Testament (I Cor. 13:8-10).  
         Furthermore, Jesus teaches us to pray to God, the Father (Matt. 6:9), who is alive on His throne in Heaven (Rev. 7:15), not to any mortal who has passed from this life. Let us understand what the Bible says and abide by it in all things.
- R.W. McAlister served as a minister to the Anna Church of Christ in Anna, IL until his death in October 2021.This was his own home congregation in which he grew up. R.W. was a beloved member of his community and a popular teacher in the agriculture department at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, MO. To visit the congregation's website go to: http://www.annachurchofchrist.com/


Monday, October 4, 2021

“I Am” Able to Help You

By Edd Sterchi

     Each of the “I am” statements of Jesus in the book of John displays an important aspect of how He can meet our true needs.
* When Jesus said, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35), He stated that He can sustain our souls forevermore. He is that which nourishes and satisfies.
* When Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), He was saying that He provides enlightenment and guidance in a place of uncertainty and peril. He will always be a beacon of truth.
* When Jesus said, “I am the door” (John 10:7), He was disclosing that He is the passageway to heaven. He is also the portal to a better life on earth.
* When Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11), He was articulating that He will take care of His own. He can provide support, spiritual health, and safety.
* When Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), He was declaring that He can raise us from the dead. He can give us a new life upon the earth and a resurrected life in heaven for eternity.
* When Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), He was revealing that the only way to be reconciled to the Father in heaven is through Him. He is THE way.
* When Jesus said, “I am the true vine” (John 15:1), He was divulging that connection to Him is the formula for spiritual success. He guarantees growth if we remain with Him.
     Our greatest needs are a relationship with God and a home in heaven forevermore. Jesus can meet those needs – and more! He is able to help us. In fact, He is the only one who can help us in this regard. Jesus says, “I am” able to help you. Have you received His help?
- 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/


A Horror Story!

By Ron Thomas

    I recently heard a horror story within a congregation of the Lord’s people. There were children to be taught, but there was no teacher. A genuine horror story, if you ask me. You don’t think that’s a horror story? Think about it. Congregations desire children to come, so they plan and prepare for teachers, have the teachers in place, but for one reason or another the teacher or teachers can’t be there. The children come, but there is no teacher to teach them.
    What happened? Sickness? Travel? Whatever it might be, a most discouraging sentiment expressed, or something like it, would be “It’s not my job!” Maybe someone might say, “I was not assigned to teach that age group, so why should I be expected to teach them?” How about this, “I am not comfortable with that age group; my personality just does not work.” Even another one, “I am not a teacher!” You get the point.
    Yes, I know; we have heard it a thousand times, in various contexts, “It’s not my job!” Sometimes it is said with emphasis, sometimes it is said softly.
    In the local restaurant, the head grill-master is unable to tend to his duties because he is sick; no one present has been taught to do his work, but one who is the deep-fryer on the food line. The manager asks her to help, but she refuses because she does not want to be embarrassed, humiliated, and she wants no grief from others because she could not keep up. We all appreciate those sentiments for sure. Because she would not, the frontline of the restaurant collapses. She can say, however, it was not her job.
    A principal of a local school is hard pressed to get a substitute teacher to fill in for one who called in with a virus that will keep her down for days. None of the other teachers will fill in because they are not trained in the area she teaches, or they have a heavy workload of their own and cannot spare the time to help. The students flounder and are frustrated, they begin to be disruptive in other areas, but all the teachers fill justified in refusing because their own circumstances.
    A soldier is in the field. His unit is on the verge of being overrun by the enemy. As a rifleman, he refuses to man the machine-gun (whatever reason or reasons he concocts in his head). His unit in no longer on the verge of being overrun, now they all lay spread out on the ground having entered eternity.
    Perhaps I have amplified scenarios that are not really the case, but have I really?
    There is not much good in those who use such expressions or actions to justify not doing something that needs to be done. If it needs to be done, the Lord’s servant will do it; if it needs to be done, those who have a sense of moral and spiritual duty will do it. So, instead of making use of such an expression, please, for the sake of the children, for the Lord’s cause, say it is your job. If you won’t, why should others expect to count on you for help in difficult circumstances when you wouldn’t in this one?
- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website. http://sunrushchurchofchrist.com/


Return To The Lord

By Joe Slater

    Hosea wrote during a low point in Israel’s history. While the nation prospered materially, the people’s spiritual condition was deplorable. Hmmm. . . sound familiar?
    Despite everything the Lord had done for Israel for centuries, the unthankful nation was “bent on backsliding from Me” (Hosea 11:7). They actually believed their prosperity came not from the Lord, but from their alliances with pagan trading partners. “For she did not know that I gave her grain, new wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold – which they prepared for Baal” (2:8).
    God repeatedly warned His wayward people that He would take away their blessings and they would suffer (2:9-13). Because of their false swearing, lying, killing, and adultery, “therefore the land will mourn, and everyone who dwells there will waste away” (4:2-3). In addition, Israel’s idolatry (spiritual harlotry against God) would result in severe punishment: “Therefore people who do not understand will be trampled” (4:14).
    In loving mercy, the Lord pleaded with Israel to return to Him. “Come, and let us return to the Lord” (6:1). “O Israel, return to the Lord your God” (14:1). “But they do not return to the Lord their God, nor seek Him for all of this” (7:10). “They return, but not to the Most High” (7:16).
    Does this sound like horrible news? Only for those unwilling to repent and return to God! “I will heal their backsliding and love them freely” (14:4). Jesus cures us from the fatal disease of sin: “(He) bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
 - 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 Can Cause Change to Come

By Bill Brandstatter

     Sometimes it seems as those things are rather chaotic in this world. In the days of a Babylonian king, Daniel wrote, “The Most-High rules in the kingdom of men.” (Dan. 4:17) God rules in a spiritual way and with spiritual laws. His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). If people will obey God and live faithfully for Him, change will come to our nation and the world.
     In 2 Chron. 7:14, we read, “If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked says, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (NKJV)
     The first part of this scripture refers to God’s people. God’s people today are Christians. God’s people once was the nation of Israel (Deut. 26:18). Now God’s people are Christians (1 Pet, 2:9).
     Next, we must humble ourselves. Too many today are proud and puffed up. Too many times we look for man for all the answers of life. God can do things no one else can. James states, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6) That is why we should pray and seek His face. Prayer accomplishes a great deal. (James 5:16)
     Then, we need to turn from wicked ways and be forgiven of our sins. All men everywhere are commanded to repent according to Acts 17:30. Forgiveness comes through the blood of Christ (Matt. 26:28). We get into His blood by being baptized (Matt. 26:28; Acts 2:38). Once a person does this, God promises “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
     If we are Christians, we have the assurance that God hears our prayers (1 Jn. 5:14). Let us be intercessors for our government and all men (1 Tim. 2:1-4). The world needs saving. Let us be God’s instruments in helping to do that. God is still in charge. He is the final judge. We are His people and ones who should carry the gospel message to the world. (Acts 8:4) The gospel is powerful and it can save (Rom. 1:16). Let us be ones spreading the gospel message. God will provide the increase (1 Cor. 3:6).
- Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://marionchurchofchrist.com/


The Golden Rule

By Al Behel

Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them” (Matthew 7:12)
    I was questioning a little boy about his behavior toward another child. He said, “I hit him back because he hit me after I hit him.” Many battles are fought that way. Husbands and wives argue and forget who started it. We justify our actions because of the actions of others. Few are willing to assume full responsibility for their behaviors.
    Why do you do what you do? Are your behaviors controlled by others? Jesus said, “If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also”(Matthew 5:39). But the Golden Rule goes further than that. It tells us to do to others what we wish they would do to us. A lack of retaliation is one thing. Initiating good deeds toward others, even toward those who might do us harm, is another.
    Negative goodness is the absence of bad things. Positive goodness is the introduction of acts of kindness and love when we could have chosen a different course. The mandate of Scripture is for us to do good to those who would do us harm, pray for those whose actions toward us are hateful and unkind, and to refuse to seek vengeance toward those who hurt us.
    Living by the Golden Rule affects our deepest character, our personal ethics. It affects our choices of behaviors because we always consider the effect on others. I asked a teen recently how important it was to her that a life partner be honest and have personal integrity. She replied that it was very important that he be honest with her. I then asked how she would feel about him buying something, using it, and then returning it to the store. She replied, “It would depend on what it was.” That is not personal integrity; it is situation ethics which change from situation to situation.
    Living by the Golden Rule means that we ask a simple question: “Would I want what I am doing to be done to me?” If the answer is “No”, then the action is not an appropriate action. Words we say to others should pass a threefold test:
1) are they true,
2) are they necessary, and,
3) are they kind?
The effect of our behavior should always be weighed before we act. I should always ask, “Would I welcome this behavior toward me? Would I want the same thing said about me?” If the action would be harmful to me it will likely be harmful to the other person and should not be done. My actions and words should always have a positive motive and positive effect. That’s what makes the rule the “Golden Rule.”
- 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/


Saturday, September 25, 2021

Open My Life

By Gerald Cowan    
   
Open my eyes Lord, let me see
People in need, where e’re they be.
Enlighten me and fill my mind
That I may be eyes to the blind.

Open my ears to all Thy truth
And to the souls who cry to Thee,
And may their cries so touch my heart
That I to them will grace impart.

Open my heart to share Thy grace
With all the world so loved by Thee,
And from my heart lift up my voice
With all who weep, all who rejoice.

Open my hands and let me work
That I may give to those in need.
Shelter and food so let me share
That none can doubt how much I care.

Hands to the helpless I would be,
Until the world from want is free.
Feet to the crippled, weak and lame — 
I lift them up in Jesus’ name.

Open my eyes, my ears, my mouth;
Open my hands; open my heart;
Open my life that all may see
The blessed Christ who lives in me.
- 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 Can Use You

By Edd Sterchi

    Sometimes we feel that God can’t use us because of various things/situations going on in our lives. But we need to remember that if God wants us to do something, then no excuse will suffice. Note, for example:
* Think you’re too old? Speak to Abraham.
* Think life has burdened you too greatly? Listen to Joseph.
* Think you don’t speak very well? Consult Moses on the matter.
* Think you’ve messed up too many times? David would like a word.
* Think depression would hold you back? Elijah has some advice.
* Think you’ll be denigrated for your heritage? Ask Esther about it.
* Think life has been unfair? Have a heart-to-heart with Job.
* Think you’re too young or inexperienced? Chat with Jeremiah.
* Think people will not listen to you? Counsel with Ezekiel.
* Think you will be harassed? Have a discussion with Daniel.
* Think family problems are too stifling? Hosea would like your ear.
* Think you’ll be tempted to shirk your duties? Get some direction from Jonah.
* Think people will unjustly judge you? Mary has some food for thought.
* Think you are too much of an outsider? John the Immerser can give some words of wisdom.
* Think your occupation is not held in high enough regard? Matthew would like to address the topic.
* Think you are too impetuous? Shoot the breeze with Peter.
* Think your talents are not as glamorous as others? Dorcas says, “We need to talk.”
     I’m sure you get the idea. God was able to use all of these individuals despite perceived flaws or unfortunate circumstances. And if God could use them, He can use you!
- 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/


Nothing In a Name?

By Ron Thomas

    There is nothing in a name if the name means nothing to you. If your name is “Mike”, but you answer to any other name, your given name means nothing to you (showing disrespect to your parents). If there is nothing in a name, if you are a woman named Janet married to a Mike Smith, then it will not matter to you if you are called Janet Perpendicular, Rectangular, Rotund, Mallory, or any other name. I dare say, that in some way, there is something in a name to you.
    To the Lord, there is something significant in a name. And in none other is there salvation: for neither is there any other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved (Acts 4:12, ASV). In the New Testament, one does not read of a congregation of the Lord’s people with the name of a man attached to it. In fact, in the New Testament, if there is a name attached to the holy institution “built” by the Lord, the only name is “God.” There is something in a name.
    There is no other name under heaven to whom people must submit, but the name of Jesus. There is something in a name. There was no religious institution under heaven whereby any Israelite could be pleasing to the Father of glory, but by the name He chose. The Lord would accept no substitute in Israel’s worship of Him, with such names like “Baal”. There is something in a name. In our own religious context, those who think there is nothing in a name only think this so they can continue to be a member of an institution man-made.
    A building with the name of the Lord on it does not make it the Lord’s church, but it might be an indication of something. Is there something in a name? the Lord thought so. 
- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website. http://sunrushchurchofchrist.com/


Prayer and God’s Glory

By Joe Chesser
 
    Prayer is a mysterious thing. There is always an element of uncertainty about it that requires faith in the unknown. To unbelievers, prayer may seem to be foolishness, talking out loud to no one in particular. But for Christians, faith assures us that when we pray we have the audacity to actually be speaking to the God of the universe (Hebrews 4.16)! So, what happens when we pray?
    There is no way to fully answer that question in the space of this article, but from John 11 there are some clues and insights into what happens when we seek the help of Jesus. While technically not a prayer as we often define it, like a prayer Mary and Martha did send a request to Jesus for him to help them.
    Their brother Lazarus was deathly ill and the sisters were sure that if Jesus would come he could make him well (John 11.21). So they sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill” (John 11.3). We are familiar with this type of prayer: intercession for others. We pray often for Jesus to help the sick, the hurting, the needy. We do that because we truly believe that Jesus loves us all and will come to our aid when we ask him: “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4.2).
    However, we are not praying to inform Jesus. He already knows more about our needs than we do. When Jesus heard the sister’s request he told his disciples that the illness of Lazarus was not about his health but for the glory of God and the Son (John 11.4). Jesus looks beyond what we can see and answers our prayers based on the whole picture. Jesus didn’t rush to Bethany. He knew there was no hurry. For the sisters the timing was urgent. Like us, they expected Jesus to respond right away. But Jesus delayed for two days before heading to Bethany (John 11.5). Sometimes Jesus’ timing frustrates us, again, because we only see part of the picture (John 11.21). We need to learn to be patient in prayer and let Jesus answer our prayers when he wants and in the way he wants (John 11.22). 
    Why? Because when Jesus answers our prayers, everything about it will be for our best interest and for the glory of God. Plus, how Jesus answers may surprise us. What Jesus had in mind all along was not to heal Lazarus but to raise him from the grave, even after he  had been dead for four days (John 11.38-44). As far as Lazarus was concerned, he would have been alive and healthy either way. But as far as God was concerned, there was more glory given Him when Lazarus was raised from the dead. God’s glory is far more important than our health or anything else (1 Cor. 10.31).
    Learning to pray in a way that glorifies God also blesses us.
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com


Sweet Hour of Prayer

By Clifton Angel

     A child once asked me: "How does the devil get inside of you?" I was certain to point out that the devil does not have magical powers to literally take control of you or get inside of you, like we may see on TV or in video games. However, he is methodical and tricky (Ephesians 6:11), he is a lying, murdering enemy (John 8:44; 1 Peter 5:8), and he is trying to destroy us (1 Peter 5:8). I pointed out that he primarily gets inside of us through our eyes (the things we see, watch, or read) and our ears (the things we listen to and hear). James said, "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). One very powerful method of resisting him is that of prayer.
     We sometimes sing a song during Vacation Bible School that goes like this: "Oh, be careful little eyes what you see. Oh, be careful little eyes what you see. For, the Father up above is looking down in love. So, be careful little eyes what you see." The song repeats the same teaching concerning what our ears hear, what our mouths say, what our hands touch, and where our feet go. If only adults and children alike would adhere to the song's teachings! What does this have to do with prayer? Everything. You see, when we take a posture of prayer similar to that so often taught to children, it will help us obey the song's teachings and resist the devil.
     We are not commanded a particular posture in prayer to our Father; however, a traditional posture taught to children is quite interesting. Children are taught to kneel on their knees, clasp their hands together, bow their heads, close their eyes, and talk to God. Think about this posture in relation to the song above. If I am kneeling on my knees, I cannot run swiftly to a place where evil abides. If am clasping my hands, I cannot be quick to touch that which incites the lusts of the flesh. If my eyes are closed, I force myself to refuse all sights of wickedness. If I'm talking to God, my mouth is being used for pure purposes, and my ears only hear spotless sounds.
     Prayer is one of the most powerful weapons we have against Satan. So often, we look at the armor of God of Ephesians 6:10–17 and we leave off verse 18. According to verse 18, Paul said "Praying always with all prayer and supplication." Our ability in this spiritual warfare will wane if we do not beseech our Father in prayer. However, in the "Sweet Hour of Prayer," we can "resist the devil” so that he will “flee from” us.
- Clifton Angel preaches for the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. He may be contacted through that congregation's website: http://www.coldwatercofc.com/


Sunday, September 19, 2021

The True God (Part 1)

By Joe Slater

    This article’s title sounds narrow-minded in today’s politically correct world. Most likely Paul’s audience in Athens (Acts 17) thought he was narrow-minded too. Petronius, a writer at Nero’s court, remarked that it was easier in Athens to find a god than a man! Yet here was Paul, telling the brilliant Greek philosophers that their views about deity were erroneous! His magnificent sermon mentioned at least thirteen points about the true God. Let’s look briefly at the first few.
    “The God who made the world and everything in it” (Acts 17:24a). Indeed, the true God is the creator of the universe (see the first two chapters of Genesis). Greeks, like other pagan cultures, worshiped dozens of gods and goddesses, crediting certain ones with creating and having charge of various portions of nature (e.g. god of the sun, god of the sea, goddess of the forest). But Paul affirmed that the true God, whom the Athenians didn’t know, is the creator of all things.
    “He, being Lord of heaven and earth” (17:24b). Pagans believed their gods ruled over various parts of the world, fighting back and forth to take over one another’s dominion. The true God, however, is Lord of heaven and earth; He admits no rival.
    “. . . does not dwell in temples made with hands (17:24c). Athens, like other cities, contained numerous temples where the gods supposedly dwelled. Jerusalem also boasted of the temple where the true God manifested His special presence. But Solomon knew and freely confessed, “Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built?” (1 Kings 8:27).
    There is but one true God! 
- 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


The True God (Part 2)

By Joe Slater

    There really is a difference between the true God and the innumerable gods devised by people. The true God “made the world and everything in it”; He is “Lord of heaven and earth”; and He “does not dwell in temples made with hands” (Acts 17:24). These three facts alone set the true God apart from pagan idols as far as the east is from the west. But there is more!
    “Neither is he worshiped with (better ‘served by’) men’s hands, as though He needed anything” (17:25a). Pagans thought the gods depended on their sacrifices for food and drink. In fact, though, the idols could “neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell” (Deuteronomy 4:28). And the true God made it clear in Psalm 50:12-13 – “If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is Mine, and all its fullness. Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?” The true God is independent of His creation; He needs nothing from us.
    Far from needing people to feed Him, the true God “gives to all life, and breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25). At creation God breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life, making him a living being (Genesis 2:7). Throughout the ages He has given us “rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17). We depend on Him, not He on us!
    This same God “made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings” (17:26). Every race, every nation, every person, has descended from Adam, whom God created. Neither individuals nor nations always do what God desires; but God rules them nonetheless. He is active in human affairs, whether people realize it or not. No mere regional deity, the true God raises up nations and rulers and removes them in keeping with His purpose. Wise are those who humble themselves and seek His favor!
- 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


Two Intercessors

By Jeff Arnette

    I was recently studying the book of Romans and came across something extraordinary. As I prayed and reflected on Romans 8:26, 35, a completely new and encouraging truth came to my heart and mind.
    We are never alone in this journey we call Christianity. We are surrounded by brothers and sisters, but sometimes that can seem distant and aloof. Occasionally, our struggles happen in the middle of the night when no one else is awake or available to help. Yet, we are never alone. We are never alone because we have two wonderfully loving, kind, and powerful intercessors.
    Romans 8 really reinforces this truth for us.
Romans 8:26–27 “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (ESV)
Here we are told that the Holy Spirit of God, the Spirit who dwells within us and with us (John 14:16-17), the Helper whose work is to ensure our success is always there. He is always there helping us with our weaknesses, helping us pray, and making intercession for us. The force of this word is striking and comforting.
    The Holy Spirit of God is always there with us, pleading for us, appealing to us, and working to ensure our success and comfort. You are never alone as long as the Spirit of God lives. You are never alone because He is eternal, all-powerful, and in overwhelming fashion loving us onward toward success.
    It doesn’t end there. You have another intercessor, another advocate who is also working for you. Consider this one verse.
Romans 8:34 “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” (ESV)
This means that we have an intercessor within us, who is always with us in the good times and the bad times. That is not all. We also have an intercessor seated at the right hand of God on high. We have our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, the one who sits on the throne with the Father, interceding for us. That is why sin and Satan cannot condemn you. It cannot condemn you because Jesus is the judge, and He is fighting for you. With a steep price, He secured our salvation, and it doesn’t stop there. He is always with us, always on our side, and always fighting for us.
1 John 2:1–2 “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (ESV)
    We could say so much more about this, so much more we could allow into our hearts and minds. I hope that this is enough to place a new and powerful truth within your heart and soul. You are never alone! You have two intercessors who are always with you, always fighting for you, and constantly fighting with you. Both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are there for you, working to ensure your success. This means that God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, wants you to succeed and have done everything within their limitless power to make sure you win.
    As Paul says in Romans 8:31, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Your success is assured because your God is all-powerful and cannot fail.
- Jeff Arnette preaches for the Central Haywood church of Christ, Clyde, NC.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: https://centralhaywoodcoc.com/


I’m Going to Quit Eating!

By Edd Sterchi

    Yes, you read that right – I have decided to stop eating. I just don’t feel like doing it anymore. Sometimes, I’m just not in the mood. And, it takes up too much of my time – I have to do it every day. It’s also very demanding. Besides, I will never be able to eat everything. I will never understand everything about that which I am eating. I just don’t see the benefit. Furthermore, it’s very possible this concept of eating is outdated. I just don’t think I really need to eat – I can get by without it!
    While those arguments may seem absurd, those are the very same reasons that people give for not feeding their souls (i.e. studying their Bibles). Just as without physical food, our bodies would eventually die, so without spiritual food, our souls will starve to death. As God noted in Hosea 4:6, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”
    Just as we set aside regular times to eat, doesn’t it make sense to set aside regular times to consume God’s word? “How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Psalm 119:103).
- 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/


1951

By Ron Thomas

    Through the years I have purchased books written by brethren; one such book is “Old Truths in New Robes” by Franklin Camp (1972). This is a collection of bulletin articles he wrote through the years, hoping those who read them can find them to be of some benefit in their walk with Christ.
    One article that he wrote was about the death of his daughter, Vivian, their second child. She was severely burned (the reason not given) at seven years old, died five days later (1951). As I was reading this, I reflected on the tragedy of a parent (parents) losing a precious child at any age,
but especially such an innocent age of seven. Many people have much difficulty recovering from things like this, some never do. In brother Camp’s circumstance, he resolved to learn lessons, so he wrote on lessons he learned in the years 1951.
    He learned that in life there is much uncertainty. We have been around long enough to know that with life, comes death. The uncertainty of life is not something we miss, but when it happens so close to home, the thunder of it is felt in a special way. We are saddened a great deal when we read of some young life now gone. Life is certain (you’re reading this), but life is fragile and is a gift from God; the gift of life God gave you, is it precious to you?
    When you reflect on such a loss, to whom do you turn? Your family members are great, but since the loss is great, the comfort extended, helpful as it is, seems too not be enough. Questions are asked like “Why?”, and the only answer that can be given, in due time, is from the Lord. In such a loss, brother Camp turned, or strengthened his turn to the Lord, loving the Bible more; it’s a great lesson to learn (have reaffirmed), but how many people learn it? It was Peter who said to the Lord, in John 6, “Lord, to whom shall we go...?
    Learning to read Him more, learning to love the Bible more (making it your daily companion), it’s only natural that one will love the church more. This makes perfect sense because the church is His body and only the body of Christ will be saved (Eph. 5:23, 25). In the body of Christ, in the church of Christ, there exists people of like mind. Perchance some are not of like mind, surely, they are moving in the direction to be Christ-like. These are the kind of people to be around, the kind of people who pray for and with you, encourage you in spiritual matters. Sadly, look around and notice who is not here, and how frequently you see they are not here. Do they love the Lord? They will tell you they do, but in truth they do not, and this is shown by their priorities. Attendance is not fool-proof evidence of loving the Lord, but it is an indication of something positive (or not).
    Another lesson brother Camp learned was that Faith is more precious than gold. This is not, however, a lesson valued by many, not even those who are frequent in their attendance. There is something about material wealth that changes the mind of people unlike anything else. Evidently, with wealth, some think, they can do more with it that it good, or do more with it for themselves they have never been able to see accomplished, believing this to be a blessing from God. In the end, after having done the good and satisfying all one’s desire in a positive way, what then? One’s faith, one’s trust and conviction the Lord is above all never lessens in value because it is more valuable than gold.
    This, naturally, helped brother Camp to think less of the earth, more of heaven. It was Paul who wrote, Yea verily, and I count all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but refuse, that I may gain Christ (Phil. 3:8, ASV). 
- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website. http://sunrushchurchofchrist.com/


Monday, September 13, 2021

The Difference

By David A. Sargent

    An elderly man, who is also a veteran, was at the grocery store register purchasing his groceries when he realized he didn’t have enough money to cover all of the items.  The veteran has used up a $25 grocery store gift card but still owed $3 more to obtain the rest of the things that he needed.
    His cashier, Briar Poirier, from Oxford, Massachusetts, said, “I’ve got this,” and he pulled out his own wallet to get the money to pay the difference.  “The gentleman had a couple basic necessities and looked like he was a little down on his luck and the man fought for our country, fought for our freedoms,” Poirier told WBZ.  “It’s the least I could do for him.”
    Renee Falcioni, from Killingly, Connecticut, witnessed Poirier’s act of compassion.  She said she saw the veteran’s eyes “light up” at Poirer’s deed.  “He shook his hand and said thank you and had a big smile from ear to ear,” Falcioni told WBZ.
    Falcioni also posted about Poirier’s kindness on Facebook.  Her post received thousands of likes and hundreds of comments and shares.  Falcioni commented: “Thank you Briar for being such an amazing young man and a big thank you to your parents for raising such an amazing, kind-hearted, conscientious, and caring young man!!!”
    May I turn your attention to another act of compassion that has a few similarities to Poirier’s act of kindness?  There are some differences in the actions as well:
  1. The debt is far greater.  In fact, it is too great for any of us to pay with our own resources.
  2. Each of us owes this unpayable debt.
  3. The matter of the debt has eternal implications.
  4. Only one Person could pay this debt.  He willingly did so for each of us.
  5. He paid this debt for us, not because we were good or kind or merited the repayment in some way.
The debt that each of us has and cannot repay is the debt of sin (Romans 3:23).  None of us has the resources to pay the debt ourselves, for sin is an offense to a Holy God (Isaiah 59:1-2).  But God loves each of us so much that He gave His Son Jesus to pay the debt of our sin so that we can be reconciled to Him (John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21).  Jesus paid the debt for us with His life; He died on the cross for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  Jesus did this for us when we were weak and unable to pay the debt, sinners offending the Holy God, and even enemies in rebellion against Him (Romans 5:6-10).  The wonderful news is that if we accept His offer of salvation, He will give us eternal life.  If we reject His offer, we will receive eternal destruction (Matthew 7:13-14; Romans 6:23).
     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).
     Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection make all of the “difference” in our lives now and forever.  Won’t YOU accept His offer of salvation and eternal life?
- 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

* Information gleaned from “Store employee pays veteran's grocery bill: 'The least I could do'” by Ann W. Schmidt of Fox News, www.foxnews.com