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Monday, February 22, 2021

Oops, Again!

By David Bragg

    In 1943 President Franklin D. Roosevelt set out across the Atlantic Ocean on the USS Iowa for his historic meeting with Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin at Tehran. One of the ships accompanying FDR was the USS William D. Porter. Named in honor of the famous Civil War Admiral who worked closely with Gen. U. S. Grant, this recently commissioned destroyer ran into problems on the high seas and the crew accidentally allowed a depth charge to fall overboard, forcing the Iowa to take evasive action thinking they were under attack by a Germans.
    On the next day FDR requested that the fleet hold an anti-aircraft drill. During that exercise the crew of the Porter accidentally fired a live torpedo at the President's ship! Fortunately, the Iowa turned in time.
    Apparently not willing to risk yet another mishap, the USS Porter was ordered to Bermuda where the entire crew was arrested. Or were they? Contrary to a multitude of seemingly legitimate websites relating this story, Wikipedia attributes the tale as "Internet legend," not fact.
    So, I can't say everything above happened just as described, but if it did this story might reflect the long history of denominational Christianity. Jesus plainly stated that His church would be established in the lifetime of most of His Apostles (Matt. 16:18; Mark 9:1). And it was (Acts 2).
    Jesus plainly called for the unity of all future believers (John 17:21). Yet, denominationalism, is by definition an attack on Jesus’ words. Paul would later upbraid the Corinthians, “Is Christ divided?” (1 Cor. 1:13). We MUST preserve unity with Christ and with each other if we truly want to be the Lord’s church.
- David Bragg serves as one of the ministers at the Northwest Church of Christ in Greensboro, NC and is co-editor of BulletinGold. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.nwchurchofchrist.com/ or his blog: http://davidbragg.blogspot.com/


Rulers

By Kevin V. Rutherford

    The lust for power and authority will ruin a person. A desire for self-glorification will destroy a soul. Individuals like this will forever be blinded by their arrogance, and they will not be able to see themselves as they are. They cannot understand what is happening around them. They only see what they want to see. They only see what justifies their sense of self-importance.
    In our study of the Gospel of Matthew on Wednesday nights we have seen individuals who fit the description just given. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were rulers among the Jews who, though powerful and wealthy, did not seem to be intoxicated with their power and wealth (John 3:1-2; 19:38-42; Mark 15:42-47). However, most of the rulers of the Jews in Jesus’ day loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. They hated Jesus because He exposed their sin (John 7:7). They were envious of Jesus because the multitudes praised Him instead of them (Matthew 2:18).
    Their arrogance led them to the point they chose to kill Jesus. Their lust and love of power, influence, wealth, authority, position, and the praise of men caused them to come to a point of extreme malice. Extreme enough to seek the most painful and shameful method of execution for the one who seemed to have more influence among the multitudes than they.
    The target of their bitter hatred was the Divine Son of God. It was Jesus who had come in the flesh. Jesus lived a life of love, compassion, service, humility, and patience. He was good. Good in the sense that God is perfectly holy in every way. Those who wanted Him dead were evil. They were obsessed with the kind of evil that poisons a person’s heart when he gives himself over to arrogance.
    Matthew chapter twenty-three records Jesus’ condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus said, “all their works they do to be seen by men” (Matthew 23:5). He called them “hypocrites,” “fools,” and “blind”. Jesus said they were “serpents, a brood of vipers” (Matthew 23:33), and He rhetorically questioned whether or not they could escape the condemnation of hell. In contrast, consider the time the Lord washed the feet of the disciples (John 13). Jesus acted in such a way as to demonstrate timeless lessons of humility and service. God, on His knees to serve man was showing us the way to view ourselves in relation to others.
    Consider also the fact that though the Creator has unlimited wisdom, knowledge, and power, He emptied Himself and became a man, then suffered and died on the cross (Philippians 2:5-11). Men scramble for glory, power, and praise, and when they receive “chief seats,” they hold on to them at all costs. God gave up heaven, emptied Himself, became flesh, dwelt among man, served man, and died for man. The Creator allowed the creation to brutally torture Him and kill Him. The creation gladly did so out of a lust for power, from a heart of envy, and from the bitterness of hearts soaked in sin and enveloped in evil. Their lust for power, led them to lust for blood. Their arrogance brought them to dark places. But the Creator humbly died for His creation.
    The Bible says, “nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42-43). Those who do good deeds to receive the praise of men, have their reward in that praise (Matthew 6:2). Those who pray for show so as to look good before men, have their reward in the praise of men (Matthew 6:5). The hypocrites who wanted to disfigure their faces and look sad while fasting so as to receive praise from men, have their reward in the praise they receive from men (Matthew 6:16). What a shame it would be if all the reward one ever received was the praise of men, for the praise of men will mean nothing when the Lord returns in judgment upon all nations.
- Kevin V. Rutherford preaches for the Warners Chapel church of Christ in Clemmons, NC. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://warnerschapelchurchofchrist.org/


Selfishness

By Joe Slater

    Webster’s Dictionary defines “selfish” this way: “Concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself; seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others.”
    I doubt that many who read this article would want to jump up and tell the world how selfish we are. Yet selfishness has lost much of its social stigma. You might be surprised how many would unabashedly say, “I’m looking out for number one; if somebody else gets hurt in the process, too bad!”
    Galatians 6:7 says we reap what we sow. Our society has become more selfish because we have sown the seeds of selfishness. Do you remember when “me” books were all the rage? They were simple story books to give to children, but each one was customized to make the recipient the main character. This is but one example of making self the most important consideration in life.
    Many older brethren (including myself) feel alarmed at the lack of concern for sound doctrinecharacterizing some of the “Millennial” generation. But to their credit, many Millennials understand better than older generations the importance of putting Christianity into action by helping the less fortunate in substantial ways. They see that many congregations have become inwardly-focused, with most resources (monetary and otherwise) directed toward serving “us.” Something tells me we’ll have better results convincing them about doctrine if we show them we’re serious about putting our faith to work serving “the least of these”!
    More next week! 
- 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


Selfishness (#2)

By Joe Slater

    Selfishness isn’t new! Scripture warns often against over-emphasizing self. Paul, for example, wrote: “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:14). Did he say, “Totally ignore your own interests”? No, he warned us not to think exclusively, or even excessively, of ourselves. If I am cold, I might adjust the thermostat to warm the room. But if someone else feels too warm, I could go put on a sweater instead. I should consider the other person’s comfort, not just my own.
    Of course, selfishness goes far deeper than thermostats and sweaters. Peter warned of ungodly false teachers who “walk according to the flesh in the list of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed” (2 Peter 2:10). Uncleanness and lust obviously point to sexual immorality which characterizes modern society and has impacted the church negatively. Such selfish behavior ignores the boundaries God set on sexual activity, focusing instead on fleshly gratification without the commitment of marriage.
    Even from a strictly worldly standpoint, pre-marital and extra-marital sexual activity bring harmful results, be they physical (disease; unwanted pregnancy) or emotional (guilt, betrayal, anger). These pale, however, in comparison to the spiritual wreckage. Unfortunately, though, selfishness often prevents the person from understanding, much less caring, how their sinful behavior affects their own relationship with God or that of others involved. The momentary pleasures of sin numb them to the eternal consequences.
More next week! 
- 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


Selfishness (#3)

By Joe Slater

    Selfish people often despise authority (2 Peter 2:10). Do you remember being irked as a child when your parents, teachers, or other adults told you what to do? Wise parents discipline their children, teaching them to respect authority. As adults, we recognize civil authorities’ right to tell us to drive on the right side of the road and keep our speed within the posted limit, even when we want to go faster.
    Unfortunately, while everyone grows older, not everyone grows up! Some adults kept the self-willed attitude of their youth, and it shows as they resist not only civil authority, but the authority of God Himself! The selfish person childishly exclaims, “I’ll do what I want!” But the mature Christian humbly says, “I’ll do as I ought.”
    Just suppose that Jesus had been selfish – where would we be? When He left the glorious splendor of heaven to take on human flesh, was He thinking of His own personal benefit? Hear the Savior’s words: “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38). Jesus submitted to the authority of His Heavenly Father and acted unselfishly to save us. Pleasing the Father and saving us were more important to Jesus than His own personal comfort. Hebrews 12:2 exhorts us to look “unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame . . .”
    A single word tells how to overcome selfishness: LOVE. If we love God, we will seek to please Him through obedience to His commands (John 15:14). If we love each other, we will act in one another’s best interests. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God” (1 John 4:7). 
- 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


Monday, February 15, 2021

Don’t Quit!

By Lance Cordle

    Like many people these days, I own an e-reader (electronic reading tablet). Also like many people, I keep several books loaded on it for the times of reading pleasure, as well as for when I have some time to kill in a waiting room, mall, etc. The company that produces my tablet sent me a challenge at the beginning of 2021: Basically, “Don’t Quit!” Read more and we will reward you. They offered badges for reading seven days in a month, fifteen days in a month and thirty days in a month, and others.
    However, the badge that especially caught my attention was a badge for reading from my tablet on January 19th. January 19th? What is so special about January 19th? According to the notification, someone, somewhere has determined that January 19th is the day when most people give up on their resolutions for the new year. So, as a way of saying to their readers, “Don’t Quit!”, they offered a badge for the day that most people would be giving up (or had already done so).
    Whether in a good habit such as reading, or exercise, Bible study, or living a godly life, we need to be encouraged to keep going. That is why the book of Hebrews was written and included in the biblical canon. Most students of the Bible believe that the fall of Jerusalem (A.D. 70) was set to occur within a few years following the writing of this book. Whatever the circumstance was, at the time of writing (mental persecution, peer pressure, seizure of property), it was causing some Jewish Christians to quit following Jesus and return to Judaism. We do know, however, that they had not yet shed blood in their struggle (Hebrews 12:4). A “word of exhortation” (Hebrews 13:22) was needed, and provided in the form of the letter we now know as Hebrews. In fact, some scholars believe that Hebrews may have originally been a sermon.
    Whatever the original form, Hebrews is indeed a “word of exhortation.” Emphasizing Jesus and his way as “better” (superior) over and over again (at least thirteen times), the author admonishes the readers to continue to follow Jesus.
    We know that anything that is good is worth holding onto (Philippians 4:8)—whether it be marriage, friendship, education, reading, exercise, and, especially, following Jesus! Let us use our minds and commit to continuing to do those things which are good for us.
“. . . And let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith . . .” in other words, “Don’t Quit!”
- Lance Cordle preaches the Calvert City Church of Christ in Calvert City, KY.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.calvertchurchofchrist.com


Bitten By Snakes

By Joe Chesser

    The Israelites were not very smart. That’s because they were people, and people aren’t very smart, especially when it comes to things pertaining to God. For example, there is a short story you can read in Numbers 21. At this point in Israel’s history they had experienced many awesome examples of God’s power and deliverance (10 plagues in Egypt; the parting of the Red Sea; manna from heaven; water from a rock, etc.). The immediate context of the story in Numbers 21 is the total defeat and destruction of the king of Arad, his people and towns, by the Israelites.
    God had answered their prayers for help (21.1-3). Evidently they had very short memories. As they traveled on from Arad, skirting around the nation of Edom, they became impatient with Moses and God and began voicing their negative opinions against them (21.4-5). They must have had the “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” syndrome. They asked dumb questions like, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert?” They complained, “There is no bread! There is no water! We detest this miserable food!” Sounds a lot like some of us when God doesn’t do for us what we think He should, doesn’t it? How quickly we forget the blessings of God.
    Most of the time, thankfully, God is patient with people (2 Peter 3.9). However, this wasn’t one of those times. God sent venomous snakes among them, and the snakes did what the snakes were sent to do – bite people. Many of the Israelites died (21.6). The people learned the hard way that complaining against God is not a good idea. Never has been, never will be. They also learned that confessing their sins to God is a good idea. So, when they confessed their sin, Moses prayed for the people, and God answered his prayer (21.7).
    But instead of sending the venomous snakes away from the Israelites, he had Moses make a bronze snake and mount it on a pole. God said, “anyone who is bitten can look at it and live” (21.8). The snakes still did what snakes do, but the people learned to trust God for deliverance from death by doing what God told them to do. Anyone who looked at the bronze snake lived. Surely there weren’t people stubborn enough to refuse to look at it!
    There’s more to the story, but it’s not about the Israelites, it’s about us. Their story has become our story. We, too, sin against God, all of us (Romans 3.23). The old serpent, Satan (Revelation 12.9), “bites” us with temptations which leads us to die spiritually (due to our sins). Yet, like them, God offers us hope. He doesn’t take away the temptations, but He does provide us a way to avoid death. “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3.14-15). Jesus is our only hope when bitten by Satan. Jesus was lifted up on the cross so that we can look to him (John 12.32) to overcome the deaths Satan desires.
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com


From Ordinary to Extraordinary

By Edd Sterchi

    Before Jesus Christ came into the world, the name Jesus (the Greek form of name Joshua) was an extremely common name. And yet, Jesus took an ordinary name of his day, and made it something unique and special – a name by which all can be saved (Acts 4:12).
    Then, during His ministry, Jesus took the ordinary meal of a boy (a little bread and fish), and made it so extraordinary that fed 5,000 men (likely10,000 or more people) (Matt. 14:13-21).
    And also note Matt. 26:26-29 where Jesus took the common,  ordinary elements of the fruit of the vine and unleavened bread and made them into special remembrances for His followers for all time.
    Here’s the point I want you to understand: Jesus takes ordinary things and makes them extraordinary. You may feel common, plain, or ordinary, but know Jesus can make you into something special –  into something extraordinary. That’s what He does! Won’t you let Him do His altering work on you today?
- 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/


Is The Church a Non-Prophet Organization?

By Gerald Cowan

    I once wrote a bulletin article with this title, but my elderly secretary corrected it to read “Non-Profit’ Organization. I took a bit of razzing for it. One member joked, “Just what I always thought:: the church is in it for the money.” But jokes aside, the question is valid: does the church have prophets or does it not? To answer that we must first define the term: what (not who, but what) is a prophet?
    The common understanding is that a prophet is one who can see and foretell the future, what is going to happen – some woe or weal that is coming. That is actually only part, sometimes a relatively small part, not even a necessary part of a prophet’s message. Prophets are forth-tellers not fore-tellers – like a president’s press secretary They speak for another, by revelation or instruction; they speak what they are given by or have received from the one for whom they speak. It may be instruction or information, approval, or warning – not always a forecast but sometimes an explanation or summary of past or present conditions. The prophet himself is not the source but only the conduit of a message from the one for whom he speaks, an oracle -- literally a “mouthpiece” through whom the source speaks. Oracles have been common, sometimes famous and revered because of the import and impact of the messages they delivered. The true source from which the oracle receives the message must be identified separately. The Christian preacher, teacher, oracular disseminator of the word of God is the oracle, the mouthpiece of God – the message he or she delivers can also be called an oracle. Apostle Peter says anyone who speaks the message and words of God is an oracle of the Lord (1 Peter 4:11).
    The test of validity of a message delivered in the name of the Lord – that is, the words from a prophet – is simple: if it is a prediction or pronouncement of something to come does it come to pass as stipulated, does it actually happen? (Deuteronomy 18:22). If it is information it must be proved true. If words given in God’s name or the name of Christ or the Holy Spirit are not true and/or do not come to pass, the speaker is proved to be a false prophet.
    Does the church have prophets today? None who are receiving messages directly from God – that kind of prophecy has ended (see 1 Corinthians 13:9-10). We can repeat what was taught by prior prophets, revealed in scripture – which makes us prophets too, prophet preachers. Any profit we seek is for God or our audience. Preachers and proclaimers can tell forth the message of prior prophets – it happens anytime we repeat the prophetic message of God. Even you can be that kind of prophet.
- 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


A Caring Carrier

By David A. Sargent

    Shonda Lemon has worked as a mail carrier for the United States Postal Service for eight years in the city of Chicago.  While delivering mail to individuals, she has built a relationship with many of the recipients, especially some senior citizens who live alone.  89-year-old Helen Iwanski is one of those senior citizens that Lemon has befriended.  In the last four years, the two have exchanged short, friendly conversations.  Lemon has tried to make it easier for Iwanski to handle her bundle of mail more easily by wrapping a rubber band around it.
    But for three days in a row last month, Iwanski had not picked up her mail.  Lemon was very concerned.
    Lemon told Fox Television Stations' Stephanie Weaver that she knew Iwanski lived alone, didn’t have children, and hadn’t traveled anywhere in years, so she called the police to do a wellness check on January 14.
    Police found Iwanski on the floor in her home.  She had fallen and had been lying there for several days.
    When a police officer told Lemon that Iwanski had fallen but was alive, she broke into tears.  “I began to cry, because it was a rejoicing moment for me, knowing that I had assisted her in [saving] her life,” Lemon explained. “And, ya know, it was just the pain and thought of what she may have been going through for those three days on the floor.”
    Iwanski was admitted to a local hospital and is currently regaining her strength at a rehab facility.  She is incredibly thankful for her caring mail carrier.
    “My Aunt [Helen Iwanski] sends her love and appreciation to Shonda for being there for her.  She said she will be forever grateful for Shonda caring enough to call the police," said Mary Mason, Iwanski’s niece.
    Each of us has “fallen” because of our sins.  We are helpless and cannot save ourselves.
    But God loves us so much that He sent His one and only Son to rescue us (John 3:16).  Jesus had to give His life for us to pay the price for our redemption from sin (2 Corinthians 5:21).  He “gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to Whom be glory forever and ever.  Amen” (Galatians 1:4-5 NIV).  Jesus cared enough to carry the burden of our sins upon Himself (1 Peter 2:24), to save us.
     If we will only accept His offer of salvation, He will cleanse us from sin and give us eternal life (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).
    You have fallen, but Somebody has noticed and Somebody cares.  The God who created you wants to save you from sin.  He sent His Son to rescue you.
    Won’t YOU accept His offer by trusting and obeying Him today?
- 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 “Chicago USPS mail carrier helped rescue 89-year-old woman who fell and couldn’t get up” by Lucas Manfredi, www.foxnews.com.


Monday, February 8, 2021

Seeing The Blessings Instead Of The Sorrows

By Joseph D. Chase

It really is up to you! You can see the myriad of problems that plague us in this world and worry about them. You can complain about them, You could curse them or many other actions. However, there is only one way that we, God’s family, ought to respond to these troubles...

God has given us the opportunity to shine our lights before men and so glorify the God of heaven (Matthew 5:16). I can decide to work for the Lord and right wrongs that I see, lift up the broken and hurting. I can become a part of God's solution for a lost and dying world..."Go out and make disciples...", visit the poor, the widowed, the orphan (James 1:27), offer a simple cup of cool water in the name of our Lord Jesus. When we do the Lord’s work it makes the world a better place. We bless and are blessed when we view problems as opportunities.

It won't be easy, but I assure you it will be worthwhile.
- Joseph D. Chase serves the North Loop Church of Christ in Gladewater, TX. He may be contacted through their website: http://northloopcoc.com/


Saul's Spiritual Experience

By Clifton Angel

    “And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth” (Acts 9:3–4a). At his recounting of this occasion to King Agrippa, Paul (formerly Saul) said, “At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me” (Acts 26:13).
   Many religious organizations encourage the giving of “testimonies.” Generally, it is a “feel-good,” very emotional story told to show a particular person’s view of how they “experienced” salvation. Oftentimes, it is used for the purpose of discipling others to their religious organization, and I’ve even found record where the giving of testimonies can be a very “coached” event (they are told what to say, and what not to say).
   Without doubt, the process of salvation is a very emotional occasion. The Scriptures teach us that repentance unto salvation requires godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:10). Also, it is logical and evident that one would be filled with joy, immediately following his conversion (cf. Acts 8:36–39). I distinctly remember the emotional feeling after rising out of the burial of baptism. It was a feeling of relief. It felt like a burden was lifted from my shoulders. The process of salvation is a very emotional occasion; however, we must recognize that our emotions are not earmarks for salvation.
   You see, some of the same emotions are felt at other times. I was extremely sorrowful at the untimely death of my father; however, it was not a sorrow over sins that leads to repentance. I was extremely relieved and filled with joy at the successful birth of my son (my wife had an emergency c-section because his umbilical cord was around his neck); however, it was not an occasion of sins being washed away. Again, an emotional experience is not an earmark of salvation.
   It is a devastating reality that many base their faith on feelings, and not the Scriptures. I’ve heard the likes of “I wouldn’t trade the feeling in my heart for any verse in the Bible.” Some give testimonies of emotional experiences, seemingly miraculous happenings, seeing light, etc., claiming these as the evidence of their salvation. If anyone has had an emotional experience in their conversion, Saul has. However, it was not his truly miraculous experiences, nor the emotions that he felt, nor the light that he saw that were the earmarks of the moment he was saved.
   In his words, Saul (Paul) tells us that faith comes from hearing God’s Word (Romans 10:17), repentance leads to salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10), confession with the mouth is necessary for salvation (Romans 10:10), and a person is not saved until he is baptized (Romans 6:3–4; Galatians 3:27; Acts 22:16).
- 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/


Heaven Will Surely Be Worth It All!

By Edd Sterchi

     Many decades ago, on a Sunday morning, I was in a 15 passenger van with a member of the local congregation picking up kids to bring them to Bible study. I remember it as if it were yesterday. The van was packed to the gills with children, and my job was crowd control. It must have been a full moon the night before and/or the kids must have had extra sugar in their cereal that morning, for they were rowdy and getting out of hand. As a fairly young and somewhat inexperienced Christian, I was doing the best I could, but was losing the battle. Luther, who was driving the van and was a songleader as well as a deacon, turned to his vast repertoire of songs and said to me with a big smile on his face, “Remember Edd, heaven will surely be worth it all.”
     I have taken the lesson learned that day with me all of my Christian life. There have been many times when things weren’t going my way and I would harken back to that day and those words: “Heaven will surely be worth it all.”
     When you have to deal with that difficult person again, remember: “Heaven will surely be worth it all.” When you have that task to do that brings dread, remember: “Heaven will surely be worth it all.” When that temptation comes that is difficult to deal with, remember: “Heaven will surely be worth it all.” When hard times hit and hope seems far away, remember: “Heaven will surely be worth it all.” When you want to give up, give in, or give out, don’t! Just remember: “Heaven will surely be worth it all.”
     Take a few moments and read 1 Peter 1:3-9 very carefully. Let it soak in deeply. Let it give you the strength to keep you going no matter what happens. Trials? Troubles? Tribulations? Turmoil? Hang in there, Christian – and even smile! You can make it through it, and remember: Heaven will surely be worth it all!

 “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless” (2 Peter 2:13-14)
- 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/


God’s Word Is Always Relevant

By Joe Chesser

    It really shouldn’t be surprising that the word of God is current to every culture and generation. Since God is timeless and cultureless, it shouldn’t surprise us that His word is also that way. Though it’s not surprising, it is none-the-less amazing!
    It is true that the Bible is set in time and culture as the plan of God was slowly revealed through the centuries. The people in the Bible were real people who lived in various cultures at various times. But as God intertwined their backgrounds and futures, He let the world in on the plan He had before the world was created (Ephesians 1:4). He chose to develop through the Jewish people His plan for redeeming the entire world. When God became flesh and lived on earth (John 1:1, 14), He did so in Jewish society. Yet, when Jesus went to the cross, He broke down those cultural barriers and opened up for the entire world His gospel (Ephesians 2:12-16). Jesus wanted to be relevant to every generation and culture.
    At this point you might be wondering where all this is going, so let me tell you. There are people every day who are searching for relevant help to deal with their personal problems of life. Many of these people go to church every week. Many of them pray often. Yet, they seem to wonder if God really understands their unique situation, and if so, does He have something significant to say to help them. These people live all around us, and perhaps, even in our own homes. But they also live in Nepal and Argentina and Scotland. No matter when or where people may live, no matter what their culture or customs may be, people are longing for, needing, a word from God. No one is exempt from needing to hear from God. And the Bible is just the place to look. It’s the only place to look.
    Since God created us, He knows all of our needs. And since God transcends time and culture, He’s not locked in to only one way of doing so. He not only knows us inside out as individuals, He also knows what’s going on around us. But the really amazing thing is that whatever my needs may be, the Bible can help us. The word of God is living and active. It penetrates the soul and spirit, and can judge all of our thoughts and attitudes (Hebrews 4:12). The Bible may be thousands of years old, but it is amazingly relevant to every one of us.
    There is no need to struggle through each day wondering if anyone cares, if anyone can help. God cares and He has given us His word to be our source of direction and comfort. Read it every day. Meditate on it. Study it. Learn it like never before. Then, when Satan tries to defeat you, like Jesus, you can draw from God’s word just the help you need (Matthew 4:1-11). You’ll be amazed at how relevant God’s word is!
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com


When The Roll is Called Up Yonder . . .

By Gerald Cowan

    “The Lamb’s Book of Life”(Revelation 20:12, 21:27) is not only the roll book of Christians but is God’s complete record and roll of the persons saved and added to His list of those approved and accepted by Him from the beginning of time until the end of it: all those who came to the Lord by whatever way He appointed for them and were then perfected in Christ (Hebrews 10:9-14) when they accepted him as the ultimate way (John 14:6), the last step into God’s congregation for heaven. The book(s) will be opened and all the names read out on God’s final roll call for eternity. You and I, along with everyone who ever lived will “be somewhere, listening”– hoping to hear our names called.
    “Don’t Take My Name Off the Roll.”
    How often we hear that said by people who have absent from worship and service activities of the church – sometimes for a long time – and have not supported any part of the works program of the church. They often realize and admit that their negligence is wrong. There is no acceptable and valid reason for their failure. They are not sick, disabled, or otherwise incapacitated. To make things worse, they do not honestly intend to start being faithful – at least not in the near future. But they are anxious that their names not be dropped from the church directory or membership roll.
    Strange, isn’t it, how much saving power some attribute to a man-made listing of names? A church roll is nothing more that a list of professed members or attenders. It usually contains only the location of the members but says nothing at all about their spiritual condition, their real relationship to the church or to God and His Christ. It has no saving power at all and is not verification of one’s salvation. Can you imagine God, on the day of judgment, examining all the church roll books in order to determine who is to be saved in heaven and who is not? Being on a church’s roll is not the same as having your name on an employer’s payroll. I’ve had my name on a few of those, but am not currently listed on any – I might feel more secure about my present and future welfare if were guaranteed payment for performance in a regular job.
    When a person does not attend, does not support the church, and does not respond when called upon to serve, why should his name be kept on the roll – or on the payroll? There is very little value, perhaps no value at all, either to the person or to the church in keeping his name on a membership list. Taking one’s name off the list does not remove him from the church and adding his name to the list does not make him a member. Those who isolate themselves from the church and refuse to participate in its activities forfeit the right to be called faithful members of the church – they forfeit any claim to the rights and benefits of membership.
    Look at it another way. If your name is kept on the roll but you are not fulfilling your Christian obligations as part of the church, you are actually no better off and no worse off than if your name were removed. Taking your name off the roll could be a way to acknowledge the action you have already taken. By negligence and indifference you trample underfoot the Son of God; by disrespect you put Him to shame; by your sins you separate yourself from Him (Hebrews 6:6 and 10:24-29, Isaiah 59:1-2).
    Taking one’s name off the published roll does not solve the problem of one’s true relationship to Christ and the church. But such an action creates the very real danger that the person thus dropped will be ignored and perhaps completely forgotten, not admonished and exhorted to notice and escape the jeopardy into which he has fallen, not made aware of the distance he has drifted from the Lord.
     Souls may then be lost forever which, by proper attention and personal contact, might have been restored to God. Failing to warn the wayward, neglecting the negligent, dismissing the delinquent and departing, not seeking the straying, not rescuing the perishing, not correcting the corrupted, not lifting the fallen, not reviving the fainting, not encouraging the discouraged, not even praying for the persecuted and mistreated — these and many more such failures are common sins of some of those listed on the roll book of the church.
    Here’s a more practical use and value of the membership roll. Make notes for your own use (mental or written on your copy of the roll book, though not published or publicized, which will reflect the true relationship of those listed to the Lord and to the church, their known needs, their strengths and weaknesses, and some indication of their true spiritual condition (be careful about judgements here). They might be identified as SHUT-INS because of age, illness or infirmity (no one would then assume that lack of attendance and involvement indicated a poor spiritual condition. It could be helpful to identify ACTIVE MEMBERS, those who are interested, helpful, regular in attendance, faithful in support of the church (the ones we like to call “faithful Christians”). Also note the INACTIVE MEMBERS, those uninterested, unwilling to serve, irregular or erratic in attendance and support, not dependable (the ones we surreptitiously label “unfaithful Christians”).
    No doubt many or most would object to having such information published for all to see. But, like it or not, this is the kind of record God keeps on each one of us, and His record is always current – everything good or not good is noted – errors are noted, correction of errors and forgiveness are also noted. It is not enough that our names are known to God. Jesus said we should rejoice if we can know our names are recorded in heaven (Luke 10:20). But only the faithful are listed in the Book of Life (Revelation 20:12, 15). The unfaithful have their names erased from the heavenly directory (Exodus 32:33). One who ceases to serve and to fellowship the people of God when he is able to do so on earth has no valid church membership either on earth of in heaven. His name will not be called when the roll-call of the saints is sounded out. When the roll is called up yonder ... will you be there? Will your name be called?
- 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, February 1, 2021

Did Jonah Finally Get It? Do We?

By Joe Slater

    “I’d rather die than . . .” We find some things so distasteful that we say we’d rather die than do them. Jonah meant that quite literally! The Lord ordered Jonah to preach repentance to Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian empire. But Jonah had no intention to obey. He boarded a ship going the opposite direction!
     Jonah dreaded Assyria for good reason. Conquered people suffered unspeakable cruelty from Assyrian kings. Cutting off limbs, noses, and ears, skinning people alive, and burning them alive are just a few of the barbaric ways the Assyrians terrorized and humiliated their captives.
     I’ve read comments by professing Christians in reference to Islamic terrorists: “I hope they die and go to Hell!” That’s likely close to Jonah’s feeling toward the Assyrians. But while righteous indignation was justified, hatred was not. And it still isn’t!
     Even when God sent a storm to plague Jonah’s ship, he chose death over repentance and obedience to the Lord’s command to preach to Nineveh. No doubt he fully expected to drown when the sailors reluctantly threw him into the sea (1:12-15).
     Jonah finally submitted to God’s order, but he still wanted to die when the Ninevites repented (4:3). Such hatred! He lingered outside the city, hoping God might yet destroy it (4:5). When the plant that shaded him withered, however, he again wished for death (4:7-9).
     The book concludes when the Lord shows Jonah that His own concern for lost souls was far more pressing than Jonah’s concern about shade (4:10-11). Such an abrupt ending makes us wonder: Did Jonah finally get it? More importantly do we understand that lost souls are more important than our comforts? And yes, God’s love and concern extend even to the worst of sinners. Does ours? Do we get it?
- 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


Nutrition and Health

By Larry Pasley

    For   those of you who watch what you eat, here's the final word on nutrition and health. It's a relief to know the truth after all those conflicting nutritional studies. 
1.  The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.
2.  The Mexicans eat a lot of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.
3.  The Chinese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.
4.  The Italians drink a lot of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.
5.  The Germans drink a lot of beer and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart      
attacks than Americans.
CONCLUSION:  Eat and drink what you like. Being an American is apparently what kills you.

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    It does get confusing sometimes to know what is best for our physical health. Thankfully that’s not true with our spiritual health. The Bible tells us what to do to grow spiritually.
    We start out as Christians in an infant stage and like physical babies, we need milk to grow. 1 Peter 2:2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,
    We should grow to the point we are able to eat solid food. 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?
    Sometimes we don’t grow as we should and have to go back to a liquid diet. Hebrews 5:12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.
    The purpose of our growing spiritually is so we can recognize right from wrong and choose to do that which is right in the sight of God. Hebrews 5:13-14 For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
    Just as it is difficult to get unhealthy people to eat proper physical food for good health, it is difficult to get worldly people to see the value of spiritual food. 1 Corinthians 2:14-15 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.
    May we always strive to learn the Word of God more and more so we can grow more spiritual through our knowledge and practice of His will.
- Larry Pasley serves as a minister with the Jackson Street Church of Christ in Alexandria, LA. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at http://www.JacksonStAlex.com


Salvation Comes from God

By David R. Ferguson

    In Mark 4:35-41, Jesus and the disciples are in the midst of a great storm. When called upon by His disciples who were in mortal terror for their very lives, Jesus answered their pleas, and out of the raging wind and the roaring waves, the storm was quieted by the Master. Even so, the disciples were amazed and still had no clue Whom this Jesus was (and is).
    What about you? How do you respond when you find yourself in a similar situation, and the storms of life are seen to be raging all around you? Do you expect Jesus to answer you out of the storm raging in the midst of a world that is crashing in all around you? And when Jesus does answer, what do you expect?
    I think people expect God to calm the storm that is raging all around us, but what God wants to do is calm the storm raging within us. It’s the calm that’s within us which is what the Apostle Paul says is “the peace that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). It’s this calm and peace which powers us through the storms of life. When Jesus died on the Cross FOR YOU and when Jesus rose from the grave FOR YOU, Jesus paved the way FOR YOU to make it through the storm. Jesus already has won the victory FOR YOU when He rose triumphantly from the grave. The storms may seem to be overwhelmingly strong, but they have lost their power, for Jesus is already in the boat with you. So what do you need to do? You need to truly trust in the Lord.
    Why is it that God chooses to heal some people, and not others? The answer is we may not ever know. But we do know that the best course of action for us to take always is to trust that God is the best pathway for us. I am reminded of the powerful passage in the Book of Job, when God addressed all of the questions Job raised during his own terrible predicament, where nothing made sense. Who am I to think I have control over anything? As a human being, I am weak and fickle; I don’t even have control over my own emotions! On one day, I can feel so blessed by God; on the next day, the smallest thing could cause my heart to be weighed down.
    Who is like God? He created and rules the whole universe. Life and death are in His Hands. We need to simply trust in God, for He is the Creator. When we do so, we will realize wholeheartedly that our salvation always comes from our God.
- David R. Ferguson preaches for the Mentor Church of Christ in Mentor, OH.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://mentorchurchofchrist.com/ or davidferguson61@yahoo.com


Youthful Lusts are not Confined to Youth

By Gerald Cowan

    “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy word” (Psalm 119:9). Does not the same principle apply to those who are not young? Paul urged Timothy to flee youthful lusts (2 Tim. 2:22). Peter warned against lusts that war against the soul (1 Peter 2:11). There are, no doubt, some lusts and temptations that have greater attraction for young people than for older ones, even those Christians, who try to live a holy life. Children are expected to obey God in their relationships with parents, peers, and society (Eph. 6:1-4, 1 Cor. 15:33). God requires holiness from His people at every age and in every stage of life (Heb. 12:14).
    People are prone to think of life as several stages one passes through. Their reasoning goes something like this: One should be allowed to “be a child” and even “sow a few wild oats” before settling down to the responsibilities and rigors of adulthood. "It’s only a phase. He will outgrow it."  Thinking of one’s situation and circumstances as a temporary stage, even intending and planning change later when the situation and circumstances change is irrational, but common – it is certainly not confined to youth. It is easy enough to tell oneself, “This is a phase I’m going through, but I can give it up, and I’ll make the change someday.” This rationale is often applied to drug use, social and sexual behavior, improper or illicit relationships and habits, and more. interesting, how those who say they can and perhaps should quit seldom do so. Here’s the fact: addiction can be mental and psychological as well as social and physical. Correction may require more strength than one has, and a level of integrity that one does not have. There is no known system of plowing, re-seeding, or crop rotation that can effectively remove, repair, or remedy the damage and impact of one crop of wild oats.
    The prodigal that Jesus spoke of (Luke 15:11-24) managed to repent and return home. But prodigals and other strays are often unwilling to leave the “far country” of self-indulgence and sin. Even if they are considering “going home” again, they want to take some part of the far country with them. They want to be accepted without true repentance and real change, to be assimilated and accommodated – the home changes so that the prodigals fit without changing. In effect the home becomes the far country. The principle applies to those who come to the church after some time spent in the far country of aberrant religion, whether non-Christian or simply a sectarian or denominational variant of Christianity. They want to assimilated and accommodated without real repentance or change, so that the church becomes part of the far country of religious error. The prodigals – Christians who have suffered a relapse, backsliders from the truth and fellowship – often want to be welcomed and accepted and treated as if they had never been away.
    How shall any person – young and old, male and female – cleanse his way? By taking heed to it and changing it to conform to the word of God. The standard for acceptance or rejection, for inclusion or exclusion is God’s Word. It should be studied, understood, and applied by all. Psalm 119:11 Thy word have I hidden in my heart (committed to memory in my mind) that I might not sin against Thee. Both judges and people may choose to ignore God’s word, but He will not. He will judge finally by the standard of His own righteous word as given in and by Jesus Christ (Acts 17:31, John 12:48).
- 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


I Know I’m Saved

By Jim Faughn

     We had a very pleasant conversation. There was only one "glitch." That happened when I asked her where she worshiped and invited her to visit one of the worship services where I preach.
     It was at that point when she said, "I know I'm saved." The look on her face and the tone of her voice
added, "…and don't you dare question that."
     I've seen that look and heard that tone before. I wouldn't try to guess how many times.
My role in life does not include being anybody’s judge. Our Lord prohibited that in Matthew 7:1ff. Even
if He had not spoken those words, I would not want to be the judge of anybody.
     At the same time, I cannot help but make the observation that many who have assured me of their salvation have not complied with the Lord's requirements for salvation. I suppose there's nothing really new about that.
     Even the New Testament informs us of people who "thought they were all right" until somebody cared enough about them to teach them the truth.
Among those individuals, would be…
  • The Jews on the day of Pentecost, who asked what they needed to do to rid themselves of the guilt of sin (cf. Acts 2:37)
  • Saul of Tarsus, who was progressing greatly in the Jewish religion until he obeyed the command to “…Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins…” (Acts 22:16)
  • The people of Athens who were very religious, but lost (cf. Acts 17:22-34)
  • Apollos, who had to be taught “…the way of the Lord more perfectly” (Acts 18:26)
  • The twelve men who had only submitted to "John's baptism" and knew nothing of the baptism authorized by Jesus (cf. Acts 19:1-7).
     The real sticking point in discussions like this usually involves the mode and purpose of baptism. Very
few would question the necessity of believing in Jesus or repenting, or changing our beliefs and behaviour. Some would even admit to the importance of confessing that Jesus is, in fact, the Son of God, the Christ, the Messiah.
     However, the religious world in general and many individuals in particular have missed, ignored, or deny what The Bible teaches about baptism.
     Please consider the following observations:
  • The definition of the Greek word baptizo is “to dip, plunge, overwhelm, or submerge.” Other “modes” are not included in the definition.
  • Those other “modes” are also unknown in the practice of the New Testament preachers and teachers. Possibly the best example of this is the account of Philip and the eunuch from Ethiopia about whom we read, “...they went down both into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him” (Acts 8:38). (You may notice that the next verse informs us that “...they came up out of the water....”)
    The purpose of baptism is not what many people believe it to be. It is sad that many believe they are saved prior to, or in spite of, being baptized, but a careful reading of the New Testament will inform us that...
  • Baptism is “... for the remission of sins....” (Acts 2:38)
  • Baptism is the act that puts a person “into Christ.” (cf. Rom. 6:3, Gal. 3:27)
  • We are not a “new creature” unless and until we are in Christ. (cf. 2 Cor. 5:17)
     I tried to kindly suggest that the lady might want to rethink her confidence. The religious group with which she said she is affiliated does not teach what I’ve presented here. Our conversation ended on a friendly note. She may not have thought about it since then, but I have, and I pray that she will obey God’s plan of salvation.
     I would appeal to anybody who reads these words to trust only God and His Holy Word concerning this, and all other, matters. He is the One “who desires all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4)
     I would also appeal to those of us who “...have come to a knowledge of the truth” to do what we can to teach that truth to others.
     Eternity is way too long to do otherwise.
- Jim Faughn, a retired preacher, serves as an elder for the Central Church of Christ in Paducah KY.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.centralchurchofchrist.org


How Rich are You?

By Ronald Bartanen
 
    “Now you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye, through his poverty, might be rich” (1 Corinthians 8:9).
    Similarly, Paul wrote the Philippians concerning Christ, “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him and given him a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in the earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-10).
    He that put off the heavenly robes of royal majesty to don the swaddling clothes of a Jewish infant did so for you—that you might become rich in His glory. He left the presence of holy angels to company with vile humanity, with the goal of going to the cross and dying for your sins.  “…[T]hough he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye, through his poverty, might be rich.”
    How rich are you? There are riches men strive for in this world, and possibly attain, but find themselves paupers as they depart this life. The riches that endure the test of both time and eternity are only the riches provided for us in Christ. The riches men covet in this world will come to naught, while even the poorest of mankind who love the world anticipate an inheritance unequalled in this world. Paul spoke of the partaking of “the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had before prepared unto glory” (Romans 9:23). Have you let Jesus Christ enrich you? Have you Acknowledged your own poverty, dependent upon the riches of His grace? Have you, trusting Him for cleansing through the blood He shed for you at Calvary, turned in repentance from all that is abhorrent to Him and committed your life to Him in baptism? (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 22:16) And do you then continue to walk in faithfulness to Him that He might daily enrich you by His grace? How rich are you?
- 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 through the website: http://arthurcoc.com/


Be Patient Until Victory

By David Bragg

    Virginia was born into an upper-class family in Baltimore and educated in elite schools where she studied French, Italian, and German. While working as a clerk for the American Embassy in Warsaw, Poland she was involved in a shooting accident that lead to the amputation of her left leg.
    With the invasion of France by Germany, Virginia Hall began her spy work in France to build a resistance force to augment the Allied forces they hoped would arrive. Patiently she labored undercover and amid scrutiny of enemy forces. After months of effort her ring of supporters was compromised by a Nazi spy. Many were arrested and killed. Virginia barely got out alive.
    Still, she was determined to return to France, which she was eventually allowed to do. This time she worked with greater caution (and at great risk to her life and health) patiently built a new network of resistance which many historians have said helped change the course of WW II (www.npr.org).
    We can so easily be guilty of using a watered-down version of “patience.” It may be nothing more than sitting in stalled traffic or being stranded on hold, again, on an important phone call. Patience, in the New Testament, involves a determination to weather sacrifice and suffering to attain a worthwhile goal:¬ eternal life with God in Heaven. With that goal in sight, patience is needed until victory is realized.
- David Bragg serves as one of the ministers at the Northwest Church of Christ in Greensboro, NC and is co-editor of BulletinGold. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.nwchurchofchrist.com/ or his blog: http://davidbragg.blogspot.com/


That's Not What It Says

By Steve Higginbotham

    Have you ever tried to convince anyone that Jesus is the only way to Heaven? If you have, did you use John 14:6 as your proof? In this passage Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
    But I challenge you to re-read that passage. Where does it say Jesus is the only way to Heaven? Heaven isn't even mentioned in the passage. The passage says Jesus is the only way to the Father.
    But one might say, "Yeah, but the Father is in Heaven, right? So this is just semantics. What difference does it make how you say it?"
    Well, as I understand it, it makes a significant difference. Consider:
    If you are a grandparent, and your grandchildren were coming for a visit; would it matter to you if your grandchildren were excited about coming because they love to play in your yard or because they were excited to see you?
    If due to work, you've been separated from your spouse for over a month, would it matter to you if your spouse was excited to get home because he loves his house or because he loves you?
    Of course it would matter. One may ask, what's the difference if Jesus is the only way to "heaven" or the "father?" The answer is relationship. One is a place, the other is a person. One is a gift, the other is the giver. Should we not be more interested in going to see our Heavenly Father than seeing the neat things that belong to our Heavenly Father?
    When being with our Heavenly Father becomes our goal, and Heaven is just a perk that comes from being with him, we'll have our priorities right. Give it some thought.
- Steve Higginbotham preaches for the Karns Church of Christ in Knoxville, TN. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at http://www.karnschurch.org Copyright © 2021 MercEmail

Material Goods

By Kevin V. Rutherford

    Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, made two points concerning wealth in His “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 6:19-34). The first point had to do with wealth. The second point had to do with those material goods that we need in order to live here on this earth. Both of these points can help a Christian to have a perspective that will bring peace and contentment to the heart.
    The first point talks about treasure (Matthew 6:19-24). We are to lay up treasures in heaven rather than treasures on earth. Two reasons are given as to why. First, treasures here are subject to theft and decay, while treasures in heaven are not. Second, your heart is with your treasure. If your treasure is earthly and material, then your heart will be focused on the earthly and material. If your treasure is in heaven, then your heart will be in heaven and your focus will be spiritual. If your mind is focused on heaven and the spiritual, you will be filled with light. If your mind and heart are focused on material treasure your soul will be darkened. God and wealth cannot both be your first priority in life. It is one or the other.
    Jesus then shifts the focus of the lesson from material goods above and beyond what are needed, to those material goods that are needed (Matthew 6:25-34). Jesus does not want us to be focused on material wealth, but neither does He want us to worry about material necessities. Material necessities include food, water, and clothing. We are of much greater value than birds and flowers. Therefore, because God feeds the birds and clothes the flowers we should be confident He will do so for us. God knows what we need, and will take care of us. However, there is a condition. God will provide all that we need when we are seeking His kingdom and righteousness first. If you and I will put God first in our lives, trust in Him to provide for our needs, and stay focused on spiritual treasures, we will be happy, content, hopeful, and confident.
    Along the same lines, Paul warned Timothy of the dangers of focusing on material goods (1 Timothy 6). Paul spoke of false teachers who have drawn people away from the truth for the sake of personal gain (1 Timothy 6:1-6). Paul tells Timothy to withdraw himself from such individuals. Paul then gives Timothy to withdraw himself from such individuals. Paul then gives Timothy the right perspective. That is, true gain is not to be found in material wealth, but rather it is found in godliness accompanied by contentment. Those who lust for material good will never be content. The person who is truly happy is not the one who is continually wanting more and more material goods.
    We should not be obsessed with wealth because we cannot take it with us (1 Timothy 6:6-8). We will leave everything behind when we die. The only thing that goes is the soul. You leave, and you leave everything, and it won’t be long before it is all over. With that perspective, we must realize that our time and efforts should be spent primarily on those pursuits which prepare the soul for leaving the earth.
    If we cannot learn to be content with what we need, and we develop a desire to be rich, we will endanger our souls (1 Timothy 6:8-10). A lust for wealth causes one to fall into traps that drown people in destruction. This lust for money produces all kinds of evil, and some Christians have lost their faith because of it. Some Christians have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows. There is the sorrow of failing to teach children about God because of a focus on the gaining of material wealth. There is the sorrow of discovering the hollow nature of wealth, after relationships have been hurt. There is the sorrow of failing as a steward over one’s time. There is the sorrow that comes from falling victim to all of the evil that can be caused by a lust for wealth.
    Run from the love of money. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, and gentleness instead (1 Timothy 6:11). Lust for wealth leads to failure and fruitlessness. Fighting the good fight of faith that leads to eternal life (1 Timothy 6:12).
- Kevin V. Rutherford preaches for the Warners Chapel church of Christ in Clemmons, NC. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://warnerschapelchurchofchrist.org/