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Monday, March 29, 2021

A Member of the Family

By David A. Sargent

    Karl Stegall tells of two brothers who entered the first grade.  One said he was born January 1, 1984.  The other said he was born April 4, 1984.
    “That is impossible [that you are brothers],” said the teacher.
    “No,” replied the first brother, “one of us is adopted.”
    “Which one?” asked the teacher.
    “I don’t know,” he replied.  “One day I asked my Dad [that question] and he kissed us both and said, ‘I forgot.’” *
    The relationship of these two brothers to their father and to one another illustrates two descriptions of how one may be brought into the family of God.
    Some Scriptures speak of being born into God’s Family.  Jesus told Nicodemus: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old?  Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?”  Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:3-5).  This is a reference to baptism (immersion) in water when a penitent believer in Christ receives the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; 22:16).  Upon his or her baptism, the penitent believer is added to the family of God, the church (Acts 2:41, 47; Galatians 3:26-29).
    Other Scriptures speak of the redemptive process as being adopted into the family of God (Romans 8:15-17; Galatians 4:4-6; Ephesians 1:5).  The idea is that because of our sins, we are orphans and desperately lost.  But God loves us and wants to adopt us into His family.  The Son of God, Jesus, paid the price for our redemption – and our adoption – by dying on the cross for our sins (Ephesians 1:7).  The Apostle Paul wrote to Christians: “For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’  The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs; heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together” (Romans 8:15-17).
    When is one adopted into the family of God?  Here is where the two pictures combine: one is adopted into the family of God when he or she is born again.
    God will save and adopt into His family 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 – “born again” – for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16).  He adds us to His family, the church, and we enjoy all the spiritual blessings that are found in Christ (Ephesians 1:3), including knowing God as our heavenly Father and sharing relationship with brothers and sisters in Christ.
    As Christians we exclaim, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” (1 John 3:1).
    The Good News is that YOU can be “born again” and “adopted” into the Family of God, too.  Trust and obey Jesus.  God wants you to be in His family, forever.
* From “Family of God” by Robert C. Shannon as quoted in www.preaching.com.
- David A. Sargent, minister for the Church of Christ at Creekwood in Mobile, Alabama, is also the editor of an electronic devotional entitled "Living Water." To learn more about this excellent resource contact David via their website: http://www.creekwoodcc.org


The Kingdom of God Comes First (Matthew 6:33)

By Rob Albright

    We all get busy with our daily routine. We have places to go and things to do and people to see everyday.  But one of the things we must keep in mind is our passage today. Jesus wants his disciples to be under the rule of God. God’s way for our life must be priority #1.  He knows what is best for us. Kingdom means “rule” and in God’s Book, the Bible, we have right ways for our life.  We are to seek “his righteousness.” God’s right ways and character must be displayed in all we do. He has taught us things like loving our enemies, and being merciful to others in difficult circumstances, and do what we can in seeking the lost.
    Seeking the rule of God for our life means making spiritual matters supreme. It is important to be sure our children know the priority of spiritual matters (Ecc. 12:1). We learn early in life important truths and habits that we continue in all the days of our life. Parents and Bible class teachers work together influencing our children toward making the kingdom of God a priority.
    Notice the end of our verse above. This is a promise from the Lord. “All these things” will be added to our life if we place the kingdom (rule) of God first in our life. The material things we need in this life will be supplied for us. God will take care of us.
    What we do with our time determines it’s value. If we use our time wisely for God and His kingdom, it carries great value. So, maybe we just need to stop and ask ourselves, “What is our priority in life?”
- Rob Albright serves as one of the ministers at the Northwest Church of Christ in Greensboro, NC. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.nwchurchofchrist.com/


Quick and Easy

By Joe Chesser

    While I was glancing at the books in my library I noticed a book by Dale Carnegie, The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking.  Why did I purchase such a book?  It’s because I am like most everyone else in our society.  We all love shortcuts, we all crave “quick and easy” ways of doing things.  Why do you think there are so many fast food restaurants and so many choices in the frozen food sections at the grocery stores?  Why do you think the bookstores are filled with “quick and easy” solutions to almost everything imaginable, from making money to woodworking, from losing weight to raising kids?  Come on, be honest, you are drawn to the magazines in the check-out aisles that offer “quick and easy” solutions to getting in shape or building relationships or preparing dinner, aren’t you?  We all are.  That’s the American way.  We want it “quick and easy”, and are willing to spend millions of dollars to find out how!
    So it’s not surprising that people want “quick and easy” solutions to their spiritual needs, too.  We love to just say a quick prayer to get anything we want.  We love to just repeat the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved forever.  We love to pay a little money to hire someone else to do our spiritual work for us.  I hate to be the one to burst your bubble, but there’s nothing “quick and easy” about being saved or growing to spiritual maturity.
    We shouldn’t be surprised. There was nothing “quick and easy” about God’s plan for saving us.  Once Adam and Eve sinned, God set in motion His plan for redeeming us, but it took thousands of years to develop the nation of Israel before Jesus became flesh.  It took around 30 years for Jesus to get ready to begin His ministry.  It took over three years for Him to teach His disciples and get ready for the cross.  Even then it took the filling of the Holy Spirit to get the disciples to understand what Jesus was all about.  Spiritual growth and understanding takes time, lots of time.
    Just ask the Christians to whom the book of Hebrews was written.  The writer wanted to discuss some things that were difficult to explain, but, because of their spiritual immaturity, he couldn’t (Hebrews 5:11).  What is not stated in the text is that many of these people had been Christians for as many as 30 years, and yet still needed to be fed with milk, not solid food (Hebrews 5:12). Just because they had been Christians a long time did not guarantee maturity.  The writer concluded, “But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14).  Note the words “constant” and “trained.”  Both words indicate an extended period of time.
    If you want to become a spiritually mature Christian, you’ll have to ditch any idea that this will be a “quick and easy” process.  It will require constant study of the scriptures. It will require learning how to use what you learn with the spiritual wisdom that God gives (Colossians 1:9).  But you can do it, because God has promised to help.
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com


Be Not Deceived!

By Joe Slater

     Of all the ungodly things one might do to me, I consider deceiving me to be among the least tolerable. I simply detest being lied to! In Scripture, words like deceive, deceit, deceitful, etc., are used at least fifty times and mean to give a false impression, to misrepresent, to ensnare or trap, or to lead astray.
     Revelation 12:9 speaks of Satan as the one who “deceives the whole world.” When we first see Satan in the Bible, he is lying to Eve about eating the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:1-5). No wonder Jesus said, “When he (Satan) speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44).
     Paul told the brethren in Corinth (and, by extension, told us) “I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3). Satan doesn’t appear to us in physical form as he did to Eve, but he is still in business and has assistants galore! False teachers plagued the church at Corinth, and their spiritual descendants remain today. “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
     Brethren, we are not immune from deception! Satan his had thousands of years to perfect his technique. Let us heed the Bible’s repeated admonition, “Be not deceived!” (Luke 21:8; 1 Corinthians 6:9 & 15:33; Galatians 6:7). “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
- 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

Whose Bible Are You Following?

By Edd Sterchi

    Recently I read an article that listed some of the statements from the introductory chapters of the Satanic Bible. Here are just three of them (note: there are many more).
- Satan represents indulgence instead of abstinence!
- Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek!
- Satan represents all of the so-called sins, as they all lead to physical, mental or emotional gratification.
    Did you notice anything concerning today’s society in that list? These are some philosophies that are very present in “modern” thinking. We shouldn’t be surprised at people thinking only of themselves and demanding that their sinful lifestyles be accepted by society. Jesus told us that many would take that path (which leads to destruction, Matt. 7:13). As children of God, we need to not only be appalled by these philosophies of unrighteousness, but we need to expose them for what they really are (centered around Satan).
    We are either following the doctrine of Satan or God (Matt. 12:30). Whose Bible are you following and professing?
- 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/


Monday, March 22, 2021

How Many Times Do I Have To Tell You?

By Joe Chesser

     “How many times do I have to tell you?!  How many times?” I guess every parent has said this at some time or another, in part because every parent had heard it from their parents.  Parents tell their children over and over to pick up their clothes or to shut the door or to put their dishes in the sink.  Yet, for some reason their words just don’t seem to make it from the kids’ ears to their brains to their heart.  As a result, their behavior isn’t changed.
     So, we shouldn’t be surprised when we read that the women and disciples, upon reaching Jesus’ tomb, were shocked to find it empty (Luke 24:1-12).  They wept and wondered at what had happened to the body of Jesus, but they didn’t remember that He had told them plainly and repeatedly that after three days He would rise again (Mark 8:31-32, 9:30-32, 10:32-34).  Perhaps Jesus felt like saying, “How many times do I have to tell you?!”  And, even after an angel told them that He had risen, they still were afraid and bewildered (Mark 16:8).
     The New Testament speaks often about the resurrection of Jesus.  But I’m afraid that no matter how many times it is plainly taught, many people will remain ignorant and confused about it.  Somehow the significance of the resurrection doesn’t get from the ears to the brain to the heart.  So, even though the story of the resurrection is told in countless homes and churches around the globe, the behavior of the hearers rarely is affected all that much.
     The resurrection of Jesus gives us hope: hope for the forgiveness of sins (1 Cor. 15:17; 1 Peter 1:3, 3:21), and hope for eternal life (1 Cor. 15:19; Romans 8:11).  But it is also intended to change our lives as we are raised from baptism to walk in newness of life  (Romans 6:4).  Because we have been raised with Christ, we are expected to live differently from the rest of the world.  Paul wrote in Colossians 3:1-4:
                “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things
                above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on
                things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now
                hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then
                you will also appear with him in glory.”
He then proceeds to be specific about the changes than need to occur in the life of those who have been “raised with Christ.”  Christians need to get rid of anger, rage, malice, slander and filthy language (Col. 3:8), and they need to add things like compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Col 3:12). But my point is that the resurrection should not only give us hope, it should change our lives.
     But for that to happen, at some point the words must to get past our ears to our brains to our heart.  How many times will you need to hear this for it to change your life?
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com


“The Plug Is Out of the Tub”

By Adam Faughn

     When Abraham Lincoln was elected as the sixteenth President of the United States, he knew that the country was falling apart. He made preserving the union his priority leading up to taking office and wanted it to be the focus of his administration. It was, at first, the chief reason he felt the Civil War was worth fighting (though he made the war about the emancipation of slaves after a short while).
     However, as he knew states were seceding and things were headed toward war, he told one of  his  confidants,  "The  plug  is  out  of  the  tub." Then,  though,  he  followed  that  imagery  with  a question  asked  by  one  with  the  weight  of  the world  upon  his  shoulders:  "And  what  shall  we do?"
     We  can  only  imagine  the  feeling  of  pressure and stress Lincoln had when he would ask such a  question,  but  it  is  also  possible  that  we  can understand  why  he  would  ask  this.  As  God's people,  we  see  the  morality  of  our  world  slip-ping  away  rapidly.  Biblical  morals  are  tossed aside, and those who still hold to them are told to be quiet or are even vilified. We are told that we  are  mean,  bigoted,  out  of  step,  "on  the wrong side of history," and cruel.
     Morally  speaking,  it  certainly  seems  as  if  the plug  is  out  of  the  tub.  If  that  is  the  case,  then let's ask Lincoln's question: "And what shall we do?"  From  the  way  people  act,  it  seems  there are several answers.
     Some basically say, "go with the flow." In other words, there are some who think that if the way of the world is "winning," then I had better be sure I am on the winning side. I may not lead the charge, but I will certainly not stand in the  way.  I'll  share  the  mottos  on  social  media,  and  I  won't  push  back  against  things  in  the least  because  I  don't  want  to  get  run  over  by  the  momentum  all  of  this  has.  That  mindset, however,  stands  in  sharp  contrast  to  what  God  told  His  covenant  people  in  the  Old  Testament: "You shall not fall in with the many to do evil" (Exodus 23:2).
     Some refuse to acknowledge the issue. When water leaves a bathtub, it takes a while. If you were  to  watch  it  nonstop,  it  might  be  difficult  to  notice  the  slow  change.  However,  if  you leave  and  come  back  after  a  few  minutes,  you  will  notice  the  tub  is  empty.  The  same  is  often true  with  moral  changes.  We  do  not  recognize  (or,  maybe  even  more  tragically,  do  not  care about) "small" movements away from Biblical teachings. So, we just go along with "little" changes (euphemistic language, slightly crude jokes, etc.), and we do not notice that the water is leaving the tub! Christians cannot stand for even tiny changes that move us away from the standard of the Word.
     The fact is, we may not be able to stop the flow away from Biblical morality in our culture. But that  should  never  give  us  the  feeling  that  we can  stop  fighting  it.  We  must  do  our  best  to plug  the  tub!  Our  efforts  may  be  small,  and they  may  get  washed  away  in  the  rush  that people are in to move away from God, but our work is never done. The absolute last thing we should ever consider is giving up. God has not put  us  here  to  avoid  work.  He  has  us  here  to do hard work.
     What shall we do? We shall stand for truth, no matter how fast the flow away from God ends up being.
- Adam Faughn preaches for the Central Church of Christ in Paducah KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.centralchurchofchrist.org Visit the Faughn Family blog, A Legacy of Faith.


None Like Him

By Joe Slater

    Some people just naturally stand out from the rest. Of three individuals the Bible says there was “none like him.”
    When Israel clamored for a king so they could be like the nations around them, God reluctantly gave them Saul, the son of Kish. The prophet Samuel anointed Saul and asked Israel, “Do you see him whom the Lord has chosen, that there is no one like him among all the people?” (1 Samuel 10:1, 24). What was so special about Saul? “When he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward” (10:23). Unfortunately, his fine physique didn’t make Saul a good king. He started out well but came to a disastrous end.
    Hezekiah, unlike Saul, was renowned not for his good looks, but his godliness. “He trusted in the Lord God of Israel, so that after him was none like him among the kings of Judah, nor who were before him” (2 Kings 18:5). Hezekiah had inherited a kingdom mired down in the idolatry and immorality of his father, Ahaz. Despite his youth and regardless of the difficulty, Hezekiah instituted sweeping reforms to bring Judah closer to God.
    Even better than Hezekiah was the patriarch Job. God Himself said of him, “There is none like him on the earth” (Job 1:8a). What made him so exceptional? The Lord said he was “a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil” (1:8b). Job’s conduct was such that no one could successfully find fault with him. (His friends tried, but failed miserably!) Job’s reverence for God led him to shun wickedness.
    Christians ought to stand out from the world. We may not have marvelous physiques, nor should that be our concern. Let us trust in the Lord like Hezekiah! Let us strive to be blameless and upright, reverencing God and shunning evil! May God say of us, “There is none like them!” 
- 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


Looking Unto Jesus

By Edd Sterchi

    If you have ever watched a choral group or orchestra, you will note one thing each member always does – they look at the conductor from time to time. This is to insure that they are in harmony and performing in accordance with the conductor’s directive.
    As members of the church, we make up a group that is performing before God.  And as such, we must look to Him and His word for proper guidance concerning practice and harmony.  When we turn the whole focus of our attention to our Lord and acknowledge that He is in command, and perform in spirit and truth in accordance with His will, our lives will give forth a song that is beautiful music to His ears.  Sadly, too many people (and churches) focus  on the world and let worldly influences lead them.  Doing so is a recipe for disharmony and disaster.  Let us be reminded of the need to follow Christ and His will only in everything we do.
    “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Col. 3:1-2)

...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith...” (Heb. 12:1-2) 
- 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/


Looking For Jesus

By Travis Robertson

   A young girl, the daughter of a friend, was looking through one of her books when she was asked, ‘what are you doing?’ Her reply was simply; ‘I’m looking for Jesus, daddy.’
   Throughout the New Testament we find occasions where people were looking for Jesus, but for totally different reasons. Herod was looking for Jesus as an infant to put Him to death. The magi were looking for Him because they knew Him to be the King of Israel. Throughout His ministry the Pharisees and Sadducees were looking for Jesus to trap Him, ultimately to put Him to death. Multitudes looked to be fed and healed. Before His trial and crucifixion, an angry mob. accompanied by soldiers being led by Judas, came looking for Jesus. The question Jesus asked; ‘whom do you seek?’
   Are you looking for Jesus? If you are, what exactly are you seeking? Lots of people look for Jesus for all kinds of reasons. However, you will be truly blessed only when you establish a relationship with Him. Don’t settle for just looking, once you discover who He is, establish your relationship with Him in obedience to the gospel. 
- Travis Robertson preachers for the Lake Norman Church of Christ in Huntersville, NC. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at http://lakenormancoc.org/

Monday, March 15, 2021

Obtaining Eternal Salvation

By Ron Thomas

    On MeWe (social media platform), a post was made that gave attention to How Do We Obtain Eternal Salvation? There was a list of things that do not contribute to one’s salvation, a long list. A friend of mine on the platform shared this, so I asked her about it. Here are four list-items that I asked her about when it said:
    (1) “Not by water baptism” - but I encouraged her to look at 1 Peter 3:21 in any translation. (2) “Not by repenting of / turning away from your sin” - but I encouraged her to look at Acts 11:18 and Luke 13:3, 5. (3) “Not by confessing your sins” - but I encouraged her to look at Romans 10:9-10. (4) Finally, in the concluding paragraph, it says, but, "Only by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ alone..." - then I encouraged her to take her concord
ance and see where "believe" (or faith) and "only" are put together in relation to one’s salvation. The New Testament passages used in the post to support “faith only” are Acts 16 and 1 Corinthians 15. I wrote, “It's not in the passages alluded to in Acts 16 and 1 Cor. 15.”
    When I saw the list, I knew exactly the direction the list was trending; it is a belief that many have in the denominational religious world that one is saved by faith only. This is NOT a doctrine of the Bible, but a doctrine of man, which meets, precisely, the words of the Lord in Matthew 15:9. While Jesus had a concern for the traditions of the Jewish community, in our day, we have concern for those who set aside the Lord’s express will for a Reformation (a religious movement that began in the 16th century and is active in our day) doctrine of man.
    Faith only is not taught in the New Testament in relation to one’s salvation. There is a difference between “justified by faith” and “justified by faith only.” One is in the Old and New Testament alike, but the other is nowhere to be found. To say one is justified by faith only is to say one is saved by belief without identifying with the Lord Jesus in His death burial and resurrection, as Paul spelled out it’ essential nature in Romans 6:3-7. This illustrates the importance of knowing the Lord’s revealed will, as stated in the New Testament. Faith only is a false teaching of man and needs to be opposed with firm and gentle reliance on the Lord as He taught in the New Testament. 

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


Choosing What You Know Is Good

By Joe Chesser
 
    Learning isn’t easy.  It involves thinking, exploring, and experimenting.  Along the way you will have successes and failures.  You’ll learn what works and what doesn’t.  You’ll experience some good things and some not so good things.  But the goal of learning is to start making better choices in life.
    Some lessons you can learn rather quickly.  Usually touching a hot stove one time is enough to teach you not to do it again.  Sticking the tweezers in an electrical outlet one time is usually enough to learn that lesson, too!  On the other hand, learning to choose good friends or to always tell the truth may take a bit longer.  But again, the goal of learning is to eliminate the pain and hardships of life and to replace them with things that are pleasant and beneficial.  Growing up is learning to consistently make good choices.
    The same process is true in growing to spiritual maturity.  This is essentially what Paul said to the Thessalonians: “Test everything.  Hold on to the good.  Avoid every kind of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22).  The mature Christian has learned to choose what is good more often than he used to.  The immature Christian is still trying to learn what the good choices are.  You see this in the way people struggle in living consistently for the Lord.
    For example, it is always a good choice to attend all the worship and Bible classes faithfully.  Those who choose to do so usually grow to Christian maturity.  Not only do they receive strength from being in the presence of God, they also receive the instruction and encouragement they need from their fellow Christians to make better choices when they are not assembled with the church.
    Most Christians know this, but far too many fail to make this one simple choice that would enrich their whole lives.  Instead, they let other things interfere with choosing what is better, especially the evening assemblies (things like TV shows, kids’ sporting activities, yard work, company, and simply just preferring to stay home).  Church attendance does not guarantee spiritual maturity, but it does give you the opportunity to learn how to grow to maturity.  As it says in Hebrews 10:24: “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”  We all need the encouragement from fellow Christians to keep on loving and keep on serving the Lord.  It’s not just a coincidence that the very next verse is the one that instructs us to be consistent in church attendance: “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another” (Hebrews 10:25).  You just multiply the difficulty of growing in love and service to the Lord, of growing to spiritual maturity, when you do not choose to do what you know is good – to meet often with the church.  There’s a reason why in-person worship and study is better than virtual worship and study. God blesses those who make good choices.
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com


Are You Tired of Wearing Masks Yet?

By Jim Faughn

     During the past year, the “mask policy” has changed multiple times. National, state, and local governments have mandated a variety of changes in policy. These changes have often been difficult to understand and even more difficult to enforce. There have been instances when one set of policies has conflicted with others.
    Various levels of government have not been alone in adopting confusing and conflicting policies. Businesses, churches, and other organizations have also felt the need to adopt their own “mask policies.”
    All of this has even filtered down to the family and individual levels. Some families and individuals refuse to wear a mask and/or require others to do so in their presence while others make wearing a mask mandatory for themselves and others.
    Wherever you are in all of this, I’m guessing that most of us can agree that we are growing very tired of wearing masks and seeing other people wearing them. Most of us are also probably tired of making decisions about masks or even hearing about them.
    I would like to suggest a new “mask policy.” I think that this policy would, if implemented, make the world a much better place. Here’s the policy:
Take all of the masks off and destroy them!
    Before you think that I’ve completely lost what little sense I have, let me quickly explain that the masks I have in mind have nothing to do with the pandemic about which all of us are concerned. In fact, these masks have nothing to do with any disease that might be transmitted from one individual to others.
    The masks I have in mind are not even literal, material masks. They are “masks” worn by people who do not want others to see who they really are.
    I think that you know what I have in mind. These masks allow people to adapt their personality, their “beliefs,” their morals, and a host of other things to whatever environment in which they find themselves. For ex-ample, I could choose to wear my “good old boy mask” when I’m out with friends and switch to my “faithful Christian mask” on Sunday or when I’m around religious people. (Sometimes that switch can be made in just the hours between Saturday night and Sunday morning.)
    Would we not all be much better off if we would take off all of our masks and be consistent in what we do and say? How much easier and more pleasant would our lives be, for example if, when I tell you some-thing, you didn’t have to try to figure out what I really meant?
    As you consider an answer to that question, you may want to think about something you may have already heard before. Our English word hypocrite is derived from a Greek word. That Greek word that referred to an actor on a stage.
    An interesting fact about those Greek actors is that one of them could play various parts in a production. All he had to do was to change masks. That enabled one actor to portray characters who were happy, sad, mean, kind, etc.
    I’m praying that it will not be very much longer before we can communicate and socialize with others without concerns about wearing a mask in order to minimize the chances of transmitting some disease. I’m praying even more that each one of us (including me) will choose to be transparent and consistent. Beyond that, it is my prayer that all of us who wear the name of Christ have as our goal living in such a way that we are transparently and consistently honoring Him.
- 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 (from A Legacy of Faith)
 

It Still Works

By David A. Sargent

     Dr. Richard Selzer wrote about a report that he gave after a surgery he performed on a young lady had left a lasting blemish:
     I stand by the bed where a young woman lies, her face postoperative, her mouth twisted in palsy, clownish.  A tiny twig of the facial nerve, the one to the muscles of her mouth, has been severed.  She will be thus from now on.  The surgeon had followed with religious fervor the curve of her flesh; I promise you that.  Nevertheless, to remove the tumor in her cheek, I had to cut the little nerve.  Her young husband is in the room.  He stands on the opposite side of the bed and together they seem to dwell in the evening lamplight, isolated from me, private.  Who are they, I ask myself, he and this wry mouth I have made, who gaze at and touch each other so generously, greedily?
     The young woman speaks. "Will my mouth always be like this?" she asks.
     "Yes," I say, "it will. It is because the nerve was cut."
     She nods and is silent.  But the young man smiles.  "I like it," he says, "It is kind of cute."  All at once I know who he is.  I understand and I lower my gaze.  One is not bold in an encounter with greatness.  Unmindful, he bends to kiss her crooked mouth and I am so close I can see how he twists his own lips to accommodate to hers, to show her that their kiss still works. *
     Our sins have marred the image of our souls.  We have “missed the mark” in many ways (Romans 3:23) leaving scars that glaringly reveal our mistakes.
     But when Jesus looks at us, His gaze is one of love.  He loves us anyway, scars and all.  He came to us and died on the cross for our sins so that we may be made whole in His sight (1 Peter 2:24).  Despite the mistakes of our past and our future, His grace still works.  He has never stopped loving us, and He never will.
     Accept His offer of love, grace, and life.  Place your faith and trust in Him (Acts 16:30-31), turn from your sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess His sweet and glorious name (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized (immersed) into Christ and He will cleanse your soul (Acts 2:38; 22:16).  Then continue to follow Him faithfully, and He will continue to cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:7-9).
     Marred by sin, we come face to face with Jesus.  Though it cost Him His life to pay for our sins, He looks at us with love and mercy, longing for us to accept His offer of salvation and eternal life.
“Bring Christ your broken life, So marred by sin;
He will create anew, Make whole again.
Your empty, wasted years, He will restore,
And your iniquities Remember no more.”
-- T.O. Chisholm
And when we accept His offer, we realize that we have encountered God – a loving, gracious God.
- 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
* Richard Selzer, M.D., Mortal Lessons: Notes on the Art of Surgery, 1978, pp. 45-6 as quoted in www.sermonillustrations.com.

What Do You Expect From God?

By Bill Brandstatter

    I was talking to a Christian a few years ago about his commitment to God. He said he didn’t go to worship services much because God had “touched him.” He stated that he takes his granddaughter to services, but he had not been in three weeks. He was raised in the church; however, church wasn’t what he expected. So, I asked him what did he expect? What do you expect from God?
    Some expect God to put a stamp of approval on their lifestyle and accept them without any change on their part. Perhaps this group would say everyone is going to heaven, just by different routes. Yet, God commands all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30, 31). Some get upset when someone tells them what they must do to be saved. Others object if they are asked to prove anything about the religion they profess. Yet the Bible tells us we should be able to give an answer for what we believe (1 Pet. 3:15). So, again the question is: What do they expect from God?
    Perhaps some men think too little about God’s perspective and too much about their own. Remember, God doesn’t think like man does (Is. 55:8, 9). Man lives in a physical world. Often what he expects in the physical, he expects in the spiritual. When excitement, entertainment, and pleasure are the name of the game in the physical, some expect these in the spiritual realm as well. They may think that any church that doesn’t provide one of those is not meeting their expectations.
    Sometimes man thinks God’s ways are unfair (Ezek. 18:25). Yet, who is it that sets the standard of fairness? Is it not God? Whatever God does is fair and just; therefore, it is man’s way that are not fair (Ezek. 33:17).
    Some may expect God to do what man is supposed to do. God cannot save a person who does not want to be saved. God cannot change His law of pardon to save someone who has not obeyed Him. We must obey from the heart the doctrine of God (Rom. 6:17).
    When the rich man was in torment in Luke 16, he wanted someone to go to his brothers on earth. The answer given to him was “They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them” (Luke 16:30). Those who would be saved had to do what God wanted. They had to follow the revealed will of God as written by Moses and the prophets. Anything else was not acceptable. Today, we must follow what Christ says (Jn. 12:48). We cannot expect God to do for us what we must do. We have to work at obtaining the knowledge we need. It takes study on our part (Acts 17:11). We must receive it and make it part of us (James 1:12). We must obey the gospel that God has given us and heaven will be home one day (Rom. 10:16,17; 2 Thess. 1:8). The will of God for salvation has been revealed to us (2 Pet. 1:3; 2 Tim. 3:16,17).
    We can know what God expects of us. Let us strive to do what God expects, and always have a good conscience toward Him (Acts 24:16).
- Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://marionchurchofchrist.com/


Monday, March 8, 2021

Change in the Delivery of Content from BulletinGold

 As of March 2021, after 2o years of publication, BulletinGold has changed from the original monthly newsletter format. Now you can find ...


- Post five (5) new articles each Monday to our current website (bulletingold.com).
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The material in BulletinGold is to be used only in church bulletins and other non-profit publications. Please give due credit to our contributors.

Choosing What to Believe

By Ron Bartanen
 
    Among the many witty and thought-provoking bits of wisdom that has come my way on the Internet recently was this observation: “The truth is that most of us decide what lies we want to believe.”   Prejudices abound in such realms as politics, culture and religion.  True objectivity in separating fact from fiction is hard to find.  We are universally affected by our backgrounds, friends and environment.  A truly subjective seeking after truth in a multitude of areas of life is difficult, if not entirely impossible, to find.  The result is a divided society, often resulting in chaos and even war.  Life, thereby, becomes a burden upon mankind as each seeks his own way.  The natural inclination of man is to seek a way that will harmonize with his own prejudices and preferences.  The problem is rooted within our own degenerate hearts, which the Bible describes as “deceitful in all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9).
    God’s answer to man’s predicament is a person—His own Son, Who declared, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).  Through Jesus, God has reconciled believers to Himself, through the crucifixion of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18-21), uniting us with Him who is the embodiment of truth.  While our minds and hearts seek to feed us an assortment of lies, in Christ we are afforded the totality of truth, as He declared to His disciples: “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32).  The Holy Spirit-inspired word which they proclaimed was the word of God, as Jesus prayed on the eve of His betrayal: “Father, sanctify them through your truth; Your word is truth” (John 17:17).  That truth affects every facet of the believer’s worldview and conduct.  We open our hearts to Satan’s lies if our hearts are not guarded by this truth, as Paul declared of those who did not love the truth, “For this cause God shall send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12). The choice is ours.
- 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/


Ten Essential Truths to Know and Remember

By Gerald Cowan & Ron Thomas
 

    God is – always was, and always will be – eternal and unchanging (Ps. 90:1-2, Mal. 3:6). RT: In practical terms this means there is no time in human existence when He was not present, and neither is there going to be any time in the future to one’s existence when He is not present. If He is unchanging, then let us learn that as He dealt with sin in old times, He will deal with it the same now. 

    God created, established, set in order and ar ranged the world and man (Gen. 1:1, Is. 45:18). RT: With God there is no room for the General Theory of Evolution. Each person must make a decision. Decisions have consequences.

  God provided and maintains a way of salvation and fellowship with Him (John 3:16, Heb. 10:12-18). RT: Salvation is the work of God, He originated it and calls on people to repent in order to be saved. With Him, no other way of salvation from sin. In God’s work of salvation, He wants to see no one perish (loose their soul) in a devil’s hell.

God has spoken. The essential message of God is preserved and available in the Bible (Matt. 4:4, 1 Peter 1:25). RT: The faith has been once and for all delivered unto the saints (Jude 3) and we have all things that pertain to life and godliness through Him that called us (2 Peter. 1:3). Since this is the case, in one’s response to God, what more is needed? There is nothing more except to respond to His holy will as revealed in the pages of the New Testament.

God will not speak again – there will be no new message and no additional mes sage before and until the end of world (Gal. 1:6-9, Rev. 22:18-19). RT: Those religiously devoted people who frequently declare God spoke to him or her—they are deceived and are con trolled by the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4; 2:11). See the remark above.

God works, is still working (John 5:17, Col. 1:16-17). RT: The Lord’s word works in them that believe (1 Thess. 2:13); He works in the affairs of man (Dan. 4:17); He is able to do exceedingly abundantly more than we ask or think (Eph. 3:20-21). He will not, however, say more than He has already said.

God is still loving and blessing (James 1:17, 21). RT: What would we know about love if not from God? We would only guess. As it is, a large portion of the population does guess and defines love in such a cavalier way they know nothing (or next to nothing) about what it means. Let the Lord tell you what it means by taking note of what He did.

God still hears and answers prayer (1 Peter 3:12). RT: The Lord will hear the pray ers of those who love and obey Him; He will not hear the prayers of those in rebellion to Him. Those who are searching or are perplexed and confused about matters in life and the ways of the Lord, these the Lord addresses however He chooses to do so.

God still saves (1 Tim. 1:15). RT: If God can save a man who called himself the chief of sinners, He can and will save you if submit to the authority of His name. It is not within man that walks to direct his steps (Jer. 10:23); to direct your own steps means you can determine your own way; this is the way of death (Prov. 14:12). The heart is deceitful above all things (Jer. 17:9). It is deceitful because each person tells himself continually that his motives are good even if his direction is not.

God has judged, is judging, and will judge all (Gen. 18:25, Heb. 4:12-13, Acts 17:30-31). RT: There is coming a day of judgment wherein all who live will stand before the Lord and be judged by the things done in this life. If one does not begin with Jesus, then all else, no matter how good it might have been, fails. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in him: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he hath not believed in the witness that God hath borne concerning his Son” (1 John 5:10, ASV).

- (Gerald’s words are in bold, along with Scripture references (not in bold); my words are in italics)
- 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

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


Near to the Heart of God

By Clifton Angel

    Cleland Boyd McAfee penned the song "Near to the Heart of God" in 1903. Resources say two of his infant nieces died from diphtheria, which event motivated the writing of this hymn. Diphtheria is a bacterial infection that is rare today because of immunization. According to the Mayo Clinic, "Diphtheria typically causes a sore throat, fever, swollen glands and weakness. But the hallmark sign is a sheet of thick, gray material covering the back of your throat, which can block your airway, causing you to struggle for breath" (www.mayoclinic.org). Two places come to mind when I think of being near to the heart of God: (1) Heaven; (2) The church. According to the hymn, "near to the heart of God" are several blessings.
    "A place of quiet rest." Jesus said, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). Now that I know the history behind the song, I cannot help but to think of the loud and restless nights that may have ensued while these two young girls suffered diphtheria.
    "A place where sin cannot molest." This may be my favorite line in the entire song. I am reminded that death, decay, and disease are all results of sin (Romans 5:12). In Revelation 21, we are given a glimpse of the church in Heaven, when "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away" (Revelation 21:4). Furthermore, if today we are walking in the light, Jesus' blood continually cleanses our sins and we remain "near to the heart of God" (cf. 1 John 1:7).
    "A place of comfort sweet." When our children are sick or hurting, our first priority is often to seek comfort for them. Furthermore, true comfort is only found "near to the heart of God." Paul wrote, "Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God" (2 Corinthians 1:3–4).
    "A place where we our Savior meet." In another hymn, we sing: "What a day that will be, when my Jesus I shall see; When I look upon His face, the One who saved me by His grace; When He takes me by the hand, And leads me to the Promise Land; What a day, glorious day that will be."
    "A place of full release." "He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new" (Rev. 21:5). We can rest assured those two baby girls no longer have diphtheria. And, while it pains us to imagine what the parents endured in their loss, it comforts us that the baby girls obtained full relief from their suffering.
    "A place where all is joy and peace." Paul wrote, "Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing; But in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:4–7; cf. Revelation 21:2–4). The refrain reads: "O Jesus, blest Redeemer, sent from the heart of God, hold us, who wait before Thee, near to the heart of God." Is Jesus your Savior? Is Jesus your Redeemer? Have you made arrangements to be "near to the heart of God"?             
- 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/


Be Sober (1 Peter 5:8)

By Travis Robertson

    When you hear the word, sober, what do you think? Immediately, I begin to think about staying away from drugs and alcohol. While this word certainly has that in mind, it is more focused on simply staying alert and at the ready. The reason Christians need to be sober minded is because our adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. If we are not alert or paying attention, we become an easy target for Satan.
    It is funny that Peter tells his readers in the previous verse to cast their anxiety on God, and then in the following verse, adds to their anxiety by saying, “There is a lion on the loose, look out!” However, it is important to notice that Peter is helping us understand that just because we have cast our anxiety on God, that does not mean that we can relax and give Satan an opportunity. We need to continue to stay alert and remain faithful.
    If we can be sober minded and remain faithful, notice the blessings for us in verse 10, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.” So, do not lose heart in your present circumstances, be of sober mind, stand firm in the faith, and receive the blessings that the God of all grace has prepared for you. 
- Travis Robertson preachers for the Lake Norman Church of Christ in Huntersville, NC. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at http://lakenormancoc.org/