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Monday, April 26, 2021

Lost Faith or Stopped Believing?

By Lance Cordle

    I don’t want to appear “picky” or overly analytical, but there are times when I fear that Christians allow commonly used phrases to shape their way of thinking. One such phrase is “I lost my faith.”
    As you may likely know, “faith” is a noun that represents the result of a verb, “believe.” A person believes and the resulting condition as a matter of continuation of that action is “faith.” As far as I can tell, the predominant use of the two concepts by the writers of the New Testament is to emphasize the action of the person in believing. For example, the book of John was “written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31, ESV). Almost one hundred times, John used a form of the Greek word for “believe” in that book. Note also that when the writer of the book of Hebrews commended Old Testament heroes such as Abel, Abraham, and Joseph for their faith, emphasis was placed on the action of the person involved (Hebrews 11:4, 8, 22, ESV).
    On the other hand, “faith” is sometimes used as the system of faith which the person believes. For example, faith can be departed from (2 Timothy 4:1); contended for (Jude 3); and was said to dwell in Timothy (2 Timothy 1:5). However, I believe theses concepts are in the minority an are used in accommodative ways to speak of something that is, in its essence, active. In other words, on departs from the faith by stopping believing one way and beginning to believe in another.
    I think much of the confusion has been brought about by some incorrect teaching on Ephesians 2:8, 9. Those verses say, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” (ESV). Some teach that “faith” itself is a gift from God. In other words, our action of belief was brought about by God, overruling our will. If you will examine this passage closely, however, you will see that the “gift” is the “have been saved” part. The “faith” is our act of believing and involves more than mere assent.
    Now, stay with me just a little longer. If we think of faith as a passive thing, that has been given to us (maybe even “passed on), it is much easier to say, “I lost my faith.” It is more accurate and descriptive to say, “I chose to stop believing.” We choose to believe based on a set of evidences presented to us. We also choose to stop believing based on another set of evidences. This principle applies to our children and anyone else who falls away (note the active words) from God. The responsibility rests on the shoulders of the believer who becomes an unbeliever. Let’s make sure we don’t evade it (or allow someone else to do so) by our misuse of language.
- 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


The Need for Jesus

By Bryan McAlister

    Few, if any really, would argue against the pursuit in this life to acquire things like fulfillment, pleasure, contentment, knowledge, or even purpose. In fact, most, even in the world believe such pursuits are the framework of most of our lives. In those pursuits, however we find what we are looking for, we are the better if our search produces the results we have desired. Therein lies the problem most of us face when trying to meet our needs. The approach most in our culture and society would suggest today for meeting our needs comes from a “relative” perspective. What may suit and fulfill the life of “Fred” may not satisfy the desire of fulfillment in the life of “Fred’s” neighbor; but if something else can and does, then that course should certainly be pursued.
    Common ground is difficult to find, when we live in a world where so many opinions exist about nearly every aspect of life. Yet in the long ago there were words written to describe such a ground; where to find it and even how to stand upon it. Through a source greater than philosophy or higher academia, we learn of a message mankind has the privilege to know: “the grace of God in truth” (Col. 1:6). Accompanying those words were a prayer that all who would have the opportunity would hear, would not only believe the message; but also, “be filled with all knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” (Col 1:9).
    The common ground for every race, every culture, every country, every government, every family is ground of Jesus, His church, His body, His authority, and His love. The grace of God is in Jesus (Col 1:13). The greatness of God is in Jesus (Col 1:16). The glory of God is in Jesus (Col 1:27). The goal of God is in Jesus (Col 1:29). How desperately our world needs Jesus! How blessed of an occasion it is to come share with you the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to share with all who will hear, “The Need for Jesus!” 
- Bryan McAlister preaches for the Walnut Street Church of Christ in Dickson, TN. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: https://www.wscoc.com/


Sun Up!

By Joe Chesser
 
    I watched the sun come up the other day. Needless to say, it was awesome. From where I sat, most of my surroundings were only dimly visible in the pre-dawn light. But, I could see the reddish-orange glow on the horizon and knew the sun would appear at any moment. And then … there it was, peeking through the leafless trees. Just a sliver at first, but it quickly began to be fully visible. The more I saw of the sun, the more the dimness around me vanished. How wonderfully things had changed at sun up.
    Then it dawned on me how wonderfully things changed at Son up!
    Two men were walking from Jerusalem to Emmaus late one Sunday afternoon. Even though the sun was still up, their hearts were in darkness. Their hopes for the redemption of Israel had been nailed to a cross when Jesus was crucified just three days earlier. This left them downcast, filled with doubts and uncertainties. So, when a stranger approached them, they couldn’t help sharing with him their heartaches and disappointments. They even related to him how some friends had gone to Jesus’ tomb earlier that morning and found it empty. They were at a total loss about what to do.
    Fortunately for them, that stranger turned out to be Jesus. Beginning with Moses and the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. A short time later, as they were breaking bread with Jesus, their eyes were opened. They were no longer in the dark. The Son had risen, now they understood it, now they could see! Even though it was dark outside, they hurried back to Jerusalem to tell their friends that the Lord had risen! The Son is up! Now there’s hope! (Luke 24:13-35).
    Nothing cheers the heart more than the resurrection of Jesus. It gives substance to faith, victory over sin, and purpose to life (1 Cor. 15:12-19). Jesus’ blood frees us from the guilt of sin, but it’s Jesus’ resurrection that gives us hope for life (Romans 6:3-10). Jesus came to be life and light for all (John 1:4).
    The challenge is for us to open our eyes to the light. It may only be a sliver at first, but eventually you can be filled with all the fullness of God (Eph. 4:12-15). As the light of Jesus grows within you, darkness and doubt will be replaced with faith and hope and peace. You’ll want to tell everyone about it.
    How wonderfully your life will change when you see the Son!
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO. He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com


God Is Judge

By Ed Wittlif

“And the heavens declare His righteousness, for God Himself is judge” (Psalm 50:6 NASB).
    I have served on several juries (nothing big thankfully). Still, having to make a judgment based on evidence, body language, and even the skill of the prosecutor and defender is not easy. It is difficult since the defendant’s real motive is unknown. It is a most serious process to decide if a person is guilty or not guilty.
    God is called the righteous Judge in II Timothy 4:8. The psalmist tells us that God knows our thoughts; He knows what we are going to say before we say it, He knows where we go, all our actions are seen by Him, and even darkness cannot hide us from Him (Psalm 139).
    When God passes judgment, it is perfect. He knows what was done, what was the attitude, and why. The wool cannot be pulled over His eyes, and persuasive speech will not fool Him.
    The guilty one will be punished, and no innocent one will suffer unjustly. God’s judgments are perfect. We are not left in the dark, for God has revealed the standards by which judgment is measured. The standards are in the Word and shown by Jesus as He dwelt among mankind.
    The standards begin with believing in God, having a submissive obedient attitude, loving God totally, loving our neighbor with a self-sacrificing zeal that seeks their good, and bringing glory to God by our lives as we strive to follow His commandments.
- Ed Wittlif is from Denver, CO; via the Church of Christ in Justin, TX. Joe Slater serves as minister and he may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://justinchurchofchrist.com


Jonah’s “Whale”

By Ron Thomas

    The Lord’s prophet, Jonah, was called upon to preach to a people with a terrible reputation, the Assyrians. Jonah, however, did not like this commission from the Lord so he took flight and fled, in effect, to get someone else to do it. The Lord was not easily avoided! Why did he flee? The Lord’s prophet had a pretty good idea how the Lord would respond if the people to whom he preached turned away from their sins, and he did not seem all that pleased they would do that (4:2). Jonah did not want the Lord’s mercy to be experienced by them. For what reason or reason, we do not know.
    Jonah gets into a boat to Tarshish (uncertain location, perhaps Spain) and hides. The sailors are none the wiser, as another ship-paying traveler gets aboard. Not long into the journey, experienced sailors are perplexed by the violent nature of the sea roaring waves. They have been on the water many times, had many experiences, but this was one of which they knew not from where it came. Their fear turned to “Let us pray to any deity out there in order that we might find one that will spare us!” As they took note of all the passengers, one was sleeping. This perplexed them even more and, no doubt, angered them.
    Jonah is forcibly awakened, explains what he thinks is the problem concerning the tempestuous sea. The experienced sailors and the travelers on board are frightened even more. Jonah proposed a solution, they resist, but then concluded they have no other option but to follow through on Jonah’s suggestion. Having done so, their fright is amplified even more! Yet, in this fright, they learned who Jonah served.
    There are a number of lessons from the Book of Jonah. First, one does not run away from the Lord. It is fruitless for a person to think he can. No matter where a person hides, the Lord is there. This includes, also, the fact there is no thought a person might have but the Lord knows that thought already. Second, the Lord’s prophet (preacher, elder, faithful Christians) should know this better than anyone. Yet, in the quiet of the evening, in the privacy of their homes, admist people they do not know, the ones who know (or should know) don’t act on that knowledge. “Be sure your sin will find you out” Moses said to the people in Numbers 32. Third, a city, community, and country that has the worst of reputations needs the Lord’s message of hope as much as those who are very-well learned in religious matters, not the least of which was the prophet Jonah. Fourth, think about the children, for the Lord did. 
- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website. http://sunrushchurchofchrist.com/


Monday, April 19, 2021

Not Forgotten

By David A. Sargent

     Substitute teachers can face many challenges. Sometimes they can be taken advantage of or be the recipients of some student pranks.  Some substitute teachers, however, are deeply respected and make a profound and lasting influence on the lives of their students. Jose Villaruel, affectionately known as “Mr. V” by his students, was one of those beloved substitute teachers in the Fontana (CA) Unified School District.
     One of Mr. V’s former students, Steven Nava, recently re-connected with his former teacher. Nava has many good things to say about Villaruel. He said Villaruel always acted like a “family figure” to his students. “[Villarruel] was just someone that kind of wanted you to stay on and guide you on that right path.” Nava added: “Mr. V has influenced [me] … to be a better person. He’s taught me to have that drive and that ‘never give up’ attitude whenever facing a struggle in my life and that’s what’s helped me be the person I am now.”
     Those powerful lessons from his teacher were re-emphasized when Nava was recently reunited with him in Fontana. Nava saw Villaruel rummaging in his car, recognized him, and stopped to ask how he was doing. Mr. V, now 77-years-old, opened up to his former student about his struggles. He had been living in his car for the past eight years trying to make ends meet. The pandemic had made his situation worse because he had not had opportunities to work as a substitute teacher to supplement his Social Security income. He had been sending most of his money to help care for his sick wife who was living in Mexico.
     Nava, 21-years-old, was heartbroken to see his beloved teacher going through such a difficult time and vowed to help. Nava created a GoFundMe account and asked his followers on social media to help Mr. V. In just a few days, thanks to the generosity of people throughout the world, Nava was able to raise $27,000 for Villaruel. He presented a check for that amount to Mr. V on his 77th birthday. With the money, Villaruel was able to pay off some debts and prepare to return to his family in Mexico.
     When we were destitute and alone due to our sins, Someone came to our rescue. That Someone was Jesus, the Son of God. He paid our sin debt by dying on the cross for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21). He invites us into His family in which we can be under the watchful care of the Father and enjoy fellowship with other members of God’s family, the church. When our situation is bleak and hopeless due to our sin, Jesus offers grace and life, eternal life.
     God will save, add to His family, 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 and prepare for a heavenly home those who continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7-9).
     Alone and struggling because of sin, we have not been forgotten. God loves us and desires to save us. And He will, if we will only submit our lives to Him in trusting obedience.
- David A. Sargent, minister for the Church of Christ at Creekwood in Mobile, Alabama, is also the editor of an electronic devotional entitled "Living Water." To learn more about this excellent resource contact David via their website: http://www.creekwoodcc.org

* Information gleaned from “California substitute teacher living in car gets surprise $27,000 check on 77th birthday from former student” by Daniella Genovese, www.foxnews.com.


I Don’t Believe in Organized Religion

By Bill Brandstatter

    Some individuals have used the above phrase when I discuss Christianity and the church with them. I asked one person if he believed in unorganized religion. He stated, “That would be chaos.” It was interesting that he had just told me prior to that about a church service he was thinking about attending. We should, however, want religion to be organized. Christianity is organized for a number of reasons.
    Christianity is organized so we know what is going to happen. Christianity is based on order not chaos. The Bible tells us that God is not the author of confusion in His church (1 Cor. 14:33). Chaos is not what God wants. To a church that was out of order, Paul wrote, “Let all things be done decently and in order.” (1 Cor. 14:40) God is organized. His message is organized. His people are organized.
    Christianity is organized and we can find harmony. There is a unity of belief and teaching. Paul mentioned that he taught the same thing in every church (1 Cor. 4:17). There was a unity of teaching and doctrine. When a person went from one congregation to another in New Testament times, they saw a harmony in teaching and belief.
    Christianity is organized and we find an organizer. God is the organizer of the religion of Christianity. God had a plan before the world began. He made the plan known in the New Testament times. God had everything organized and ready to be revealed. When the time was right, He sent His Son (Gal. 4:4). When the time was right, God revealed his plan for the church. God had it planned, organized, and ready. It was a mystery that was hidden for ages and was revealed in New Testament times (Col. 1:24-26). God sent His son to die for us and to set up His church. I am thankful for this organization.
    Christianity is organized, and the people are organized. God had a plan for the church before the beginning of the world (Eph. 3:10-11). The church was built on a foundation that was organized (Eph. 2:20). The church had an organized message, the gospel (Rom. 1:16). The teaching was organized. It was called “the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42). The church had order in its structure. The early church did not have the preacher in charge. It was made up of elders as overseers (Acts 20:28). Elders were appointed based on certain qualifications (Titus 1:5-8; 1 Tim. 3:1-7). Deacons, also were part of the structure of the early church (1 Tim. 3:8-13). Preachers preached and were evangelists (2 Tim. 4:2, 5).
    We should not only believe in Christianity as an organized religion, but we should want it to be that way. Don’t use  the above statement as a way out of your obligation to God. Believe and obey the One that loves you. He has an organized religion to help you in your walk with Him.
Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://marionchurchofchrist.com/


Repentance Unto Life

By Joe Slater

    Some of the Jews in the Jerusalem church rebuked Peter for evangelizing the Gentile Cornelius and his household. But after Peter explained, “they glorified God, saying, ‘Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance unto life.’”
    How does God grant repentance to people? After all, repentance is a command! “God now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:31). How can something be both given and commanded?
    Many sincere religious people believe that a lost sinner can do nothing relative to the salvation process; he must passively wait for the Holy Spirit to miraculously put such things as faith and repentance into his heart. But such is not taught in the Bible! If God miraculously put faith and repentance into my heart, but not into yours, would that not be showing partiality? Yet Acts 10:34 states unequivocally that God shows no partiality!
    God grants repentance like He grants us our daily bread – by giving us opportunities and the necessary things to produce it. When we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” do we expect God to send down a plate of food miraculously from Heaven? Of course not! He provides the soil, rain, sunshine, etc., necessary for food production. In His providence he grants us health, strength, and opportunities to earn or produce food.
    In similar indirect ways God gives us repentance. His word shows us the need to repent and what will happen if we don’t. And He gives us opportunities to repent before it is too late. That was the main thing with Cornelius. Prior to Acts 10, Gentiles had been excluded from opportunities to hear and obey the gospel. But now God granted them repentance leading to eternal life! 
- 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


Consumed in a Higher Purpose

By Joe Chesser

    I love to read things that seem to jump off the page to challenge and inspire me to be better than I am, to open my mind to greater depths of God’s word, and to motivate me seek the higher calling of God. That happened when I read Mike Ireland’s devotional message for March 23rd in From Morning to Evening: Every Day with Jesus. Based on Matthew 5.38-42 where Jesus teaches us to turn the other cheek and to go the extra mile, Ireland wrote: “Our rights have been consumed in a higher purpose: displaying the righteousness of God.”
    In a materialistic, self-centered, rights-oriented world, the words of Jesus just don’t make much sense, even to Christians. We would rather argue about and try to rationalize what Jesus really meant in an effort to skirt around the truth and impact of his words. When we do this long enough our consciences become seared; we continue to live like everyone else around us. We hoard our possessions and insist on our rights. Just let someone slap me or try to force me to do anything I don’t want to do. Go ahead. Sue me.
    Somehow that doesn’t sound much like the righteousness of God towards which Jesus is calling us, does it? It sounds more like the “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” kind of righteousness that had for so long been practiced by the Pharisees and was consuming the hearts of men. Jesus challenges us to be better than that. He said, “unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5.20). Anyone can live by the rights-oriented “eye for eye” principle, but Jesus’ disciples are to be consumed in a higher purpose … the righteousness of God! Note: God's righteousness is more about being righteous than about doing righteous things.
    When consumed in the higher purpose of being the righteousness of God, turning the other cheek makes sense. So does going the extra mile, lending to anyone who asks, and giving more than is expected. Are these not traits our Righteous God has exhibited time and again? The more we are consumed with the ways of God, the less we will be consumed with ourselves. The more we die to ourselves and follow Jesus (Luke 9.23), the less we will be concerned with our rights and possessions. This transition from “me” to God is a work in progress. It does not happen easily or quickly. But remember Jesus doesn’t call us to something unattainable (unless we try to do it by ourselves). With His help the righteousness of God is an achievable goal.
    Thank you Mike Ireland for the inspiring thought!
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO. He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com


Nothing Can Stop Jesus

By Edd Sterchi

* History could not forget Him.
* Temptation could not distract Him.
* Circumstances could not deter Him.
* His enemies could not prevent Him.
* Death could not contain Him.
* Satan could not defeat Him.
* Modern thinking cannot cancel Him.
* And when it comes time for Jesus to come
again, nothing will be able to stop Him.
Are you ready?
- 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, April 12, 2021

A Nation of Hate, A Kingdom of Love

By David Bragg

    In an "unscientific study" conducted over Instagram, Matt Shirley was curious about the rivalries one state feels towards another. He asked his 323,000 followers to respond which state their state hates the most. Some are expected …
Illinois hates Indiana.
Missouri and Kansas hate each other.
So, also, do North and South Dakota.
Others are more surprising ...
California, New Mexico, Alaska and Oklahoma hate Texas.
Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado all hate California.
And then there are these two ...
New Jersey hates ALL the other states.
Florida hates ... Florida! (Robert Gearty, Fox News)
    Sometimes it does feel like we are living in a world of hate. Tempers flare with little if any provocation. Road rage, workplace violence, domestic abuse, all of these and other expressions of anger simmer just below the surface of polite society.
    How different the world would be if it learned to love as Jesus teaches us to love. His was an unselfish, generous, compassionate kind of love that put the needs of others before His own.
    Thankfully, we, the church, have Jesus' example to guide us in love and to learn from His perfect example to not allow anger and hate to rule our lives.
- 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/

Light or Darkness?

By Joe Chesser

    Have you ever been in a place so dark you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face? When I was a boy I had this experience in Meramec Caverns, the largest commercial cave in the state of Missouri. When they turned out all of the lights, it was total darkness. Every direction I looked was only blackness … up, down, forward, backwards, right, left … it didn’t matter. Not a ray of light could be seen anywhere. Even after my eyes adjusted, there was nothing to be seen but darkness.
    Yet, even in the darkest of places, the light of Jesus can be seen when we use our spiritual eyes, the heart. So, no matter how dark it may seem to others around us, even in Meramec Caverns, for anyone who chooses to open their ‘eyes’, Jesus is the true light that illuminates our souls.
    John the Baptist was sent to bear witness to this Light. “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world” (John 1.9). Jesus later identified himself as that Light: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8.12).
    I don’t know of anyone who would intentionally choose to live in total darkness when lights were readily available at the flip of a switch. Why would they? How utterly foolish is that? Darkness is often used in Scripture to describe what our spiritual reality is when we follow Satan instead of Christ. “If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him” (John 11.9-10). Paul explained that Jesus came “to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 26.18). When our sins are forgiven we are rescued from the dominion of darkness and transferred into the kingdom of light (Colossians 1.12-14).
    Since everyone understands the foolishness of intentionally living physically in total blackness, why are so many resistant to walking in the spiritual light with Jesus where his blood continually forgives our sins (1 John 1.7)? Yet, as Jesus told Nicodemus, that’s what many, in fact most (Matthew 7.13-14), are doing: “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil” (John 3.19). The good news is that it doesn’t have to be that way. God gives each of us the choice whether to live in darkness or light. Jesus explained, “whoever lives by the truth comes into the light” (John 3.21). Jesus is calling us to come out of darkness and live in the light (Ephesians 5.8; 1 Peter 2.9; 1 John 1.5, 7).
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com

Traveling the Rocky Road

By Edd Sterchi

The road is long, the rocks are large,
But we needn’t go ‘round them all,
For if we muscle, and keep on moving,
We’ll gain more strength for the haul.

The road is tough, the rocks are many,
But they needn’t cause us to slip,
For if we’re careful where we tread,
We’ll more quickly learn how to grip.

The road’s winding, the rocks, unsafe,
But they needn’t bring useless bane,
For when we learn the best steps used,
Though more taken, the more we gain.

The road’s uncertain, the rocks, e’er present,
But we needn’t tread without trust,
The Lord will shine and He will guide,
And the rocks will soon turn to dust!
- 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/


We Need More Bible Study

By Bill Brandstatter

     Before becoming a Christian, Bible study is important. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God (Rom. 10:17). After a person becomes a Christian, Bible study is vital. How I divide the Bible and how I handle it is important. (2 Tim. 2:15) It is significant to understand the importance of the Bible and why we need to study it on a daily basis.
     The Bible is God speaking to us. Paul indicated, “All scripture is given by the inspiration of God.” (2 Tim. 3:16) Peter acknowledged that “Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Pet. 1:21) God speaks from His Word. God speaks to us by His Son. (Heb. 1:2) Are you listening?
     The Bible is a lamp and a light. (Ps. 119:105) The Bible can help us to better understand life and its difficulties. It can also provide us with all that we need to face temptation and all that this world throws at us. Paul advises that we “put on the whole armor of God.” (Eph. 6:11) Without the Bible in our lives, Satan cannot be resisted effectively.
     The Bible is man’s source for the future. I don’t know what the future holds, but I know I have a future and I know it is in God’s hands. After death, every person has a future. The Bible says, “It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” (Heb. 9:27 NKJV) That future involves eternity. Jesus said the future is either everlasting punishment or eternal life. (Matt. 25:46) Where I spend eternity depends on what I do now. The words of Jesus and our obedience to them will be the determining factor in judgment. (Jno.12:48; Heb. 5:8, 9)
     The Bible is our source for the right equipment in life. Paul wrote that through the Scriptures, “the man of God may be “complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work”. (2 Tim. 3:17 NKJV) Man cannot provide the equipment that the Bible does. How equipped are we to handle tragedy in our lives?
     Remember, Paul stated, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (Rom. 10:17) Without the Bible I would not have the faith I need to get through this life or get to eternity.
     Do you need to study the Bible more? God will bless us and heaven could be our home if we “receive with meekness the implanted word which is able to save your souls.” (James 1:21)
- Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://marionchurchofchrist.com/


Christian Character

By Kevin R. Rutherford

    The New Testament lists some qualities that need to be seen in every Christian. Consider
the lists below and check them against your character to see what you need to add, or what you
need to improve.


Romans 12:9-21

 1. Love
 2. Kindness
 3. Diligence
 4. Fervent in spirit
 5. Serving the Lord
 6. Rejoicing in hope
 7. Patient in tribulation
 8. Steadfast in prayer
 9. Given to hospitality
 10. Peaceful

Galatians 5:22-23

 1. Love
 2. Joy
 3. Peace
 4. Long-suffering
 5. Kindness
 6. Goodness
 7. Gentleness
 8. Self-Control

Ephesians 4:2

 1. Lowliness
 2. Gentleness
 3. Long-suffering
 4. Love

Colossians 3:12-14

 1. Tender Mercy
 2. Kindness
 3. Humility
 4. Meekness
 5. Long-suffering
 6. Bearing with one another
 7. Forgiving one another
 8. Above all these things is Love

2 Peter 1:5-11

 1. Virtue
 2. Knowledge
 3. Self-control
 4. Perseverance
 5. Godliness
 6. Brotherly Kindness
 7. Love
 
    Perhaps you noticed there is one characteristic that appears in all of five of these lists. That quality is love. Love is defined in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails [ceases, ends].” Love will still be important when faith an hope have been fulfilled (1 Corinthians 13:13). Sincere, fervent, and pure love of the brethren is seen in those who are truly converted to Christ (1Peter 1:22-23). We must love one another to pass from death to life (1 John 3:14). We must love one another to have eternal life (1 John 3:15). We must love one another in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18). We must love one another to be of the truth (1 John 3:19). We must love one another to have our prayers answered by God (1 John 3:20-23). We must love one another to have our prayers answered by God (1 John 3:20-23). We must love one another because God loved each of our brothers and sisters in Christ enough to die for them (1 John 4:7-11).
- 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/


Monday, April 5, 2021

The Kingdom of God Comes First

By Rob Albright

    Matthew 6:33 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/


Does it Matter?

By Ron Thomas

    A lot of people are aware of the resurrection of Jesus and they might even accept that it happened a long time ago. Yet, to these same people it does not really matter all that much. They are not intending to be disrespectful, but they have learned through the years, they think, that it does not really matter.
    “Why would anyone think it does not matter?” There are any number of reasons why people think it does not matter. Those reason, top the Lord, mean these same people have made a grave mistake. The apostle Paul preached to a community of people in Athens Greece, The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent: inasmuch as he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead (Acts 17:30-31, ASV).
    We can see that it matters to God very much; He does not want to see a single person fail to be prepared for eternity, so the message of Jesus is preached to any and all who want to know the Lord’s way of righteousness. Jesus said He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). Since this is so, we ought to give attention to the Lord. 
- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website. http://sunrushchurchofchrist.com/


Where’s Your Heart?

By R.W. McAlister

    The Bible teaches that the heart is that part of us upon which the state of our souls depends. “Out of it are the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23). The heart is the man. It’s the seat of all spiritual life, and health, and strength, and growth. It’s the hinge pin in the condition of man’s soul. If the heart is alive and obedient to God in all things, a person is a living Christian. If the heart is dead, the man is spiritually dead before God. The heart is the man! The Bible teaches that it’s not just what a person says and professes, and where they go on Sunday, and how much money they put in the collection plate. The heart of man – his attitude – is also of great importance. Prov. 23:7: “As he thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
    For another thing, the Bible teaches that the heart is that part of us at which God looks closely. I Sam. 16:7: “Man looketh at the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” Prov. 21:2: “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes; but the Lord pondereth the hearts.” Man is often content with the outward part of religion, with outward morality, outward correctness, outward use of courtesy, outward attendance at the Lord’s house. But the eyes of the Lord God look much further. He regards our motives. He “weigheth the spirits” (Prov. 16:2). I Sam. 2:3 says of God, “By Him actions are weighed.” He says Himself in Jer. 17:10, “I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins.”
    The Bible teaches that the heart is the first and foremost thing which God asks man to give Him. In Prov. 23:26, He says, “My son, give me thine heart.” We may give God a bowed head and a solemn face, our bodily presence in His house, and a loud “Amen,” but until we give God our heart, we give Him nothing at all. I’m not sure who gets credit for it, but I once read a quote concerning a young lady’s heart that goes, “A girl’s heart should be so lost in God that a guy should have to seek Him in order to find her.” That’s how it should be for all of us – God should have our heart’s devotion. Dear Friend, does He have yours? Give it some thought.  
- R. W. McAlister preaches for the Anna Church of Christ in Anna, IL.He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.annachurchofchrist.com/


The Living Word of God

By J. Randal Matheny

God spoke for light and showed his narrow way;
The Spirit's prophets wrote the Testament pair,
For sin's restraint, to set the bound man free.
The living word of God has power to spare,
To raise the dead or judge the Pharisee:
The cutting sword lays heart and marrow bare,
The Book will judge us in the final day.
- J. Randal Matheny edits and writes UPLift, an inspirational ezine. He
may be contacted here: <http://randalmathenycom/>. When reprinting this
material, please include the following: 
Copyright (c) 2021 J. Randal Matheny
All rights reserved. You may forward the
email to friends as is. You may not alter
it in any way or remove any text or
attributions.


Getting to Know You

By Larry Pasley

    At a marriage seminar the instructor emphasized the importance of getting to know your mate better.
    He asked the men if they knew what their wife’s favorite flower was.
    One man leaned over and asked his wife, “It’s Pillsbury isn’t it.”
    And that's when the fight started

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    Men and women definitely think differently. Most books dealing with the marriage relationship point out these different ways of looking at things. “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus,” deals with the drastic differences between men and women.
    Peter point to some of the differences between men and women and that as husbands we need to learn to understand our wives. 1 Peter 3:7 Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.
    We need to understand that God made men and women different for a reason.
    Woman was created to make man complete that means that together a husband and wife make a complete unit, “one flesh.”
    Genesis 2:18 And the LORD God said, "It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him."
    Genesis 2:24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
    The differences between men and women were designed to make us more effective as a unit to raise a family. The woman is more emotional to enable her to nurture babies and small children, man is more logical to make decisions as the head of the family. Together, logic and emotion make good decisions and raise our children.
    We should appreciate the differences between men and women and celebrate those differences. We need to focus on the value of the differences and what they bring into the relationships in the family.
    May we strive to understand each other better and accept and appreciate the differences between men and women, using those differences to strengthen our families and relationships.
- 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