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Monday, May 31, 2021

Polish Your Shield!

By Donna Wittlif

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the
man who takes refuge in him!” (Psalm 34:8, ESV).
    The devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (I Peter 5:8). If you are a child of God, Satan’s eyes are upon you, watching for your slightest weakness, looking for a way to take you. You may not know it, but he is constantly chipping away at your shield until it becomes damaged enough for him to attack.
    Our shield is our faith in God. Satan never ceases sending his flaming arrows at it, and they have many names: the death of a loved one; illness and pain; disappointment in ourselves and others; discouragement; the lure of the world, always tempting us to take the easy way out, enjoy ourselves, and give up on following God’s teaching and commandments; the lust for power, wealth, and the praise of men; false teaching.
    Let’s face it. We are weak, and Satan knows how to tempt us. He is waiting for us to take our eyes off God and Jesus and let life’s circumstances get to us. We need to polish our shield now and not wait until one or more of Satan’s flaming darts pierces our faith.
    So polish your shield. Look to the things above and not below. Take refuge in God and His Son. Reach for His hand to guide you as you study His Word for encouragement and strength. Pray always. Wait for our blessed hope, the appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ. Remember that you are heirs of eternal life and look forward to the hope of glory in heaven with God and Christ. A strong faith in our God who is our refuge will keep you from Satan and His schemes.
- Donna Wittlif, the founder and first editor of BulletinGold, lives in Denver, CO. Donna is also a writer of fiction. Her novels, World Eternal: Promises and World Eternal: Proselytes, and World Eternal: Perils, and her newest book, Finding Her Heart,  are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other book outlets. For more information visit her website. http://www.donnarwittlif.com/


Friend Or Enemy?

By Joe Slater

    At first the Galatians Christians counted Paul as a friend – indeed, as a beloved brother who had led them to the Lord. They would have done anything to help him, even to the extreme of plucking out their own eyes, had that been possible (Galatians 4:15). Now, however, false teachers had slandered Paul, and the fickle Galatians had fallen for it. The frustrated apostle asked in the next verse, “Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” How tragically foolish to treat a faithful proclaimer of truth as an enemy!
    But it was nothing new. Centuries beforehand, God sent Elijah to rebuke King Ahab for murdering Naboth to steal his vineyard. Ahab reproached the prophet thusly: “Have you found me, O my enemy?” (1 Kings 21:20). Truth be told, Elijah was Ahab’s best friend. Warning the king of impending judgment gave him opportunity to repent. But evil Ahab and his wicked wife, Jezebel preferred to kill the messenger!
    Even before the time of Ahab, the apostate King Saul attempted to murder his faithful warrior David despite having sworn in the name of the Lord not to do so. Saul reprimanded his own daughter for hiding David, referring to him as “my enemy” (1 Samuel 19:17). Like Ahab and the Galatians, Saul’s own sins twisted his mind into treating a true friend as an enemy.
    Loyal servants of God will not simply tell you what you want to hear. Because they are your friends, they will tell you the truth.
    Do not expect worldly people to appreciate you when you speak the truth. They may well see you as their enemy! “If the world hates you, know that it hated Me before it hated you” (John 15:18).
- Joe Slater serves as minister of the Church of Christ in Justin, TX. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://justinchurchofchrist.com


God, Make Us the Men You Want Us to Be

By Gerald Cowan

Where can we find strong men to stand
With us and You against all odds?
The time we live in now demands
Strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands
That will not yield to others what is God’s.

Give us men of honor and good will
Whom spoils of office cannot buy,
Men with great insight, strength and skill
Whom lust and stress of office cannot kill,
Men of integrity who will not lie.

In public or in private thought
Help keep our heads above the fog
And empathize with all who’ve sought
To free us from some tyrant, and have fought
A selfish and self-serving demagogue.

While we are mumbling thumb-worn creeds
Strife rules the day and freedom weeps.
The darkness cannot hide their deeds;
Wrong rules the land. In vain the righteous pleads.
Let us not fear while waiting Justice sleeps.

God, let us be men, big in heart.
Armed with the Holy Spirit’s sword
Let us be prompt to do our part
And stay with Him with whom we’ve made a start,
Not giving up to serve some other lord.

When Christ returns we then will know
The fulness of His wondrous love
Who, by his words and deeds, did show
That He from whom eternal blessings flow
Finds in us the men He wants us to be.
- Gerald Cowan, a longtime preacher and missionary, is retired from full-time pulpit preaching. Gerald publishes an e-mail newsletter entitled GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICAL WRITINGS. He is available for Gospel Meetings and he may be contacted at Geraldcowan1931@aol.com


A Father or a Daddy?

By Bill Brandstatter

    As I think of Father’s Day, I think of my father. He has now left this world, but I learn more about his wisdom every day. We all honor our dads on Father’s Day. There are various honors that fathers receive, but perhaps the greatest is respect.
    The writer of Hebrews tells of the respect of our earthly fathers and connects it to respecting our heavenly Father. The writer states, “We have had human fathers who corrected us and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?” (NKJV) One way of showing respect is the way we speak to or about our father.
    I would not think of calling my earthly father by his first name. Even though I am a lot older, when my dad was living, I still showed him respect. Likewise, we should show our heavenly Father respect. Jesus gives us an example of the respect for God. He stated that when we pray, we should address the prayer to the Father. Jesus illustrated by stating, “Our Father in heaven...” (Matt. 6:9) God is not “daddy.” God deserves respect and honor. The Psalmist says “holy and reverend is his name.” (Psa. 111:9 KJV). Our Lord tells us that no earthly person should be addressed in a religious manner by using the term “father”. Jesus asserted, “Do not call anyone on earth your Father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.” (Matt. 23:9) God deserves special respect and honor; therefore, as a preacher, I wear no religious title. I would not dare to have anyone call me father in a religious sense. That term is reserved for God Almighty.
    Let us honor him on this special day as well by obeying Him and showing our respect and love for Him. When Jesus addressed the Father, after saying, “Our Father in Heaven,” He then said, “Hallowed be Your name.” (Mt. 6:9) God’s name is to be respected, honored, and held as something special. God is special. His love transcends our thinking. His mercy is beyond our comprehension. His grace is great. He sent His son to die for us that we could have eternal life. (John 3:16) Let us honor our heavenly Father every day we live by obeying Him and living for Him. (Matt.7:21; Titus 2:11,12)
- Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://marionchurchofchrist.com/


An Introduction to Luke’s Gospel

By Jeff Arnette

     Most scholars will agree that Luke’s gospel account and the book of Acts were written by a disciple named Luke. The Luke found in the New Testament is an interesting character. Truthfully, we do not a whole lot about him. We do not know where he was born nor anything about his death. All we have that hints to Luke’s birthplace and how he and Paul met each other is found in Acts 13:1, where it speaks of Lucian of Cyrene as one of the prophets and teachers at Antioch. If this is Luke, then it seems like they meet each other at Antioch before Paul and Barnabas left on their first missionary journey. From this passage, we can suggest that Luke was a Gentile, like Timothy, and therefore beneficial for Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles. He was also important to Paul and his ministry because of his work as a physician. Paul refers to Luke as “the beloved physician” (Col. 4:14) and this underscores his work with Paul. Several passages suggest to us that Paul suffered from health problems (thorn in his side, etc.) which would be helped by Luke’s presence.
     At some point during the second missionary journey, Luke is with Paul. We can be certain he was with Paul because of the “we” passages found from this point forward (Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-21:18; 27:1-28:16). We know that his presence with Paul was different from that of Timothy or Mark because he is not listed in the list of his fellow workers in Colossians 4:14 but is listed in Philemon 23-24. I would suggest that this is because Luke began his work with Paul for a medical reason but eventually became that of a fellow worker. One last thing is important to remember about Luke. Near the end of Paul’s life, as recorded in the book of second Timothy, Luke was the only disciple who was still with Paul (2 Tim. 4:11) and was in prison with him.
     Simeon beautifully expresses the redemptive theme of Luke’s account of the gospel as he held Jesus in his arms. “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32, ESV)
     Another important aspect of Luke’s gospel is the Holy Spirit. He weaves the work of the Holy Spirit into every part of the life and ministry of Jesus. He does this to emphasize how important the Spirit was to Jesus and His work. He is conceived by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35); descends on Him and remains at His baptism (Luke 3:22); led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted (Luke 4:2), and anointed by the Spirit for His ministry (Luke 4:18). The Holy Spirit is in the background, leading, guiding, empowering Jesus for his work, and is present even when He is not mentioned.
     Another important part of Luke’s gospel is seen in the way Luke points toward the joy experienced by the people when the Messiah is present. The angelic host announced Jesus’ birth with the words, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:14, ESV). Then, near the end of Luke’s gospel, we see Jesus approaching Jerusalem and the people are praising God. They are singing out, “saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38, ESV)
     All of this suggests that the redemptive theme found in Luke is complex and always points us toward Jesus as the Christ. It includes Gentiles along with the Jews, blends the empowering work into the life of Jesus and His disciples, and strives to bring all of us to a place of joy in Jesus.
- Jeff Arnette preaches for the Central Haywood church of Christ, Clyde, NC.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: https://centralhaywoodcoc.com/


Monday, May 24, 2021

What Have You Committed to God?

By Edd Sterchi

    Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, worded 2 Tim. 1:12 in a most interesting way: “I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.”  I am particularly fascinated by the phrase “He is able to keep what I have committed to Him.”  Paul had turned his whole body, soul, and efforts over to God and knew that God would keep them safe.  What a great example and reminder to each of us.  In light of that, ask yourself the following questions:
* Have I committed my life to God?
* Have I committed my family to God?
* Have I committed my occupation to God?
* Have I committed my leisure time to God?
* Have I committed my interests to God?
* Have I committed my all to God?

Turn it all over to God.  He is able to keep everything you give Him and return them with His blessings!
- 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/


For Our Graduates

By Adam Faughn

    It is that time of year to recognize and honor our graduating high school seniors for reaching this milestone in life.
    Over the coming weeks, I am sure these graduates will get all sorts of  "life advice." They will have parents, grandparents, older people, teachers, classmates, and many others offering wisdom from their experience to try to help them as they transition to the next phase of their life, whatever that may be.
    Instead of adding my own thoughts to the many they will be receiving over the coming days and weeks, let me share with them--and all of us--one verse of Scripture that provides three commands that also serve as powerful reminders of how to go through times of transition.
    It is Romans 12:12, where Paul wrote, "Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer." Notice those three short commands in turn.
    1. Rejoice in Hope. If you are a Christian, you have hope! That hope is one of the things that helps Christians stay peaceful and level-headed no matter their circumstances. Graduates, you already know that there are some serious ups and downs in life. Hope is one way to stay strong and faithful no matter if you are "up" or "down." But  notice the command is to "rejoice" in that hope! Christians are to be people who exude joy no matter their external circumstances. The world is not a joyful place, and the reason is simple: the world does not know that hope!
    2. Be Patient in Tribulation. The word "tribulation" comes from a Greek term that literally means "pressure" or "pressing." In context, Paul is speaking of times that are pressure-packed due to our faith. Christians are pressed out by the culture and pressured toward being more like the world, but we must never give in. Instead, we must be patient (literally, bear under) through those times. Whether you go to college, enter the workforce, or are going to the military, there are going to be pressures to compromise your Biblical morals in various ways. Be patient! Bear up under those times in faith, knowing that your faith being tested produces good fruit (cf. James 1:2-4).
    3. Be Constant in Prayer. Prayer is a life-line for the faithful. It is no wonder Paul would tell us not to be sporadic in prayer; but to be constant in it. You simply can-not pray too often or too fervently. Pray during times of victory and  defeat. Pray when things are normal and when the storms of life are raging. Pray when you know what to do and when you have no idea what step to take next. As you make this transition, you are going to be busy. You may think you do not have time to pray, but the fact is: you do not have time not to pray!
    These three things are not the only things one needs to live a faithful life, but they certainly are a fantastic start. Additionally, knowing they are all in one simple verse of the Bible makes it a great page to mark in your Bible, so you can always turn and be reminded of three commands of  God  that will help you in any time of your life.
    We are proud of you and grateful for you. We pray for you as you complete your high school years and as you begin this time of transition. It is an exciting time, so cherish it! It is a nervous time, so stay faithful through it!

P.S.: No matter where you go next, be certain to find a faithful congregation of the Lord's Church immediately and get involved! If you need help finding a congregation, don't hesitate to ask us for help.
- 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.


Don’t Forget! Remember!

By Joe Slater

    This coming Monday is Memorial Day. I’m glad we have a national day to remember those who gave that “last full measure of devotion” for freedom. Let this day be more than staying home from work and grilling burgers. If you haven’t attended ceremonies at a nearby cemetery lately, I urge you to do so Monday. We forget all too easily.
    God’s people have always struggled with forgetfulness. No less than eleven times in Deuteronomy the Lord warned Israel not to forget. Don’t forget your deliverance from Egypt. Don’t forget the covenant. Don’t forget the Lord’s commands. Don’t forget the consequences of disobedience and rebellion. In short, don’t forget God!
    At least thirteen times in that same book, He charged Israel to remember. They were to remember the very things He told them elsewhere not to forget. No surprise, right?
    We think of the Passover feast as a memorial of their deliverance from Egyptian bondage, but the other feast days also promoted remembrance. The Sabbath was, among other things, a remembrance (Deut. 5:15). The piles of stones set up when Israel crossed Jordan memorialized that great event.
    Today the Lord’s Supper prompts us to remember what Jesus did for us at the cross. And yes, even in the first century some forgot how Jesus had cleansed them from sin (2 Pet. 1:9). However, the Lord’s Supper isn’t all we should remember. Jesus urged His disciples to remember His words (John 15:20;  16:4). Peter wrote so that his readers would remember (2 Peter 1:12-15); and Jude exhorted his readers to “remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 17).
    We confront the same dangers Israel faced. Don’t forget! Remember!
- 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


Rightly Dividing the Word of God's Truth

By Gerald Cowan
 
     One of the most misunderstood points about the Bible for many believers is how it is divided into various parts. Rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV, NKJV) is not merely about the various books. We commonly say there are 66 books that make up the one Book, the Bible. These books were written by many different persons, perhaps as many as 40, over a period of about 1400-1500 years, but under the inspiration of the One God, so that what they wrote are simply parts of the one Book of God, the Bible. Of course that is an important bit of information. It is even more important to understand that various laws, covenants and other arrangements were made by God to govern His people at various times (Hebrews 1:1-2). If one knows that, he must try to fit the appropriate writings under the covenant to which they apply and the particular people to whom they apply.
     What is commonly called the Old Testament is actually improperly named and divided. There is at least a part of Genesis that precedes the covenant of God with and through Abraham, which is what we commonly mean when we speak of the Old Testament or Covenant. There are parts of the Bible which refer to people not covered by the Abrahamic covenant. Did Jonah preach to Nineveh that they must become proselytes to Judaism? He did not. God had an arrangement with the Gentiles/non- Jews that would have effected their salvation had they been willing to abide by it. See Romans 1:18ff, 2:15-16. Think of Melchizedek, a priest of God, but not a Jew (Genesis 14:17-20, Hebrews 7:1) and Balaam, a prophet of God, but not a Jew (Numbers 22:5, 2 Peter 2:15). What we call the New Testament is actually improperly named and divided too. The first four books – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – are biographical accounts of Jesus. But Jesus was born, lived, and died under the old law (Galatians 4:4). Much of what he said prepared for and would become part of the new law, but the new covenant and all that goes with it did not become effective until the day of Pentecost, 50 days after the death of Jesus (Acts 2). Rightly dividing the word of God is better translated handling aright (ASV), accurately handling (NASB), as one who correctly handles (NIV). The correct idea is always to make proper use of the word of truth and not to misuse or abuse it in any way. The principle certainly applies to any translation of the word too. Many who claim to divide it properly do not use it correctly.
- 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


An Introduction to Mark

By Jeff Arnette

     This gospel account is the second book of the New Testament that was probably written by John Mark of Jerusalem sometime between 60-68 A.D. Tradition states that John Mark recorded the words of Peter, who recounted the teachings and events of Jesus Christ to Mark and then organized them into the second gospel account.
     There are several unusual characteristics of Mark’s account of the life of Jesus of Nazareth that gives us some insights into the gospel of Jesus Christ.
     First, Mark’s gospel is a gospel of action. For example, the word “immediately” occurs thirty-six times in Mark’s gospel (English Standard Version), which is more than any other book in the New Testament. Mark focuses on the activity of Jesus rather than His teachings. Thus, he seems to present Jesus as this larger than life action hero, who is always on the move battling the forces of evil and the errors of the religious establishment.
     Another interesting characteristic of Mark’s gospel is its brevity. Mark is short and to the point, while Luke’s account of Jesus is nearly twice as long. If you were to read the gospel account, in one sitting, most people could read it in less than an hour.
     Anyone who has read the other gospel accounts of Jesus’ life and teachings will be taken back by the abrupt beginning of Mark’s gospel. After a brief introduction sentence, he jumps right into John the Baptist’s ministry, and then on to Jesus. He tells us that Jesus came from Nazareth without telling us anything about his early life. To further emphasize this point, consider that nearly one-third of Mark’s gospel is devoted to the last week of Jesus’ life.
     The structure of Mark’s gospel account is interesting, as well. The first eight chapters of Mark emphasize the nature and success of Jesus’ ministry while the second half of the book is always pointing us to Jerusalem and His eventual crucifixion.
     What Mark tells us about God and His plans for creation’s redemption is essential here. As the fulfillment of the promises of the Messiah being the Son of David, Jesus’ Sonship, and the coming of the Spirit that empowered Him, all point us to the fact that the promises of God are being realized in Jesus. The in-breaking kingdom mentioned in Psalm 2:7; 110:1, and Isaiah 42 remind us that the time is at hand, and God is now, through Jesus, ready to bring the Messiah into the world.
     Mark describes Jesus as the ultimate Servant of God. He is the fulfillment of the promises of God throughout the Hebrew Scriptures and the ultimate expression of the (Isa. 53) suffering servant who was to die for the sins of the entire world.
     Let me encourage you to read the gospel according to Mark, and as you do, reflect on what it tells you about Jesus, your salvation, and the promises of God.
- Jeff Arnette preaches for the Central Haywood church of Christ, Clyde, NC.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: https://centralhaywoodcoc.com/


Monday, May 17, 2021

“Ally, Ally Oxen Free"

By Gerald Cowan

    Maybe you said it differently when you played hide and seek or some other childhood game but it’s what we thought we were saying when I was a kid and played those games. The object of the game was to stay hidden or sneak in to the goal without being detected, then being pronounced “safe,” no longer under threat or danger. As long as you remained successfully hidden you were safe and free.  Ally, ally oxen free  meant the game was over and all those who were still out – trying to avoid getting caught and so losing the game – were to come in, with no penalty. Perhaps it was to start the game again or start another game. But at any rate, everybody was to come out of hiding and be free. The probable original saying was, “All ye, all ye 'outs' in free." But children (older folks too) say what they think they hear, and however you say it everybody understands what it is supposed to mean: come in free, no cost, no penalty. Sounds like a bit like amnesty to me.

    AMNESTY IS OFTEN SOUGHT, SELDOM DESERVED

    Amnesty is understood to be a suspension of rules or conditions,  the cancellation or pardon of penalties or consequences for violation of rules, laws, and policies. It would be something like sneaking into a sporting or entertainment venue and, when caught, not being ejected but allowed to stay and even being allowed all rights and privileges of paying customers. I remember being one of several kids who tried it when the circus or carnival came to town. Poor kids did it because they couldn’t pay. Some just wanted to avoid payment so their money could be used for other things. Some did it on a dare, some just to see if they could manage to get in for free. There was a feeling of elation when one succeeded, when one sneaked in and didn’t get caught. It was the guilty pleasure of getting away with something you knew was wrong, enjoying something you knew you didn’t have a right to. And there might also be a little contempt for the powers that be who couldn’t detect you, or who let you stay even when they found out you had entered illegally. Of course the sneak would be careful not to draw undue attention to himself and be asked to show proof of legal admission, a special ink stamp on the hand, a ticket stub or some other document showing he had a right to be there. The same principle, elevated somewhat, applies to those who try to sneak into the country from some foreign place. Probably nobody will ever know how many manage to do it without getting caught and punished or deported.
    Citizenship in any country is a precious possession. Benefits are too numerous and generally too well known to need being mentioned here, but among the most alluring ones – depending of course upon the country: better wages, better standard of living, opportunities for personal growth, development and advancement, better relationships, access to public welfare and public education, and a broader range of personal freedoms. Of course there are important obligations of citizenship too: obeying local and national laws, paying taxes and tribute, defending the country from its enemies (including illegal intruders). In most countries there is a clear legal path to citizenship, to loyalty and allegiance, and to the fulfillment of obligations. But that path is often burdensome and usually takes a considerable amount of time and effort. Many simply do not want to wait, Either they want citizenship immediately or, what is more often the case, they want the privileges and benefits of citizenship without the costs, without the responsibilities and obligations.  The fast track to perks and privileges without burdensome obligations is just to sneak in. There are unscrupulous persons who promise a different path into the country and the privileges of citizenship. Often it comes at a high cost. For payment of a certain sum of money they promise to sneak the person in. But they may be predators who take the money and abandon the person. They may sell the person – especially women and children – into slavery. Trafficking in humans is practiced in most countries of the world. So the one seeking freedom and a better life is misled, diverted, robbed and destroyed by immoral predators. Some countries allow children born there, even to illegally-present parents, to be citizens on that basis alone. Then there is the hope that the illegal parents will be allowed to stay for the sake of and because of the rights of their citizen children. Of course one must be careful not to get caught without proper documentation and permission to stay until such time as they can establish the right to stay. The expected penalties for violating immigration laws could range from fines and imprisonment to deportation and being barred from legal access to the country through the ordinary pathway. This is where the appeal for amnesty may be raised. If amnesty is granted all prior violations may be forgiven, penalties cancelled, freedom to stay granted, access to all privileges and benefits, and an easy path to citizenship if it is desired. Amnesty should inspire gratitude, but it may sometimes inspire contempt for the nation, its laws, and its government. The nation becomes an easy mark for intruding sneaks.

    THERE IS NO AMNESTY IN THE KINGDOM OF GOD

    The benefits of citizenship in the kingdom of God outweigh anything a nation can bestow upon its citizens. There are benefits for the immortal soul, the eternal spirit – far more important than the temporal physical body. Who can put a price on love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, self-control shared by all who bear the fruit of the Spirit of God? (Galatians 5:22-23). What can separate God’s people from God’s love in Christ? Nothing can – neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor authorities, nor powers, nor things present or things to come. We are more than conquerors of all these things and more (Romans 8:27-39). There is nothing in the world of the spirit that we cannot overcome in Christ. We can have perfect peace and fellowship that will endure in the world and continue after the world. Nothing other than the kingdom of God, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, the spiritual body of Christ can make such a promise and keep it. Nothing is more important now or eternally than the kingdom of God. Those who know that will surely want to be in it and not be excluded from it.
    There is a particular path to citizenship in the kingdom of God. It is through Jesus Christ and through no other person, group, or religion. He and the gospel of God are the truth and the life and the only way to God (John 14:6). There are those who propose and accept other paths, but God accepts only this one (Matthew 7:13-14). The way of truth is restricted and narrow, with plainly marked immoveable boundaries. The way into it is clearly defined so that one who seeks it can find it and not miss it. There is no “open door” policy and no “many doors and many ways” policy. But there are spiritual predators who make merchandise of people – they buy and sell people for personal gain (2 Peter 2:3). They offer false ways to salvation which God will never accept.
    Why would anyone accept false religious ways when the truth is readily available? Perhaps because of ignorance of the scripture They are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:16), having been mistaught by either wicked or ignorant men who misquote and misapply the gospel. But there is another possibility too. Some seek the benefits of the  kingdom  without  accepting  the  restrictions,  requirements,  and obligations God imposes. If they can somehow sneak in, remain undetected and enjoy the benefits of citizenship which do not rightly belong to them they are satisfied. But they are unaware that they will eventually be exposed for what they are, lose all benefits, be deported – not even be allowed to see into heaven to see the full meaning of life eternal there, and be cast into eternal hell. There is no amnesty, no time when restrictions and requirements are suspended, and no cancellation of penalties and punishment for violators.
    Repeat it: there is no amnesty in the kingdom of God. But there is mercy, forgiveness, and citizenship for those who take the proper pathway through Jesus Christ and his gospel, those who obey the rules, those who trust in God and take the way of salvation He offers. Those who try to come into the kingdom of God by some other way prove themselves to be thieves and robbers (John 10:8), ignorant at best, hypocrites at worst, but misfits in either case – misfits who will be deported by the Lord in due time. And there is not enough power in the whole world of men and demons to override God’s denial, invalidation, and veto of anybody’s citizenship.
- 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


AMAZING!

By David Sargent

     “The GREYHOUND had been thrashing about in the north Atlantic storm for over a week. Its canvas sails were ripped, and the wood on one side of the ship had been torn away and splintered. The sailors had little hope of survival, but they manually worked the pumps, trying to keep the vessel afloat. On the eleventh day of the storm, sailor John Newton was too exhausted to pump, so he was tied to the helm and tried to hold the ship to its course. From one o'clock until midnight he was at the helm.
     With the storm raging fiercely, Newton had time to think. His life seemed as ruined and wrecked as the battered ship he was trying to steer through the storm. Since the age of eleven he had lived a life at sea. Sailors were not noted for the refinement of their manners, but Newton had a reputation for profanity, coarseness, and debauchery which even shocked many a sailor.” – The Reformed Reader
     John Newton survived that day at the helm.  That day, March 21, 1748, was a turning point in his life.  It was a day that he would never forget, for he believed that “On that day the Lord sent from on high and delivered me out of deep waters.”  On that day he began to turn to the Christ that he had ignored since childhood when his mother had tried to teach him the Scriptures.
     Newton went on to preach about the GRACE  that had lifted him out of despair, and he wrote the words of the beloved hymn:

“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.”

     Newton lived to be eighty-two years old and continued to preach until his health would no longer allow it.  Even then, Newton never ceased to be amazed by God's grace and told his friends, “My memory is nearly gone; but I remember two things: That I am a great sinner, and that Christ is a great Savior.”
     “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance: that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” – the Apostle Paul, 1 Timothy 1:15
     That’s WONDERFUL NEWS, for we are ALL sinners, doomed to destruction (Romans 3:23; 6:23).  But God loves us so much that He gave His Son Jesus to die on the cross to pay the price for our redemption from sin (Ephesians 1:7).
     We receive God’s amazing grace when we... place our faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from our sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Him before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38).  We continue to be cleansed from our sins as we continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7).
     Stan Mitchell has written: “Dying for the sins of the world is not an every day event. … It was stunning, unexpected and offered to those who were unworthy.  In a word, it was nothing less than AMAZING.”
     Won’t YOU receive the Amazing Grace of God through your trusting obedience?
- David A. Sargent, minister for the Church of Christ at Creekwood in Mobile, Alabama, is also the editor of an electronic devotional entitled "Living Water." To learn more about this excellent resource contact David via their website: http://www.creekwoodcc.org
 
* Information gleaned from The Reformed Reader and “Why should I gain from his reward?” by Stan Mitchell in Forthright Magazine.


Don’t Overlook One of “THE” Most Important Words

By Edd Sterchi

    In the gospel account of John, Jesus is recorded as saying, “I am the...” in reference to Himself in several different ways and occasions. When we read these statements, I wonder if we miss a very important word in them – the word “THE”! “The” is a definite article which indicates only one thing in reference. Thus, when Jesus used the word “the” in the following statements, He meant He was “the one and only” possibility:
  • When Jesus said, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35), He was indicating that He is the only source of proper spiritual nourishment.
  • When Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), He was revealing that He is the only author of true enlightenment.
  • When Jesus said, “I am the door” (John 10:9), He was saying that He is the only passageway to heaven.
  • When Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11), He was pointing out that He is the only director of the church (the sheepfold) and how she operates.
  • When Jesus said, “I am the Son of God” (John 10:36), He was saying that He is the only Savior of the human race.
  • When Jesus said, “I am the resurrection” (John 11:25), He was saying that He is the only way to be raised to eternal life after death.
  • When Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), He was saying that He is the only avenue of access to the Father in heaven.
  • When Jesus said, “I am the true vine” (John 15:5), He was saying that He is the only means of true spiritual productivity.
    These are indeed powerful pronouncements from Jesus Christ. As we read them time and time again, let us be continually reminded of how Jesus is “the” only one who can make “the” difference in our lives.
- 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/

Who is Jesus? (John 8)

    A number of characteristics of Jesus Christ are identified in John chapter eight. All of these characteristics center upon the fact that Jesus Christ is the Divine Son of God. Who is Jesus?
    Let’s see how John chapter eight answers this question.
Jesus is the Compassionate Savior
(John 8:1-11)
    The compassion of Jesus Christ is evident in the manor in which He addressed the accusers of the woman who had been caught in the very act of adultery. Jesus did not justify or excuse this woman’s sin, and in fact told her to go and sin no more. However, He did forgive her. In the forgiveness given to the woman caught in adultery we see hope for the forgiveness of sins for ourselves and all others who will turn to Christ. Jesus is the compassionate Savior whose love, patience, kindness, and mercy provides for us the peace and relief that comes from burdens lifted when sins are forgiven.
Jesus is the Light of the World
(John 8:12-20)
    Jesus told us we should be the light of the world when He gave His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:14-16). We cannot be the light of the world in the same way Jesus Christ is the light of the world. He is the light of the world in that He is the embodiment of truth and the giver of truth. We are lesser lights that reflect His glory when we live the truth. Jesus was sent by the Father to shine the glorious light of truth in the darkness of a world cursed by sin.
Jesus is From Above
(John 8:21-30)
    This fact is brought throughout this context. Jesus Christ said He is from above and therefore He is not of this world. He told the people He would be going away some day as He spoke of the time He would leave the earth and return to His home in heaven. Jesus came from above, went back up to His heavenly home, and someday He will return from above.
Jesus is From the Father
(John 8:31-47)
    The facts that Jesus Christ is from above and that He is from the Father are tied together. Everything that Jesus taught came from the Father. Everything Jesus Christ did was according to the will of the Father. The Jews who opposed Jesus were proud to tell Jesus that Abraham was their father. Jesus agreed they descended from Abraham but said Abraham was not their father because Abraham would not have rejected Him. Jesus also pointed out the fact that God was not their Father. Jesus said, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me.” After declaring God to be His Father, Jesus identified Satan as the Father of these Jews who refused to receive Him.
Jesus is the Great “I Am”
(John 8:48-59)
    In declaring Himself to be “I AM,” Jesus was emphatically stating He is divine. Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” The term “I AM” is one which points out the self-existent nature of God (Exodus 3:14). Jesus has always existed, exists now, and always will exist. Such a quality is found only in the Divine. The Jews who opposed Him that day wanted to stone Him for saying this. That proves they knew exactly what He meant.
    Who is Jesus? He is the compassionate Savior, the One from the Father above, the light of the world, and the great “I AM.” Jesus later identified Himself as “the way, the truth and the life,” even as He boldly stated, “no one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6).”
    Who is Jesus? Jesus is the only way to the Father in Heaven.
- 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/


The Gospel of Matthew

By Jeff Arnette

     One of the first things I want you to notice about Matthew’s gospel is the fact that it’s anonymous. Nowhere in the text does it clearly say who wrote it, but there is no need to worry about the authorship of the first gospel since the early church and scholars all agree that it was Matthew, the apostle.
     Matthew was a Jew whose name means “gift of Yahweh.” He was employed as a tax collector in Capernaum, which implies that he was engaged in taxing fishermen like Peter and John. Matthew’s response to Jesus’ call to discipleship is immediate, decisive, and sacrificial. He even throws a celebration dinner for Jesus (Matt. 9:9-13), inviting all his friends (fellow tax collectors and sinners) to meet Jesus.
     Matthew’s purpose for writing is clear from the text. He writes as a Jew for Jews. He wants these Greek-speaking Jews to that Jesus is the Promised Messiah of God. In Jesus, the promises of God to send a Messiah and restore Israel have begun (Matt. 5:17-18). From Matthew, we learn that Jesus is the promised Messiah and the fulfillment of the entire opus of God’s word.
     In the opening chapters of Matthew (1-4), we see Jesus as “the son of David,” “the son of Abraham,” and as “God with us.” In the later chapters, Jesus is revealed as the “Son of Man” of Daniel 7 and the “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah 53. Throughout the book, the events of Jesus’ life are represented as the fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel yet, they rejected their Messiah and placed themselves in the most perilous position (Matt. 11:20-24; 21:33-46).
     An interesting point for you to consider is that Matthew includes five major sermons or teaching discourses of Jesus (Matt. 5-7, 10, 13, 18, 23-25), each one ending with these words, “…when Jesus finished…” (Matt. 7:28, 11:1, 13:53, 19:1, 26:1). What is intriguing about this is that Matthew seems to present Jesus as the new Moses complete with his five books (Moses and the five books of law).
     Like Moses, Jesus’ birth was surrounded by miracles and caused turmoil among the leaders. He survives when the other male children are massacred, and like Moses, Jesus goes into and is called out of Egypt. Like Moses, Jesus spends 40 days separated from everyone in the wilderness, in preparation for his ministry, and then gives his teachings about what God wants (Matt. 5-7).
     Matthew teaches us that Jesus is God (God with us), that the kingdom is God’s rule and reign in the hearts of His people, that salvation comes through Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins, the servant king of promise, and the people of God will become a redeemed community of both Jews and Gentiles.
- Jeff Arnette preaches for the Central Haywood church of Christ, Clyde, NC.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: https://centralhaywoodcoc.com/


Monday, May 10, 2021

Cow Horns

By Larry Pasley

    “Mister, why doesn’t this cow have any horns?” asked the young lady from a nearby city on field trip to the country.
    The farmer cocked his head for a moment, then began in a patient tone, “Well, ma’am, cattle can do a powerful lot of damage with horns. Sometimes we keep’em trimmed down with a hacksaw. Other times we can fix up the young ‘uns by puttin’ a couple drops of acid where their horns would grow in, and that stops ‘em cold. Still, there are some breeds of cattle that never grow horns. But the reason this cow don’t have no horns, ma’am, is ‘cause it’s a horse.”

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    The woman was obviously ignorant about farm animals. Hopefully she learned a lesson from the encounter.
    The apostle Paul talks about people who are always learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth. 2 Timothy 3:7
    He also told the Thessalonians that some would be destroyed because they did not love the truth.
    2 Thessalonians 2:9-12  The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
    Some people reject the truth of God because they preferred the pleasure of their righteousness.
    It is a frightening thing that God will allow such people to believe “the” lie. The definite article “the” before “lie” is probably referring to the lie that Satan told Eve in the garden of Eden, “that they would not die for their disobedience.
    Many today believe that lie. They think that God will overlook their sins. But, we are told that the times of ignorance, God will no longer overlook but command all men everywhere to repent. Acts 17:30.
    It would be like the farmer allowing the woman to remain ignorant about the cow horns and allowing her to continue to believe the horse was a cow because she didn’t want to learn anything different.
    The truth sets us free in many ways. It sets us free from ignorance and it sets us free from “the lie” that Satan wants us to believe; that God will not punish us for our sins but allow us to continue to live sinful lives without consequence.
    Why are people lost? Some are lost because of their ignorance. Some are lost because they love sin. But all are lost because of their disobedience to the gospel.
    2 Thessalonians 1:6-10  since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, 7 and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed.
    May we choose not to remain in ignorance but to accept God’s truth so we can be freed from our sin and live eternally with Him.
    With love and concern,
- 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

All Else Surpassing

By Adam Faughn

    There are a dozen or so different hymns we typically sing in preparation for the Lord's Supper. Sometimes, due to familiarity with the hymns, we may struggle to concentrate on the words, but we should always strive to concentrate on them, as these songs are meant to help us focus on an essential portion of our worship.
    One of those songs is called "When We Meet in Sweet Communion" (in some songbooks, it is entitled "The Lord's Supper") by Tillit S. Teddlie. Each line of the song is powerful, but there is one line  that often makes me think   a   great   deal.   It   is   the opening portion of the chorus, in   which   we   sing,   "precious feast, all else surpassing." As with   many   poetic   lines,   the meaning of this could be taken a couple of different ways, but it seems to me we are singing the truth that this feast –the Lord's Supper –is greater than any other meal we could ever eat.
    While the list of reasons why that is true could go on and on, here are five reasons why these few moments should mean so much to us; more than any other meal.
1.  Connection with the Savior. When instituting this meal, Jesus   stated   that   He   would "drink it new" with His followers in    the    Kingdom    (Matthew 26:29).   Considering   that   the kingdom and the Church are synonymous   (Matthew   16:16-19), each  time we partake of this meal, Jesus is right there with us. We are connected with Him through our obedient faith as we remember what He has done.
2.  Memory of the Cross. Famously, Jesus stated that the Lord's Supper was to be done in remembrance of Him (Luke 22:19). Each of the emblems is meant to take our minds back to the cross; the bread  representing His body and the fruit of the vine representing  His blood. Each time we eat this feast, it should be a powerful time of remembering the totality of all that happened for our salvation at Calvary. In no other act of worship are all our senses involved in this way, so our memory should be stirred deeply through what we are doing.
3.  Proclamation of Victory. The Lord's Supper is to be eaten week after week by faithful Christians "until He comes" (1  Corinthians 11:26). It is a proclamation of what Jesus did  for us all those years ago and what it means to each of us in our spiritual lives. Knowing what He did at Calvary and knowing that we are doing this until He returns at the end of time, we are proclaiming victory over sin and death so the world might know that Jesus is Lord.
4.    Togetherness of the Saints. The New   Testament makes clear that there is a "together" aspect to the Lord's Supper. Though it is eaten individually,   Christians   gather for   this   purpose   (Acts   20:7) and encourage one another by being present at the table. Further,   Christians around   the world gather for this purpose each week, so we are able to know that our Christian family is connected by this feast each and every Lord's Day.
5.  Reflection on Our Lives. Though the Lord's Supper typically does not last all that long each week, it still provides us with a precious time to reflect on what is most important  in our lives. In fact, we are commanded to examine ourselves during this time (1 Corinthians 11:28)   and   realize   that   any "worthiness" we have is only true because of what Christ has done for us on the cross.
    At no other meal or feast could all of these things be true. Further, there is no way that any man-made meal could ever have these things be true each and every time it is eaten. But this is not our supper; it is the Lord's Supper. So, as long as we are faithfully partaking, each of these things is true throughout the feast, and we are the beneficiaries of great blessings in our spiritual lives by partaking each week. It truly is a precious feast, "all else surpassing."
- 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.


Living Above and Beyond

By Joe Chesser
          
    The people in God’s Kingdom are special. As Jesus described them, they are in the world but no longer of the world (John 17.14-16). Kingdom people have been given the unique ability to rise above and beyond the world while still living in it. Kingdom people have been rescued from Satan’s dark dominion and transferred into the Kingdom of Jesus (Colossians 1.13-14). Kingdom people have been born again into a living hope (John 3.3-5; Titus 3.3-6; 1 Peter 1.3-4). Kingdom people are special.
    Because Kingdom people have been rescued from Satan and the world, God expects His people to live above and beyond the world around them. Since we have been raised with Christ (Romans 6.3-4; Ephesians 2.6; Colossians 3.1), God’s people are no longer to have hearts set on earthly things, but on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Our focus is now to be on living above and beyond the world around us.
    Much of what this means is explained for us by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. He often said, “You have heard that it was said … but I say to you” (6.21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43). Things have changed. Jesus gives us a new vision of what it means to live for God. Treasures are to be stored in heaven (6.19-20). Stop worrying about life (6.24-34). Turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, love your enemies, share with those who ask (6.38-44). These are things those who live above and beyond the world do because Kingdom people now have a heart for God, not the world (Matthew 6.33; 12.33-37). As new creatures, the old things have passed away and the new things have replaced them (2 Corinthians 5.17).
    The exciting thing about all of this is that we don’t have to do this by ourselves. Kingdom people have been given the power from God to rise up and live above and beyond the world. God not only saves us; He empowers us to live the new life. For the church He “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3.20-21). He strengthens us with power through His Spirit in the inner man (Ephesians 3.16) to help and guide us (Romans 8.5-14). God enables us to know the depth of His love that goes beyond knowledge (Ephesians 3.18-19). He offers His people a peace beyond understanding (Philippians 4.7) and the ability to do what they cannot do by themselves (2 Corinthians 8.1-5). He gives wisdom and courage those who ask (James 1.5; Acts 4.31). He gives comfort when we are tired and burdened (Matthew 11.28-30).
    What a Mighty God we serve! He calls us to live above and beyond this world!   
    “I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called – his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance. I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe in him” (Ephesians 1.18-19 NLT).
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com


God’s Use Of Water In Salvation

By Joe Slater

    You body is about 60% water. For me, that’s around sixteen gallons! Water covers over 70% of Earth’s surface. The U.S. Geological Survey says all the water in the atmosphere, on the surface, and under the ground totals over 332 million cubic miles! Obviously, water plays a huge role in our lives.
    God has chosen to use water numerous times to bring salvation to people. For example, He used water to save a Syrian leper from his terminal disease (see 2 Kings 5:1-14). H2O has no inherent healing properties, but God chose to use water to cleanse Naaman when he obeyed by dipping himself seven times in the Jordan.
    Peter wrote that Noah & his family “were saved through water” (1 Peter 3:20). We usually think of the ark as the instrument that kept them from drowning, but that wasn’t Peter’s point. God used water to save them from the corrupt world all around them. The New American Standard and English Standard versions totally miss this vital point in their erroneous paraphrase, “brought safely through the water.” The text says “saved by (i.e. by means of) water”!
    Peter went on to say that just as Noah was saved by means of water, “there is also an antitype which now saves us – baptism” (1 Peter 3:21). Again, the chemical element H2O has no power to wash away sin. But God has chosen to use water in His plan to save sinners.
And now why are you waiting? Arise and be
baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name
of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).
- Joe Slater serves as minister of the Church of Christ in Justin, TX. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://justinchurchofchrist.com


The Face of Grace

By Edd Sterchi

G is for the Goodness
     You have shown to me.
R is for Redemption
     Giv’n from Calv’ry’s tree.
A is for Atonement
     I’m pardoned, full and free.
C is for Charity
     Greater than the eye can see.
E is Everlasting
     Which now in heav’n I’ll be.
I’m thankful for your GRACE, dear God
     May I always show my glee.
- 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, May 3, 2021

What a Difference a Day Makes!

By Bill Brandstatter

    My youngest grandson just had a birthday. It was his first double-digit birthday. He is now a big 10 years old. His birthday was a big day for all of the family. As grandchildren grow it causes us to reflect on the past, the present, and the future. I have realized daily the expression “time flies.” I remember when he was born. I have seen pictures of our grandson recently when he was little. Now he is ten and it’s hard to comprehend. The writer James told of life and stated, “It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14 NKJV) Reflection is good for the soul. It causes us to look at where we are and where we ought to be. The Psalmist stated, regarding life, “For it is soon cut off, and we fly away" (Psa. 90:10).
    Where have I been? The past life is gone. The present is now. Whatever mistakes I made in the past I need to forget and move on from them. The apostle Paul had to remind himself to do that. He stated he was “forgetting those things which were behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead (Phil.3:13). I can’t change the past. I can make the present better.
    Where am I now? God is concerned about where we are now. The urgency of the moment is expressed in several Bible passages. Paul wrote, “Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). We should be “redeeming the time” (Eph. 5:16).
    Where will I be in the future? I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future. The best way to prepare for the future is to prepare now. The future happens with the dawn of every new day. As one person stated, “Today is the start of the rest of your life.” My entrance into heaven depends on what I do while here on earth. I have the chance now to do what I must to enter heaven one day. What a difference a day can make. We must obey Jesus today, so that we can see Him tomorrow. (John 12:48; Heb. 5:8, 9)
- Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://marionchurchofchrist.com/


Image And Allegiance

By Joe Slater

    April 15 typically involves long lines at the Post Office as procrastinators mail those dreaded 1040 forms along with a sizeable check to the U.S. Treasury. We have extra time this year due to circumstances beyond our control, but it just delays the inevitable!
    Nobody enjoys paying taxes. No doubt much of our tax money is spent unwisely, to say the least. Nevertheless, Romans 13:7 says, “Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.”
    When Jesus walked this earth, His enemies tried to trap Him with the controversy over Jews paying taxes to the pagan government in Rome. “Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (Luke 20:22). If Jesus just said, “Yes, pay the taxes,” they could claim He wasn’t a loyal Jew. But if He said, “No don’t pay,” they could accuse Him of treason against the government. As always, the infinitely wise Jesus recognized their ungodly motives and gave them an answer they couldn’t use against Him. “‘Why do you test Me? Show Me a denarius. Whose image and inscription does it have?’ They answered and said, ‘Caesar’s.’ And He said to them, ‘Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s’” (Luke 20:23-25).
    The coin bore Caesar’s image. Caesar had a right to require it in tax. People bear the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). He has a legitimate claim on our service. There is no conflict between the two. As we pay our taxes this week or in weeks to come, may we be mindful to render to God that which is due to Him!
- 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