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Saturday, September 25, 2021

Open My Life

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

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

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

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

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

Open my eyes, my ears, my mouth;
Open my hands; open my heart;
Open my life that all may see
The blessed Christ who lives in me.
- Gerald Cowan, a longtime preacher and missionary, is retired from full-time pulpit preaching. Gerald publishes an e-mail newsletter entitled GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICAL WRITINGS. He is available for Gospel Meetings and he may be contacted at Geraldcowan1931@aol.com


God Can Use You

By Edd Sterchi

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


Nothing In a Name?

By Ron Thomas

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


Prayer and God’s Glory

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


Sweet Hour of Prayer

By Clifton Angel

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


Sunday, September 19, 2021

The True God (Part 1)

By Joe Slater

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


The True God (Part 2)

By Joe Slater

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


Two Intercessors

By Jeff Arnette

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


I’m Going to Quit Eating!

By Edd Sterchi

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


1951

By Ron Thomas

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


Monday, September 13, 2021

The Difference

By David A. Sargent

    An elderly man, who is also a veteran, was at the grocery store register purchasing his groceries when he realized he didn’t have enough money to cover all of the items.  The veteran has used up a $25 grocery store gift card but still owed $3 more to obtain the rest of the things that he needed.
    His cashier, Briar Poirier, from Oxford, Massachusetts, said, “I’ve got this,” and he pulled out his own wallet to get the money to pay the difference.  “The gentleman had a couple basic necessities and looked like he was a little down on his luck and the man fought for our country, fought for our freedoms,” Poirier told WBZ.  “It’s the least I could do for him.”
    Renee Falcioni, from Killingly, Connecticut, witnessed Poirier’s act of compassion.  She said she saw the veteran’s eyes “light up” at Poirer’s deed.  “He shook his hand and said thank you and had a big smile from ear to ear,” Falcioni told WBZ.
    Falcioni also posted about Poirier’s kindness on Facebook.  Her post received thousands of likes and hundreds of comments and shares.  Falcioni commented: “Thank you Briar for being such an amazing young man and a big thank you to your parents for raising such an amazing, kind-hearted, conscientious, and caring young man!!!”
    May I turn your attention to another act of compassion that has a few similarities to Poirier’s act of kindness?  There are some differences in the actions as well:
  1. The debt is far greater.  In fact, it is too great for any of us to pay with our own resources.
  2. Each of us owes this unpayable debt.
  3. The matter of the debt has eternal implications.
  4. Only one Person could pay this debt.  He willingly did so for each of us.
  5. He paid this debt for us, not because we were good or kind or merited the repayment in some way.
The debt that each of us has and cannot repay is the debt of sin (Romans 3:23).  None of us has the resources to pay the debt ourselves, for sin is an offense to a Holy God (Isaiah 59:1-2).  But God loves each of us so much that He gave His Son Jesus to pay the debt of our sin so that we can be reconciled to Him (John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21).  Jesus paid the debt for us with His life; He died on the cross for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).  Jesus did this for us when we were weak and unable to pay the debt, sinners offending the Holy God, and even enemies in rebellion against Him (Romans 5:6-10).  The wonderful news is that if we accept His offer of salvation, He will give us eternal life.  If we reject His offer, we will receive eternal destruction (Matthew 7:13-14; Romans 6:23).
     God will save and give eternal life to those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).  He will continue to cleanse from sin those who continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7-9).
     Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection make all of the “difference” in our lives now and forever.  Won’t YOU accept His offer of salvation and eternal life?
- David A. Sargent, minister for the Church of Christ at Creekwood in Mobile, Alabama, is also the editor of an electronic devotional entitled "Living Water." To learn more about this excellent resource contact David via their website: http://www.creekwoodcc.org

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


A Tough Parable

By Joe Chesser

    Most of Jesus’ parables are easily understood; they cut straight to the heart of his point. For example, the message of the parable of the wise and foolish builders (Matthew 7.24-27) is simple and clear – foolish people hear only while the wise ones hear and do. But a few of Jesus’ parables leaves us scratching our heads.
     One of these for me is the parable of the dishonest manager (Luke 16.1-9). First of all he was caught squandering his master’s possessions and was being fired. So, he decided to cheat his master for selfish purposes by making deals with the master’s debtors. When the master found out what he did, he commended the dishonest manager for being shrewd. That’s as far as the story goes, but on the surface it sounds like Jesus was commending a crook: “For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light” (Luke 16.8). Thankfully, with a little help from Mike Ireland I was able to see that “Jesus told this story to explain the importance of making the wise and right use of the money and possessions we have … to be wise and faithful stewards who invest our money in kingdom priorities” (From Morning to Evening: Every Day With Jesus, August 18th).
    Volumes have been written on the subject of money. But I'm afraid that many of us have concluded that as long as we give generously in church on Sundays we can use the rest of our money and possessions any way we choose that pleases us. Perhaps Jesus is using this parable to broaden our perspectives as stewards of His blessings to us. It has challenged me to think more seriously about how I use all of what God has given me. How honest or dishonest have I been with my finances? How have I allowed selfishness to justify my decisions regarding my possessions? Have I been faithful enough with unrighteous wealth to be entrusted with true riches? Am I serving God or money. It certainly can’t be both (Luke 16.10-13).
     Perhaps it’s not so much that this parable is tough as it is that dealing with money as God teaches is what’s tough. Who really trusts Jesus enough to give up all their possessions in order to be his disciple (Luke 14.33)? Who really seeks the kingdom of heaven more than worrying over the physical needs of life (Matthew 6.25-33)? Who really stores up treasures in heaven in the way they use their money and possessions (1 Timothy 6.17-19; Matthew 6.19-21). Who really begs for the opportunity to contribute to the needs of others (2 Corinthians 8.1-5)? Who really believes that we reap what we sow (2 Corinthians 9.6)? Who really walks by faith in how they use their possessions and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5.7)? Tough questions for honest hearts.
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com


If Jesus Paid the Full Price for our Sins, Why do we Still Have to Pay for Them Too?

By Gerald Cowan

    Maybe it’s because He did not pay “the full price,” including all negative consequences and results of sin, our own or those of others that can affect us. Maybe Jesus only paid the part we could not and cannot pay: He did not die to recover all that we and others have lost by sins. He did not promise to undo all the damage done by sin or to prevent sin from occurring again. He made the sacrifice that makes possible the forgiveness of the guilt of sin – the free will giving of a sinless life to redeem the sinful lives of others. Such a sacrifice was and in impossible for us because our own lives have been stained and corrupted and forfeited by our own sins. The wages or results of our own sins is death for us (Ezekiel 18:20, Romans 6:23). We cannot offer a flawed and polluted life to purchase a new life. Jesus did not removes all the consequences of sin, either for the sinners or those sinned against. He was not a “whipping boy” required, forced, bribed, or paid to take all the punishment deserved by other persons. Imagine a world or society in which one could pay or force someone else to suffer the punishment he himself deserved, even prison or death, or worse – hell is, of course, the worst possible punishment. But nobody can go to hell for another. Paul may have hinted that he would be willing to suffer that eternal punishment if it could or would save others (Romans 9:-3), but that may be over-stretching his words. Actually it is not possible for one to suffer eternal hell in place of another – even Jesus could not do that. In spite of creeds that state Jesus “descended into hell,” the fact is he never did so, and never will.
    Do not discount the debt we owe to Christ for the debt he paid for us. “Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe” is a valid concept.  The idea that “Jesus paid it all; nothing more I owe” is a comfort claimed by those who want a completely free ride to heaven with no “works” required of them personally, like  the false “once saved (by belief in Jesus?) always saved and can’t be lost” doctrine touted by myriad Protestant churches. But it is false assurance, counterfeit comfort.
    BAPTISM IS NOT A “GET OUT OF JAIL FREE” CARD.  One who is baptized and becomes a Christian in prison does not get out of prison and should not expect to be freed – he will still experience the consequences of his past sin; he will continue to serve out his sentence for his crimes.  A “born again Christian” who falls into sin (such as adultery, theft, assault) may lose his family, his job and career, and his reputation etc.—even after he confesses and repents his sin. Forgiveness does not always, and may not be required to,  remove all the consequences of the sin. Repentance and baptism may constitute a new start spiritually, but they do not change one’s history, do not remove or cancel the offense or the consequences of it. One may forsake his sin and discontinue the practice of it but the results and consequences of it remain. Being forgiven by God assures one that he will not continue to bear the guilt and spiritual consequences of his sin.  The spiritual consequences of unforgiven sin. and guilt are spiritual death, the loss of heaven, and eternal separation from God. There are several consequences of sin, some of which are irrevocable.
    IMMEDIATE CONSEQUENCE FOR COMMISSION OF SIN.  One who sins is immediately guilty, whether or not he knows it and admits it. Judgment is not an intermittent action, so that one is considered innocent until judged for sins committed between moments of judgment. One is guilty from the moment of sin, whether commission or omission, whether attitude or action. At the moment of sin and the duration of sin he is under God’s condemnation, subject to punishment, retribution, spiritual death and rejection (Romans 6:23) if and until acknowledgment, repentance, correction, and request for forgiveness are forthcoming. Guilt and consequences may be augmented and added to by delay in correcting and being forgiven, but the initial sin remains independently of any future accretions or contingent sins. Sinners deserve the consequences of their own sins (not necessarily the consequences from the sins of others, though realistically that may not always be avoided).  Christ paid the penalty of our sin by redeeming us with His own blood sacrifice. He who knew no sin was made to be the personification of sin on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21). On the basis of Christ’s perfect sacrifice obedient believers  are no longer under God’s condemnation (Romans 8:1). But other consequences remain.
    Universal consequence. Though we are not born in sin as a universal consequence of Adam’s sin (as wrongly and unscripturally taught in some religions) there may be and are some consequences suffered by all descendants Adam and Eve. They were expelled from Eden and denied access to “the tree of life” (Genesis 3:22-24).  As a result of their sin they became mortal – subject tp physical death, and that mortality has passed on to every human whether or not they sinned personally (Romans 5:12-14). We are all children of Adam, genetically what he is. We are not burdened with “original sin,” but are burdened with any true consequences of Adam’s original sin. But please note: this is a natural consequence, and not a spiritual consequence. 
    Natural consequences of sin.  We live in a world of cause and effect – the law of sowing and reaping is always in full effect (Galatians 6:7-8). Some of sin’s consequences are “built-in” and will happen no matter whether the sinner is saved or unsaved.  “Can a man take fire into his bosom without being burned?” (Proverbs 6:27). If you commit a crime or a sin and get you should expect to get caught and face the natural consequences that follow. To avoid the certain or probable hurtful results, avoid the action that produces them. If you don’t want the expected fruit, don’t plant the seed that will produce it.
    Instructional consequences and disciplinary consequences. We should learn from both positive and negative  consequences of our attitudes and actions. As an example of this: We see in 2 Samuel chapter 12, even after David confessed his sin and was forgiven God allowed certain consequences to befall him and his household (verses 11–14). God probably allows some of sin’s consequences to remain in our lives to remind us and teach us, and also to warn us about staying in sin or returning to sins that have hurt us before. Others can learn from our experiences too. For example, when Ananias and Sapphira were disciplined (they actually lost their lives) because of their sin, it was instructive for the church: “Great fear came upon the whole church and all who heard about these events” (Acts 5:11). See also 1 Corinthians 5:5 and 1 Timothy 1:20. We are encouraged not to resent discipline, including necessary and appropriate punishment for our sins (Hebrews 12:4-11, compare Proverbs 3:11-12). It is for our own good, to make us fit for fellowship as partakers of God’s holiness.
    God allows us to experience some of the temporal consequences of sin to show His love for us. Thanks to God for memory that helps us avoid repeating the mistakes that would otherwise hurt us again. If God never disciplined His straying children, He would not be a good Father. If we were never disciplined or never suffered the consequences for our wrong action, we would probably never learn right from wrong. We tend to learn from our mistakes more readily than we learn from our successes.
    Praise the Lord for His goodness. He allows us to experience the temporal consequences of sin (for our own good). But He has saved us from the eternal consequences of sin. Jesus paid the redemption price for our sins so we will never experience the second death, which is the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14). Obedient and faithful believers in Christ are promised that the negative curse and consequences of sin will be completely removed in heaven (Revelation 21:3-7), that nothing from the saved person’s past will be brought against him to affect or afflict him Hebrews 8:12, 10:17).  In and of itself that should be sufficient to lead one to call upon the Lord for forgiveness of any and all sins (Romans 10:9-13) while he can and make his calling and election sure (2 Peter 1:10). 
- 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

Bridle or Bridal?

By Edd Sterchi

Bridle \brid-l\: the  headgear with  which  a  horse is governed and  which carries a bit and reins (from Webster’s Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary)
     Many Christians want to control Christ in their life like they would a horse– speeding up here, slowing down there, turning on a whim.  They want to get on and get  off  (i.e. have Christ in their life) when they want.  They worship Him when they want, do His will when they feel like it, allow Him into  their  life  when  nothing  better  is  going on.    They  only want  Christ around when there is a perceived need in their life, but otherwise, He is putout to pasture.  It is sad, but to people like that Christ is no more than a domesticated  animal.    Their  lives  eventually  become  more  and  more miserable and worldly.

Bridal \brid-l\: a marriage festival or ceremony (from Webster’s Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary)
     Some Christians realize that they are subject to Christ as a bride is to her husband (Eph. 5:22-23).  Thus, they understand that Christ will lovingly lead them – and they are willing to go with Him at all times.  They worship when and how Christ wants, they do His will always, they allow Him into every area of their lives all the time.  Their life is one of celebration and joy,of fulfillment and spiritual beauty – like the perfect wedding!
     So Christian, is your relationship with Christ bridle or bridal?
- 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/


Grasping Hope

By David Bragg

   Charles Spurgeon, a well-known denominational preacher of 19th century, related in one of his sermons the story of a sailor who fell overboard amid a great storm and the thrilling rescue that followed. As soon as the cry, “Man overboard!” was sounded the crew flew into action determined to save their shipmate from drowning. The poor sailor was quickly found, and a rope was tossed to him. That rope was that sailor’s lifeline, and he knew it. When the men finally got the man onto the ship after his harrowing experience, he was unable to loosen his grip on that rope. It was hours before he could relax his grip as the strands of rope became embedded in the flesh of his hands.
    Jesus is our lifeline, rescuing us from churning ocean of sin. Wave after wave threatens to pull us down into the dark depths with no hope of escape. Then He who could calm the seas comes to our rescue. In Him we find refuge (Hebrews 6:18) and salvation.
    In Christ we find hope. The writer of Hebrew described our hope with these words: “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast” (Hebrews 6:19). Our hope in Christ sustains us when life is going well. But its true beauty becomes evident during times of difficulty and trial. Don’t let go of that hope! It is “both sure and steadfast.” Sailors drop an anchor, one end firmly attached to its deck while the other is planted deep in the ocean floor, confident that their ship will remain secure. They have “faith” in that anchor. It will hold fast (i.e., “sure”) regardless of what may be going on around it (“steadfast;” cf. Acts 27:29, 40). Spiritually, the Christian holding the promises of God in Christ has in their grasp a great spiritual “anchor,” both “sure and steadfast” (Hebrews 6:19).
    In times of trouble and testing, don’t let go of your hope. You have Jesus’ word that He will not forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).
- 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/


Monday, September 6, 2021

Make it Relevant

By Bill Brandstatter

    The cry among many believers today is: "Make it relevant." They want the worship services relevant to the way society is today. They want the preaching to relate to societal problems. Is the preaching relevant? Do we have to change our worship in order to meet the needs of today's culture?
    Let us answer these questions with a few observations. What could be more relevant to an immoral, ungodly, humanistic society than what we have in Jesus Christ and Him crucified? The message of the cross must have related to the society of Paul's day. In some ways it was even worse than our society. Paul stated regarding his preaching: “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!" (1 Cor. 9:16) Was Paul's preaching relevant? On another occasion Paul stated: "For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ." (Gal. 1 :10) Paul condemned just preaching what men wanted to hear. He also indicated he was in trouble if he didn't preach the gospel.
    When Paul preached the gospel what did he preach? Paul was first of all consistent in what he preached. A preacher who changes with the wind is not what God wants. Notice what Paul said about himself: "For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church." (1 Cor. 4:17) Notice Paul's consistency in teaching everywhere in every church. This is also indicated in 1 Cor. 7: 17: "But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk. And so I ordain in all the churches." Again notice "in all churches." Paul's message was the same everywhere he went.
    We know some of what Paul taught. In Acts 19, he taught the brethren their baptism was wrong. They then obeyed the gospel. Was his preaching relevant? Was it fulfilling the needs of that day? To the church at Corinth Paul preached and "many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed, and were baptized." (Acts 18:8) Did Paul preach what was relevant?
    Friends, what could be more needed or more relevant today than the good news or gospel of Jesus Christ? To cure loneliness, we need Christ. To help broken homes, we need Christ. To help failing marriages, we need Christ. To stop murder, suicide, etc., we need Christ, not a social gospel, not a felt-needs message. We need Christ. If individuals go to worship just to be entertained, they are going for the wrong reason. We should go to be edified and built up in the Christian faith. This will help us to stand against the wiles of the devil. (Eph. 6:11) If we are after entertainment, there are a lot of places to go. If we want to be built up spiritually, we need to worship God. The worship needs to be such as pleases Him. If worship is done “decently and in order” and not spontaneous and unexpected, God will be pleased (1 Cor. 14:33). If Christ is preached, and the gospel taught the message will be relevant. If this occurs, Christians should be strengthened and built up as a result.
- Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://marionchurchofchrist.com/


Do You Know Which Way Is Up?

By Joe Slater

    “That poor fellow doesn’t know which way is up!” By that we mean he’s confused, misinformed, or maybe not the brightest bulb in the chandelier.
    When it comes to spiritual matters, seek above all else to know which way is up! And once you know, follow that way.
    You must select between two ways. Hear the word of the Lord: “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).
    A vast majority travel the broad way leading down to destruction. Why? Because it’s easy! I grew up with dirt roads, many of them narrow. Moving farm implements from one field to another presented serious problems. I didn’t like narrow roads then, and like them even less now. Give me a wide, paved highway any day!
    Most feel the same about how they live. No restrictions, plenty of company – sounds great, doesn’t it? (Until you consider the destination, that is!)
    What about the way that leads upward to life in Heaven? Not only is it difficult, but even the entrance (gate) is narrow. If you pass through that gate, it will be on purpose. You won’t travel the difficult way by coincidence. You must be content to be in the minority, for those on the difficult way are not many, but few. But oh, the destination: Life!
    Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). If you know Jesus, you know which way is up. Follow Jesus!
- 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


You Can Rejoice!

By Edd Sterchi

You may not have much in pocket or purse
And before it gets better, it could get worse
Yet you can rejoice – You can rejoice!

You may not have health as well as before
And your illnesses could multiply more
Yet you can rejoice – You can rejoice!

You may not have what others may own
And what you do have, away may be flown
Yet you can rejoice – You can rejoice!

You may not have the most rewarding career
And you may be stuck with it – no ending near
Yet you can rejoice – You can rejoice!

You may not have the perfect home life
And deal with vexing kids, husband, or wife
Yet you can rejoice – You can rejoice!

If God has saved you through the blood of His Son
Then life’s setbacks mean nothing – the victory’s won.
Through any situation – any – bar none
You can rejoice – You can rejoice!
- 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/


Secret Sins

By Ron Thomas

    I read a sermon outline the other day by brother Wayne Polk (Shelbyville, IL). The title of his sermon he preached is “Dealing with our secret sins.”
    Do you have any? It is likely that you have more than one that you struggle with, and I am sure you are very much aware of it. You say nothing about it to anyone because the shame you would experience is too great. Yet, the Lord knows all about it, even better than you do.
    Brother Wayne used Psalm 90 as his text, the words of Moses. Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, Our secret sins in the light of thy countenance (90:8, ASV).
    As Moses led the children of Israel from Egyptian bondage, he was plagued not only with his own failures, but was additionally burdened with the murmuring and complaining of many people who had differing perspectives about this and that. One can’t imagine how bad it was for such a great man like Moses; try as he or she might, both come up empty.
    In Psalm 90:7-11, the great prophet of God gives attention to the Lord’s wrath as the Israelites journey toward the land of promise, perhaps Moses reflected on the entirety of their journey, near the end of his own life when he penned these words. If so, notice what Moses said of the wrath of God.
    The Lord’s anger terrifies people throughout their journey (v. 7), the Lord’s anger was hovering above them (v. 9), not because the Lord was interested in threatening them, but because each person had something hidden within not addressed (v. 8) and the Lord, even in His mercy, has a limit to His toleration. The NKJV, in v. 8 reads, “secret sins” (the ASV, ESV, JPS read the same), the NET reads “hidden sins”.
    Secret or hidden sins—what are they? Of course, those secret sins can be any moral infraction one can think of, be it stewardship failings, promiscuity, loose tongues, dressing to be seen rather than dressing to be received by the Lord, abuse, you name it! One’s secret sins are those that have not been given up, an enjoyable little bit of indulgence, perhaps. That little bit of indulgence, however, is a big-time troubler!
    And we know this!
    Let us be reminded that as we walk in life, what is known by others is very little. On the
other hand, For God will bring every work into judgment, with every hidden thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil (Eccl. 12:14, ASV).
    What shall we do? The answer is in Psalm 90:12, So teach us to number our days, That we may get us a heart of wisdom. I suggest this means 1) have a clear understanding of the brevity of life, 2) with this understanding, also understand that with the end of life we all stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account of the things done in the body, whether good or bad, 3) allow the Lord’s word to teach you, but as He teaches you, allow those words to sink deep into the heart and reshape who you are. Seeing ye have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth...having been begotten again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the word of God, which liveth and abideth (cf. 1 Peter 1:22-23).
    Your secret sins may not be easily discarded, but the importance of them being thrown away is obvious to every thinking person. You may struggle to the end of your days, but are you not glad the Lord exhibits a great deal of mercy to those who love Him and lean not on their own understanding? I am.
- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website. http://sunrushchurchofchrist.com/


Good News

By Clifton Angel

    The word "gospel" means "good news." The good news of Jesus is primarily contained in the New Testament, but without the Old Testament, we certainly would not know all that makes the gospel "good news." So, although the entirety of the good news of Jesus is beyond the scope of our brief moment here, there is a summation that Paul provides, which we will consider.
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:1–4).
Paul summarizes the good news of Jesus as His death, burial, and resurrection. Let's think briefly about these three monumental events.
    The death of Jesus is good news to mankind because it was at this point that: (1) Jesus took upon Him the sins of the world (1 Peter 2:24); (2) Jesus shed His sin-cleansing blood (Revelation 1:5; Matthew 26:28); (3) Jesus literally gave His life — He willed Himself to death because of our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3). Since He died for and because of sin, we can die to sin (1 Peter 2:24; Romans 6:2).
    The burial of Jesus is good news to mankind because: (1) His burial "sealed the deal" of His death; (2) His burial fulfilled prophecy (cf. Isaiah 53:9; Matthew 27:57–60); (3) His burial prepared Him for an undeniable resurrection (cf. Matthew 27:57–28:6; Mark 15:42–16:6; Luke 23:50–24:7; John
19:38–20:8). Another interesting detail of the burial is that Jesus rested from His work the entirety of the Sabbath (albeit, under the new covenant, we are not commanded to keep it holy, as was required under the law of Moses). Finally, for us, being buried with Christ in baptism "seals the deal" of putting off the old man of sin and prepares us for our new life in Christ (Romans 6:3–4; Colossians 2:11–12).
    The resurrection of Jesus is good news to mankind because: (1) Jesus manifested His power over death (Acts 2:24; Hebrews 2:14); (2) Jesus delivered a crushing blow to the head of Satan (Genesis 3:15; Hebrews 2:14); (3) Jesus became the firstfruits of the final resurrection (cf. 1 Corinthians 15). Furthermore, He made it possible for our resurrection from the waters of baptism (Colossians 2:12; Romans 6:4–5).
    Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, that they had received the gospel, were standing in the gospel, and were being saved by the gospel. However, he noted a major condition upon these gospel blessings: "If, ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain" (1 Corinthians 15:2). Have you obeyed, and are you obeying the good news of Jesus Christ?
- Clifton Angel preaches for the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. He may be contacted through that congregation's website: http://www.coldwatercofc.com/