Sunday, October 24, 2021

Has Jesus Really Overcome the World?

By Gerald Cowan

"I have overcome the world" (John 16:33)
    Jesus and the disciples, minus Judas Iscariot the betrayer, had finished the Passover meal. Judas had gone out to do his planned work of turning Jesus over to the enemies who would eventually crucify him. Jesus would have only a few hours more with them to sum up his ministry, to prepare them for his soon-coming church kingdom and the continuation of their own ministry – he would give them final instructions and a commission after his death and resurrection and before his visible ascension to heaven. Judas did not hear the “Let not your heart be troubled”  encouragement (Chapter 14), the enlightenment about the relationship of the Lord to all his disciples and followers (Chapter 15), the prediction and promise of Holy Spirit empowered victory that would continue into eternity (Chapter 16), and the impassioned prayer of the Savior who was nearing the victorious end of his mission to redeem and save a people for God’s own possession (Chapter 17, compare Titus 2::11-14). We cannot know what impact this would have had on Judas and his trajectory into darkness and perdition, but we are concerned to understand and continue the impact upon the other apostles, and upon all who follow Lord Jesus today. 
    “These things I have spoken to you,” Jesus said, at the conclusion of his sermons to the disciples and before his great prayer. These words may also be thought to apply to all his words and works during the three years or so of discipling these chosen and soon to be Holy Spirit guided and empowered men. But in particular he refers to what he has just told them about his coming departure from them but his continuing union and communion with them and his planned return to take them to the new place he will have prepared for them, not hiding from them the various persecutions and afflictions they would endure for his sake and the many blessings of grace and glory they would enjoy. He continued  his instructions for their continued occupation in his kingdom and the trouble they would have in the mission he was giving them. The prospect of winning the world for Him included both physical, social, and spiritual struggles against formidable foes: the world, the flesh, and the devil (we will notice this threesome in more depth below). Notice the summation of his stated purpose in his teaching of them: That in me you might have peace – that in spite of the tribulation you will have in the world you can be cheered and assured by knowing – I have overcome the world (John 16:33). 
    “That in me you might have peace.”  What kind of peace?  Not the kind of peace the world can give (John 14:27). In the world and from the world there will never be true and perfect peace – the peace in which there is no barrier to fellowship and no separation of one person from another or of any person from God. This peace is not primarily physical or social but spiritual. All who are truly at peace with God in Christ will necessarily be at peace with each other. It is the peace of being many different and differing members, but acknowledging and accepting each other as equal members with a proper place in one body composed of all its member parts (Ephesians 4:11-16). It is significant that he says might have (subjunctive) rather than do  have or will have. Even in the church we see competitive selfishness and discord, present because so many do not accept or pursue the peace the Lord makes possible. 
    Now let us notice the threefold enemy to peace: the world, the flesh, and the devil. The world, as currently constituted, is inimical to peace. It promotes preservation and promotion of self not promotion and preservation of the whole. It pushes for the individual good not the collective good, for personal satisfaction not community satisfaction, and for subordination of the many to the few. There is no possibility of true and lasting universal peace in such a world. Unless such worldly ideas are suppressed and disallowed in heaven there could be no perfect peace even there. We may expect it in heaven but not many expect it or pursue it in the present world.  It is our loss, not a failure of the Lord to provide or fulfill a promise.
    The flesh is inimical to peace. Understanding the dichotomy of flesh and spirit, though perplexing and exceedingly difficult as limned in Paul’s epistle to the Romans, Chapters 7 and 8, must be clarified if we are to understand how the flesh is an enemy to the peace the Lord promises. The flesh (our carnality in contradistinction to our spirituality (Romans 7:14, 8:6-7,  1 Corinthians 3:1-4) is our humanity, not only our physical body but our human mind, desires, attitudes, disposition and inclinations. The flesh also reflects our limitations – some things are simply impossible for us, humanly speaking. James 4:3 is an insightful note: our requests to God may be denied because they are intended to satisfy human lusts and desires — not just the desires of the physical body but the thoughts and intentions of the heart/mind (Hebrews 4:12-13). The spirit is the other side of our nature, designed and intended by God to seek Him in whose image we are created, following the leading and pull of His Holy Spirit (emphasized by Paul in Romans 8-8). The cartoon with an angel perched on one shoulder of a person and a devil perched on the other is seriously awry from truth. When faced with a decision to do or not to do something – responding to temptation, testing, trial – it is not that the angel pulls one way and the devil pulls the other and we make the decision which one to follow. It is not even our “good side” and our “bad side” influencing our choice. Rather, it is the desires of our humanity that pulls one way while our spirituality pulls the other.  Whichever side of our nature to which we yield determines our actions, also determines the consequences of the choice we make.  What I want often prevails over what God wants and what I ought to want.  The flesh which is my enemy too often wins.
    The devil is inimical to peace with God and with myself because he promotes peace with the world as passive hostility to God.  He paints God as our enemy, withholding from us what would please us and make us like Him (consider the devil in the serpent tempting Eve and Adam, Genesis 3:1-6). Though not always clearly articulated, the devil’s intention is to thwart God’s purposes by disconnecting people from Him. In doing so, the devil is like a roaring lion – or any other predator – seeking to devour and destroy those he can separate from God (1 Peter 5:8-9). But since the devil so often offers what our fleshly side wants he persuades us to reject God’s appeal to our spiritual side – he capitalizes on the pull of the world and the flesh to defeat us.
    But do not give up, Jesus says, all is not yet lost. “Be of good cheer. I have overcome the world (the flesh and the devil too).  I have overcome is a prolepsis. It is the condition that would prevail after Christ’s death and resurrection and ascension to heaven. The devil may effectively be (is deferred to as) the prince and god of the present world (John 12;31, 14:30, 16:11; 2 Corinthians 4:4), but his head, his vitality, persuasiveness, and power have been crushed (Hebrews 2:14-18, 4:14-16).He is  – he is overthrown; Christ has undone all the devil has done and is still able to do (1 John 3:8), including even the fear of death and consequences of sin in those who entrust their souls to Him. Nothing in or of the world, not even death itself, can stand against God and His Christ or His church (Matthew 16:18-19).  The world and all things of the world will end (1 John 2:15-17).  Satan himself will be cast into eternal hell (Revelation 20:10, 14). Jesus and his redeemed church will enjoy God’s heaven forever. That prospect should set every soul at peace, with the peace of the Lord, the prefect peace granted to those whose hearts are steadfastly set upon Him (Isaiah 26:3), the all-surpassing peace that guards our hearts and lives in Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:6-9). He is our defense from all that threatens and opposes us. We go to him, at his invitation (Matthew 11:28-30), to find rest and peace and fulfillment of our hope (Revelation 14:12-13).. 
    In Christ who loved us and gave himself for us we are more than conquerors of everything – the world, the flesh, and the devil. Nothing in the past, the present, or the future can overcome him or us who stand faithfully in him, nor can it separate us from him, from God or from the heaven-supplied and supported panoply given to defend and sustain us (Ephesians 6:10-17, Romans 8:35-39). In Him we do and will overcome. As overcomers in him we will sit with him in the heaven he will have prepared for us before he returns for us.
- 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

“Are You Ready For A Gospel Meeting?”

By Bill Brandstatter

    Beginning Sunday, October 3rd, this congregation will begin a gospel meeting with Mike McDaniel. His subject will be “Preview of the Judgment Day.” Why do churches of Christ have gospel meetings? Why do we call them “gospel meetings? Let us consider three points as we get ready for our gospel meeting.
    The gospel saves. Paul indicates the importance of the gospel by declaring, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” (Rom. 1:16 NKJV). Paul also wrote to the church at Corinth and stated, “If our gospel be hidden, it is hidden to them that are lost.” (2 Cor. 4:3) Emotionalism is not the gospel. Yet the saving gospel does produce some emotions. The eunuch went on his way rejoicing (Acts 8:39). The Philippian jailer, after being baptized, “rejoiced.” (Acts 16:34)
    The gospel was the New Testament Rule and Guide. The apostles were
commissioned by Christ what they were to preach. They were told by our Lord “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15, 16) Paul knew the importance of preaching the gospel. He realized the importance of getting the gospel message out to the world. The apostle from Tarsus declares, “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; ye, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.” (1 Cor. 9:16)
    The gospel is to be taken to the world. It was taken to the world of Paul’s day (Col. 1:23). God doesn’t tell us how the gospel is to be taken. We teach and preach on the radio, newspaper, publicly, and privately. The early Christians did this. Luke records, “They that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word.” (Acts 8:4) One of the ways a person can help to get the gospel message out is to invite someone to services. Also, we should be friendly to a visitor who comes. That could lead to that person wanting to know more. It is important that you attend our gospel meeting, if at all possible; and please bring a friend.
- Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

Confession And Consistency

By Joe Slater

    By confessing Jesus as Lord, we obligate ourselves to obey Him. “Lord” isn’t just a respectful title. It refers to a master, one who has the right to decide and control.
    Jesus asked this piercing question: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). Calling Jesus ‘Lord’ acknowledges that He has the right to decide what we ought to do and to control our behavior. He has done so through His inspired word, the Bible. Do we recognize our own inconsistency when we call Him Lord, yet neglect to do what the Scriptures teach?
    An old cliché says, “Talk is cheap.” Truly, we can pay lip service to nearly anything. “You shouldn’t litter!” (Then I throw trash out of my car window.) “I love my family!” (Then I speak harshly, sarcastically, and rudely to them.)
    Confessing Christ as Lord certainly is a good thing! In fact, it’s essential to salvation (Romans 10:9-10). But Jesus demands more than mere lip service. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Moreover, we don’t get to pick and choose what parts of His will to obey. Those converted to Christ are to “obey all things that I have commanded you” (28:20).
    A servant who refuses to obey his master shouldn’t expect that master to be pleased with him. Do you expect Jesus to be pleased with you?
- Joe Slater serves as minister of the Church of Christ in Justin, TX. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

Stay With the Ship

By Joe Chesser

    If you like stories of action and suspense, you’ll love the story told in Acts 27. It’s a dramatic description of a shipwreck where everything is lost … except the people on board.  From what seemed like a promising beginning, the journey quickly turned into a nightmare.  A wind of hurricane force (called a “northeaster” - Acts 27:14) battered the ship as it was helplessly driven out of control.  Trying anything they could think of, they threw the cargo overboard, and the next day, the ship’s tackle.  After several days, all hope of being saved was lost (Acts 27:20).
    When we get to the place where all hope is lost is when the grace and power of God shines most clearly.  There were 276 people on board this ship, and all had given up hope until the Lord spoke to Paul, one of the passengers, assuring him that none would lose their lives (Acts 27:23-25).  However, there was one condition to being delivered by God.  Everyone had to stay with the ship.  When sensing that land was near, some tried to escape in the lifeboat.  Paul told the centurion, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved” (Acts 27:31).  The soldiers believed Paul and cut the ropes that held the lifeboat to the ship.  In most cases this would have been a very foolish thing to do, but because they believed, they had to do exactly what God had said, they had to make sure no one could escape.  Their only hope was that everyone “stay with the ship.”  All 276 arrived safely on shore, just as God had promised.
    God has given us an even greater promise.  He has promised that if we “stay with the ship” we can be saved eternally.  Throughout our lives we face the temptation to abandon God’s ship (like Israel – Hebrews 3.12 - 4.7).  It may literally be during hurricanes, or earthquakes or tornadoes. It may be when faced with cancer or heart disease.  It may be when someone we love is suddenly taken from us through violence or immorality or accidents.  It may be when we are hurt by those we thought loved us, or deceived by those we trusted. “Northeasters,” no matter in what form their brutality may come, can drain us of hope and our only thought is to abandon God and everyone else around us.
    But wait!  Just as God spoke to Paul words of hope for those around him, He has also spoken words of hope for every one of us.  And the words are essentially the same: “Stay with the ship.”  In this promise, the ship of safety that will deliver us unharmed to the shore of life is the church, the body of Christ.  Jesus clearly promised that the church He was to build to transport us to God could not be destroyed, even “the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18).  Stay with the ship and you’ll be saved.
    The “northeaster” didn’t suddenly stop when God promised to save the people on the ship.  They had to demonstrate that they truly believed His promise by riding out the storm.  The parallel is compelling for us.  The only way to reach the “other shore” is to ride out the storms of life by “staying with the ship.”  It’s our only hope (Revelation 2:8-11).
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at

One Gospel For All

By Ronald Bartanen

I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
    An increasingly popular view is that different cultures have different religions available to bring people to God.  While in America we are predominantly a somewhat Christian culture (at least for the present), in Muslim nations God is available through Islam, in Israel God is found through Old Testament law, in India access to God is through Hinduism, etc.  Tolerance of other faith-systems has been seen in the past as the allowing of liberty to differ, but it has evolved into the shaming of those who would seek to actually convert someone of another religious persuasion to one’s own view.  Some would even refer to preaching against the teachings of other religions as “hate speech.”  Such a concept would make the Great Commission of our Lord—the preaching of the gospel of Christ to all nations, as Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47)—no longer acceptable.
    The gospel of Christ alone is “the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16).  It is one gospel for all.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No man cometh unto the Father but by me” (John 14:6).  This may seem narrow-minded in our ears today, but it is either true, or Jesus is not to be believed.
    There is one gospel for all because all are alienated from God by sin.  “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23); and “The wages of sin is death…” (Rom. 6:23).   In such a state, man is alienated from god and from eternal life.  Dependence for acceptance with God on the basis of avoiding gross sins and being a good neighbor will not suffice.
    There is one gospel for all because Jesus, God’s Son, died for all.  “God commendeth His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).  
    There is one gospel for all because salvation is found only in Jesus: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
    There being but one gospel for all, those who sincerely would follow Christ should look beyond popular opinion, men and denominations to the Biblical standard for the means of coming to God.   Believing Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God who died for us, was buried, and rose again (1 Cor. 15:1-4), let all accept Him as Savior and Lord in accord with God’s word—in repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38; 22:16), thus being assured by Christ, that “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16).      Continuing in faith and faithful living, we are assured, “Be thou faithful unto death (even to the point of dying for that faith) and I will give the a crown of life “  ( Revelation 2:10).
- Ronald Bartanen is a retired minister who for many years served the Lord's church in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee. He may be contacted at:

Monday, October 18, 2021

Lord, Teach Us To Pray

By Bryan McAlister

    “Lord, teach us to pray…”
    Is it any wonder that such a question would be asked of Jesus? Can you imagine what it must have been like to witness His prayer life? Jesus prayed at His baptism (Luke 3:21); Jesus prayed as often as He could (Luke 5:16); Jesus prayed as He called His Apostles (Luke 6:12); He prayed alone (Luke 9:18); He prayed with friends (Luke 9:28-29); He prayed for His friends (Luke 22:32); He prayed for His courage (Luke 22:41-44); He prayed at His crucifixion (Luke 23:34). It’s really is no surprise, all the time Jesus prayed, and at all the moments in His life when He chose to pray. Bear with me for a moment, hopefully you’ll see where we are taking this seemingly tangent of a thought, but, years ago a silly song asked the question, “Where do my socks go when I put them in the drier?” Out of our fear, I think the same bewilderment may sometimes capture our prayers. Where do my prayers go when I give them to God? Let’s see some principles concerning prayer.
    Who is Prayer to? – Prayer, in short is to God, but we do not need to think of God in singular form. God, as we encounter Him throughout scripture is revealed to us in three distinct personalities or identities. The Hebrews had numerous words/names to describe God. One of them is Elohim, which we might think of as a family name. Genesis 1:26 said, “Let Us make man in Our image.” Notice the plural and notice the family nature. When we speak of God, we speak of deity. When we speak of deity we speak of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, and through scripture all are revealed.
    Who is Prayer for? – Prayer is a spiritual blessing to those who are in Jesus Christ (Eph 1:3). “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers, but His face is against those who do evil” (I Peter 3:12). Prayer as it pertains to the relationship between God and the saved is wholly unique from prayer used by those outside the body of Christ, outside a covenant relationship with God. I’m thinking of the passengers on board a ship, bound for the city of Tarshish, when a violent wind began to endanger the ship and crew. All on board were praying to pagan gods, except one passenger, Jonah. Jonah was not praying at all, and his God was the true God, the God of Israel. The crew of the ship, began to pray to the God of heaven, in hopes that He would hear them and have mercy (Jonah 1:14). Incidentally, Jonah was on his way to a Gentile nation, to deliver to them a message of repentance. In the New Testament there is the example of Cornelius, a righteous man, who prayed daily, gave generously of his means, but he was not saved. He was praying, when an angel appeared to him, instructing him to send for Peter in Joppa, so he could teach Cornelius the gospel (Acts 10:1ff).
    These examples are simply to say, while prayer is reserved as a spiritual blessing, God is desiring of man to seek Him, and if man will seek God, he will find Him (Acts 17:27). Seeking Him, with an open and earnest heart will make the transformation of our life in every tangible and significant way.
- Bryan McAlister preaches for the Walnut Street Church of Christ in Dickson, TN. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

Wrapped In Light

By Al Behel

    When I read the Psalms I often wonder if I really know how to praise God. David and other Psalters seemed to grasp the essence of their Creator far better than we have done. Their recognition of His presence and power, as well as His love and mercy, caused them to lift up their voices is hymns of praise with hearts of devotion.
    One of those Psalms portrays the majesty of God by describing seven wonders of His creation. Following a declaration of God’s greatness as one who is “clothed with splendor and majesty”, King David outlines the various ways in which God has revealed Himself through His creation (Psalm 104).
    First, he declares that God “wraps Himself in light as with a garment; He stretches out the heavens like a tent” (v. 2). The sky is filled with evidence of His glory. The Hebrew word for “wraps” suggest that God “darkens” Himself with light. His splendor is so wonderful that man cannot see it, but can only stand in awe of it. We look at His creation and marvel at what He has made. The psalmist was able to look beyond the creation to the glory of the One who
made it.
    The second wonder David mentions is the earth, around which He has set a boundary (vs. 5-9). In another psalm he declared “the whole earth is full of Thy glory.” Next, he praises God for the water which God supplies to the earth and its inhabitants. When he looks at the grass and flowers and trees, he erupts in praise that the Lord has taken care of every need through massive vegetation. As one who spent many nights on the mountain ranges with the sheep he had shepherded, David couldn’t forget the moon and the sun. Their radiant beauty was a constant reminder that God was near. The sea, “vast and spacious” (v.25), is structurally balanced with the celestial realm of creation.
    The crowning part of God’s creation is man himself, to whom He has given life and for which He deserves to be praised and worshipped. David concludes his thoughts by saying, “May the glory of the Lord endure forever."
- Al Behel preaches for the Great Smoky Mountains Church of Christ in Pigeon Forge, TN. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

What Kind of a Place is Heaven?

By Edd Sterchi

    From Rev. 21:9-22:5, we have an incredible description of heaven. Even though symbolic in language, we can still get an idea of what heaven is like.
    Heaven is a Beautiful Place (Rev. 21:9-27). When John tries to describe the most beautiful place which consists of nothing of the earth, he had to describe it in terms that we can relate to, thus he used precious gems, streets of gold, etc. There is no greater preciousness and beauty than what will exist in heaven.
    Heaven is a Bountiful Place (Rev. 22:1-2). John also describes heaven as a place where there is no want –everything is provided in the highest quantity and quality. In it is perfect life and health.
    Heaven is a Blissful Place (Rev. 22:3-5). John also wanted to remind us that heaven is a place of personal and permanent association with God – a place of peace and joy and love– forever.
- Edd Sterchi preaches for the Broadway Church of Christ in Campbellsville, KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

Are You An Expert?

By Bill Brandstatter

    My grandpa used to say that an expert was a man 50 miles away from home with a white shirt and a tie. Today people might be considered an expert if they have a large following on Facebook. If a person can get a number of people to agree with a certain point of view, that person might be considered an expert. Usually, we can find someone that will agree with us on almost every position we take. Today in our world there are a number of “experts.” They are not 50 miles away from home with a white shirt and a tie. They are on all the major outlets such as: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and others. These “experts” are believed because their information agrees with others, not necessarily with the truth.
    Some people are “experts” regarding the Bible. Some who don’t study the Bible much or not at all would tell you about what they did to be saved. Their salvation experience often doesn’t line up with what the Bible says. It always bothers me when someone will tell me what I ought to do as a preacher; or, they will tell me that I ought to know certain matters pertaining to the Bible. I guess they would be “experts” in their own eyes. In Acts 5:36, a man named Theudas rose up. He claimed to be somebody. Perhaps he would have called himself an “expert.” He failed, as did those who followed him.
    Some people are experts regarding life. These “experts” would say that anything in moderation is okay. They would also say that since certain habits or practices have not hurt them that they are immune to problems. Some people don’t like others telling them what to do with their lives. The medical people advice otherwise. Yet these “experts” ignore the advice of the real experts and do their own thing. The expert, James stated, “For what is life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away (James 4:14).
    Some people are experts regarding Christianity. These “experts” will tell of their experience and what others have said. They will elevate the traditions of men over the Word of God (Mt. 15:9). These “experts” would say it doesn’t matter what church you belong to or how you worship, just so long as you are sincere.
    Are you an expert? God is. He knows all that we need and He gives us what we need. Sometimes what God gives is a test. God gives us blessings. He always gives us what He wants to help us through life (2 Pet. 1:3). Do you want all that God has to give or are you going to be the “expert” and do it your own way?
- Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

Christianity and Halloween

By Ronald Bartanen
    It’s that time of year again—the approach of my least-favorite holiday, Halloween, a contraction for “All Hallow’s Evening.” Many scholars believe it to be a Christianized version of Celtic harvest festivals and other pagan festivals. Others disagree, believing it to have solely Christian roots. The Celtic-view suggests its origin to have been in the Roman festival of Pomona , , goddess of fruit and seeds, which was observed at the end of summer, on or about Oct. 31-Nov. 1. At such festivals the souls of the deceased were invited to attend, places even being set for them at the table. Evil spirits were warded off by such fall customs as bonfires and what we know as jack-o-lanterns. The latter in those early days were not made from pumpkins, however, but from turnips, with grotesque faces representing evil spirits or goblins, and sometimes the souls of the dead. Those holding to more Christian origins believe these were used to scare witches, reminding them of their future punishment in hell. The wearing of costumes (“guising”) began to be practiced in English-speaking countries in the 18th century, as children and adults would sometimes go from house to house in guise, singing songs in exchange for food or cakes. Such customs did not make their way to North America until the late 18th and early 19th century. The Puritans were strongly opposed to such customs. It was not until early in the 20th century that Halloween was popularized. I recall wearing a Halloween mask and going to houses, accompanied by my parents, while living in my earlier years in Indianapolis , which would have been possibly 1939.
    While some debate the origin of the holiday—whether pagan or Christian—some churches use the day as an opportunity for religious celebration and activities. Some visit graveyards, placing flowers and candles on the graves of loved ones. In Poland , believers pray aloud while walking through the forests to give comfort to the souls of the dead, while in Spain priests ring church bells as a reminder to congregants to remember the dead. Some observe the season as a time for fasting and prayer. Some Protestants observe it as Reformation Day, inasmuch as Martin Luther chose this day to nail his Ninety-Nine Thesis to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg . Sometimes children dress as Bible characters and Reformers. Many take advantage of the season to include tracts as children go trick-or-treating.
    Some Christians fear the day trivializes, or even celebrates, such things as paganism and the occult. Orthodox Jews, as well as many Christians, resist observance of such customs on the basis of Leviticus 18:3, in which God’s people were warned against observing the traditions or customs of the Egyptians.
    One thing is sure: Halloween has everything to do with death, witches, skulls, graveyards, etc., and nothing to do with life. Perhaps it could be said its only benefit would be to remind us of the reality of a fearsome realm of evil, of which we must beware. Jesus, however, glorifies life, not death. He is “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6). He said, “I am come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10), laying down His life for us, and taking it up again in His resurrection (vs. 17-18). Every day, for the believer, is a celebration—not of death, but of life in Jesus Christ.
- Ronald Bartanen is a retired minister who for many years served the Lord's church in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee. He may be contacted at:

Monday, October 11, 2021

Special Notice:

October 7, 2021 marked the passing of longtime contributor, faithful gospel preacher, and friend, R.W. McAlister of Jonesboro, IL. In honor of R.W., today will mark a departure from our usual weekly posts on the various platforms utilized by BulletinGold (our website, Facebook page and Facebook Group). Below is one of R.W.'s articles he had graciously submitted for use in BulletinGold. Prayers are extended to R.W.'s family as they go through this difficult time.

What Constitutes a Saint?

By R.W. McAlister

         With the recent declaration of Pope John the XXIII and Pope John Paul the II as saints, it makes one wonder, "What is involved in becoming a saint?" Notice the following from 
"To be named a saint involves a series of steps, but the qualifications are straightforward, according to the veteran Vatican analyst John Allen. 'You put a holy life and two miracles together, according to the Catholic system, you've got a saint,' he said.'"
Is that a Biblical teaching? 
         Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, writes to the church at Rome in Rom. 1:7: "To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints:" Who are called to be saints? The beloved of God.  
         In I Cor. 1:2, in writing to the Lord's church at Corinth, Paul penned these words: "…to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:" Who are called to be saints? All who are 1) sanctified (set apart) in Jesus Christ, and, 2) those who call upon the name of the Lord. So, what does it mean to call upon the name of the Lord? 
         In his sermon on the day of Pentecost, Peter declared: “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). In view of this statement, folks sometimes ask: "Why do members of the church of Christ insist that baptism is a requirement for being saved?" You see, calling upon the Lord’s name, and being baptized, are synonymous obligations. 
         It's clear that simply “calling” on the name of Christ is not enough to bring salvation since Jesus Himself declared in Matt. 7:21: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”  
         Clearly, therefore, “calling” on Christ involves more than a mere verbal or mental plea. Calling on the name of the Lord includes repentance and baptism. 
         In Acts 2, the same apostle who promised salvation to all who “call on the name of the Lord,” also commanded: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (2:38). 
         Since the “shall be saved” of 2:21 is equivalent to the “forgiveness of sins” in 2:38, it necessarily follows that “calling on the name of the Lord” includes both repentance and baptism. 
         Note Acts 22:16. Ananias instructed Saul as follows: “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”
          All who wish to enjoy the remission of past sins, and thus be saints, will call on the name of the Lord by obeying the gospel plan of salvation. When Paul addresses Christians, he refers to them as saints (Rom. 1:7; I Cor. 1:2; I Cor. 14:33; I Cor. 16:1; II Cor. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; 2:19, and many other verses). In becoming a Christian, one becomes a saint. How does one become a Christian? By hearing the word of God preached (Rom. 10:17), believe it - believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Heb. 11:6), repent of your sins (Luke 13:3), confess faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God (Acts 8:36-37), be baptized (Acts 2:38; I Pet. 3:20-21), and live faithfully unto death – (Rev. 2:10).  
         The Catholic church says John Paul miraculously cured Marie Simon-Pierre, a French nun stricken by Parkinson's disease, several months after his death.         
         Also according to them, the second miracle occurred when a Costa Rican woman with a brain aneurysm recovered after praying to John Paul. 
         John XXIII, revered for his role in the Second Vatican Council, is only recorded as having performed one miracle after his death in 1963. (It seems they even violate their own laws, not just God's!) 
         There's no need to perform even one miracle. None of us can do that anyway. The power to perform true miracles ended upon the completion of the New Testament (I Cor. 13:8-10).  
         Furthermore, Jesus teaches us to pray to God, the Father (Matt. 6:9), who is alive on His throne in Heaven (Rev. 7:15), not to any mortal who has passed from this life. Let us understand what the Bible says and abide by it in all things.
- R.W. McAlister served as a minister to the Anna Church of Christ in Anna, IL until his death in October 2021.This was his own home congregation in which he grew up. R.W. was a beloved member of his community and a popular teacher in the agriculture department at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, MO. To visit the congregation's website go to:

Monday, October 4, 2021

“I Am” Able to Help You

By Edd Sterchi

     Each of the “I am” statements of Jesus in the book of John displays an important aspect of how He can meet our true needs.
* When Jesus said, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35), He stated that He can sustain our souls forevermore. He is that which nourishes and satisfies.
* When Jesus said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), He was saying that He provides enlightenment and guidance in a place of uncertainty and peril. He will always be a beacon of truth.
* When Jesus said, “I am the door” (John 10:7), He was disclosing that He is the passageway to heaven. He is also the portal to a better life on earth.
* When Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11), He was articulating that He will take care of His own. He can provide support, spiritual health, and safety.
* When Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), He was declaring that He can raise us from the dead. He can give us a new life upon the earth and a resurrected life in heaven for eternity.
* When Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), He was revealing that the only way to be reconciled to the Father in heaven is through Him. He is THE way.
* When Jesus said, “I am the true vine” (John 15:1), He was divulging that connection to Him is the formula for spiritual success. He guarantees growth if we remain with Him.
     Our greatest needs are a relationship with God and a home in heaven forevermore. Jesus can meet those needs – and more! He is able to help us. In fact, He is the only one who can help us in this regard. Jesus says, “I am” able to help you. Have you received His help?
- Edd Sterchi preaches for the Broadway Church of Christ in Campbellsville, KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

A Horror Story!

By Ron Thomas

    I recently heard a horror story within a congregation of the Lord’s people. There were children to be taught, but there was no teacher. A genuine horror story, if you ask me. You don’t think that’s a horror story? Think about it. Congregations desire children to come, so they plan and prepare for teachers, have the teachers in place, but for one reason or another the teacher or teachers can’t be there. The children come, but there is no teacher to teach them.
    What happened? Sickness? Travel? Whatever it might be, a most discouraging sentiment expressed, or something like it, would be “It’s not my job!” Maybe someone might say, “I was not assigned to teach that age group, so why should I be expected to teach them?” How about this, “I am not comfortable with that age group; my personality just does not work.” Even another one, “I am not a teacher!” You get the point.
    Yes, I know; we have heard it a thousand times, in various contexts, “It’s not my job!” Sometimes it is said with emphasis, sometimes it is said softly.
    In the local restaurant, the head grill-master is unable to tend to his duties because he is sick; no one present has been taught to do his work, but one who is the deep-fryer on the food line. The manager asks her to help, but she refuses because she does not want to be embarrassed, humiliated, and she wants no grief from others because she could not keep up. We all appreciate those sentiments for sure. Because she would not, the frontline of the restaurant collapses. She can say, however, it was not her job.
    A principal of a local school is hard pressed to get a substitute teacher to fill in for one who called in with a virus that will keep her down for days. None of the other teachers will fill in because they are not trained in the area she teaches, or they have a heavy workload of their own and cannot spare the time to help. The students flounder and are frustrated, they begin to be disruptive in other areas, but all the teachers fill justified in refusing because their own circumstances.
    A soldier is in the field. His unit is on the verge of being overrun by the enemy. As a rifleman, he refuses to man the machine-gun (whatever reason or reasons he concocts in his head). His unit in no longer on the verge of being overrun, now they all lay spread out on the ground having entered eternity.
    Perhaps I have amplified scenarios that are not really the case, but have I really?
    There is not much good in those who use such expressions or actions to justify not doing something that needs to be done. If it needs to be done, the Lord’s servant will do it; if it needs to be done, those who have a sense of moral and spiritual duty will do it. So, instead of making use of such an expression, please, for the sake of the children, for the Lord’s cause, say it is your job. If you won’t, why should others expect to count on you for help in difficult circumstances when you wouldn’t in this one?
- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website.

Return To The Lord

By Joe Slater

    Hosea wrote during a low point in Israel’s history. While the nation prospered materially, the people’s spiritual condition was deplorable. Hmmm. . . sound familiar?
    Despite everything the Lord had done for Israel for centuries, the unthankful nation was “bent on backsliding from Me” (Hosea 11:7). They actually believed their prosperity came not from the Lord, but from their alliances with pagan trading partners. “For she did not know that I gave her grain, new wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold – which they prepared for Baal” (2:8).
    God repeatedly warned His wayward people that He would take away their blessings and they would suffer (2:9-13). Because of their false swearing, lying, killing, and adultery, “therefore the land will mourn, and everyone who dwells there will waste away” (4:2-3). In addition, Israel’s idolatry (spiritual harlotry against God) would result in severe punishment: “Therefore people who do not understand will be trampled” (4:14).
    In loving mercy, the Lord pleaded with Israel to return to Him. “Come, and let us return to the Lord” (6:1). “O Israel, return to the Lord your God” (14:1). “But they do not return to the Lord their God, nor seek Him for all of this” (7:10). “They return, but not to the Most High” (7:16).
    Does this sound like horrible news? Only for those unwilling to repent and return to God! “I will heal their backsliding and love them freely” (14:4). Jesus cures us from the fatal disease of sin: “(He) bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
 - Joe Slater serves as minister of the Church of Christ in Justin, TX. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

God Can Cause Change to Come

By Bill Brandstatter

     Sometimes it seems as those things are rather chaotic in this world. In the days of a Babylonian king, Daniel wrote, “The Most-High rules in the kingdom of men.” (Dan. 4:17) God rules in a spiritual way and with spiritual laws. His kingdom is not of this world (John 18:36). If people will obey God and live faithfully for Him, change will come to our nation and the world.
     In 2 Chron. 7:14, we read, “If my people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked says, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (NKJV)
     The first part of this scripture refers to God’s people. God’s people today are Christians. God’s people once was the nation of Israel (Deut. 26:18). Now God’s people are Christians (1 Pet, 2:9).
     Next, we must humble ourselves. Too many today are proud and puffed up. Too many times we look for man for all the answers of life. God can do things no one else can. James states, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6) That is why we should pray and seek His face. Prayer accomplishes a great deal. (James 5:16)
     Then, we need to turn from wicked ways and be forgiven of our sins. All men everywhere are commanded to repent according to Acts 17:30. Forgiveness comes through the blood of Christ (Matt. 26:28). We get into His blood by being baptized (Matt. 26:28; Acts 2:38). Once a person does this, God promises “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
     If we are Christians, we have the assurance that God hears our prayers (1 Jn. 5:14). Let us be intercessors for our government and all men (1 Tim. 2:1-4). The world needs saving. Let us be God’s instruments in helping to do that. God is still in charge. He is the final judge. We are His people and ones who should carry the gospel message to the world. (Acts 8:4) The gospel is powerful and it can save (Rom. 1:16). Let us be ones spreading the gospel message. God will provide the increase (1 Cor. 3:6).
- Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

The Golden Rule

By Al Behel

Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them” (Matthew 7:12)
    I was questioning a little boy about his behavior toward another child. He said, “I hit him back because he hit me after I hit him.” Many battles are fought that way. Husbands and wives argue and forget who started it. We justify our actions because of the actions of others. Few are willing to assume full responsibility for their behaviors.
    Why do you do what you do? Are your behaviors controlled by others? Jesus said, “If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also”(Matthew 5:39). But the Golden Rule goes further than that. It tells us to do to others what we wish they would do to us. A lack of retaliation is one thing. Initiating good deeds toward others, even toward those who might do us harm, is another.
    Negative goodness is the absence of bad things. Positive goodness is the introduction of acts of kindness and love when we could have chosen a different course. The mandate of Scripture is for us to do good to those who would do us harm, pray for those whose actions toward us are hateful and unkind, and to refuse to seek vengeance toward those who hurt us.
    Living by the Golden Rule affects our deepest character, our personal ethics. It affects our choices of behaviors because we always consider the effect on others. I asked a teen recently how important it was to her that a life partner be honest and have personal integrity. She replied that it was very important that he be honest with her. I then asked how she would feel about him buying something, using it, and then returning it to the store. She replied, “It would depend on what it was.” That is not personal integrity; it is situation ethics which change from situation to situation.
    Living by the Golden Rule means that we ask a simple question: “Would I want what I am doing to be done to me?” If the answer is “No”, then the action is not an appropriate action. Words we say to others should pass a threefold test:
1) are they true,
2) are they necessary, and,
3) are they kind?
The effect of our behavior should always be weighed before we act. I should always ask, “Would I welcome this behavior toward me? Would I want the same thing said about me?” If the action would be harmful to me it will likely be harmful to the other person and should not be done. My actions and words should always have a positive motive and positive effect. That’s what makes the rule the “Golden Rule.”
- Al Behel preaches for the Great Smoky Mountains Church of Christ in Pigeon Forge, TN. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: