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Sunday, November 21, 2021

Spend and Be Spent

By Joe Chesser
 
    I’m not sure we fully grasp what Paul meant. I’m not sure we want to.
    When writing his second letter to the Corinthian church, Paul felt spiritually and  emotionally connected to them. The first time he had been to Corinth he spent more than 18 months with them teaching them the word of God (Acts 18.11). For a time he supported himself in Corinth by tentmaking (Acts 18.3). Later, at some point, he had made a second trip to the city, and was wanting to make a third one (2 Cor. 13.1). This brief history is important to our understanding of what he said to the church in 2 Corinthians 12.15.
    As he was planning his third trip to visit the church in Corinth, Paul wanted to assure them that he would not be a financial burden to them. He wasn’t interested in their money, goods or support. He was interested only in their spiritual welfare: their relationship with God and with each other (2 Cor, 12.14). To make his point as clear as possible, he wrote, “I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls” (2 Cor. 12.15).  
    That’s what I’m not sure we fully grasp, or maybe even want to understand. What did Paul mean when he said he was willing to “spend and be spent” for the sake of their souls? The answer is whatever it takes. For the sake of their souls Paul was all in, he would hold nothing back, … and do so with gladness. He was willing to spare no expense out of his own pocket; his services would not cost them a penny. The root word used for “spend” and “be spent” in this text was also used to describe the woman who had spent all her money on doctors hoping to heal her issue of blood (Mark 5.26). Paul was willing to spend all his money, time, possessions and energy so as not to be a burden to them, like he willingly did in Thessalonica (1 Thess. 2.9; 2 Thess. 3.8). Any expense that would promote their salvation, he was willing to “spend and be spent.” And he would do so with pleasure!
    The natural question is “Why?” Why would Paul “spend and be spent”? The only answer is love. The love of Jesus transformed his heart. Now, instead of himself, Jesus was in his heart, and so were the Corinthians (2 Cor. 7.2-3). Paul is showing us a practical example of what Jesus meant when he said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9.23). Why? Because that’s what love does. Love sacrifices self-interests to meet the needs of the ones who are loved.
    This is not easy to do. This is not even easy to want to do … unless we, like Paul, have the Spirit of Christ in our hearts. When we learn to view our time, energy and money like Jesus does, when we learn to view the lost like Jesus does, when we learn to view our spouse, family and friends like Jesus does, and when we learn to view the church and our involvement with it like Jesus does, then we will willingly “spend and be spent” for the sake of souls … and do so gladly.
    When Jesus offers you an opportunity to “spend and be spent” for the sake of saving souls, how do you think you will respond? Reluctant and stingy, or generous and joyful?
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com


The Toddler’s Creed

By Al Behel

    Children are special people... especially toddlers. They have a rather unique view of the world. Someone has shared this insight into their thinking, called, “The Toddler’s Creed”:

If I want it, it’s, mine.
If I give it to you and change my mind later, it’s mine.
If I can take it away from you, it’s mine.
If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine.
If it’s mine, it will never belong to anyone else, no matter what.
If we are building something together, all the pieces are mine.
If it looks just like mine, it’s mine.

    Every parent of a toddler knows that this is an accurate description of the world as they see it. While we expect this self-centered trait in toddlers, we find it very repulsive in older children and adults.
    Many people live almost exclusively for themselves. Extreme self-interest is called “narcissism.” The narcissist thinks the world should evolve around them...everyone should focus on them, elevate them, cower to their wants and demands, and yield to their emotional manipulations.
    Self is at the center of all sin. There is no room on the throne for Christ as long as self is king. Dying to self is essential to serving Christ. The apostle Paul taught that we should “count others better” than ourselves (Philippians 2:3).
    Sadly, toddlers are not the only ones who suffer from self-centeredness.
Our culture worships at the alter of self. Our insatiable demand for fun, entertainment, and comfort leaves us approaching almost every issue with thoughts of how we are affected, not what effect our choices may have on others. Narissictic Christianity is not Christ-centered, but is self-centered, and will ultimately destroy itself. 
- Al Behel preaches for the Great Smoky Mountains Church of Christ in Pigeon Forge, TN. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://greatsmokymountainschurchofchrist.com/


Opportunity

By Clifton Angel

    Opportunity. The word comes from the Latin phrase "ob portus". "Ob" means "toward, or in the direction of. "Portus" means "port, harbor." It was a phrase used by ancient sailors who had to wait for just the right wind and tide conditions to direct their ships into the harbor. If they missed an opportune moment, it could mean a lot of waiting for the next one.
     Paul writes, "Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time" (Colossians 4:5). The word translated "time" is not necessarily "clock time." It might better be translated as "opportunity" or "season." The word translated "redeem" is the idea of going into the marketplace and buying up the best deals. It makes me think of going into the store Bargain Hunt, or Essex. You're looking for the best deals you can find. It also reminds me of my wife in the Kroger clearance aisle, buying up ALL the deals (Disclaimer: My wife approved this statement of jest). The ASV has a footnote at Colossians 4:5 that says, "buying up the opportunity."
    Paul, how can we be sure to take advantage of the opportunities God affords us? Paul says, ”Walk in wisdom toward them that are without" (Colossians 4:5). To the church in Ephesus, he said it this way: "See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:15–16). Furthermore, "Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man" (Colossians 4:6). Therefore, if we expect to “buy up the opportunities” God gives us, we need: 1. Wisdom; 2. Preparation. Let us be growing in wisdom and preparation in our daily lives. Such requires that we rely on God and His Word. We must be praying (James 1:5; 5:16), studying (2 Timothy 2:15; 3:16–17; James 3:17), and making application (James 1:22; 2:14–26; Ephesians 2:10). How do we speak to others? What words do we use? What do we say/share on social media platforms? Do we live in such a way that others see Christ in us, or is it difficult making distinctions between Christians and the world?
     Jesus said, "I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work" (John 9:4). Paul wrote to the churches of Galatia, "Let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith" (Galatians 6:9–10).
    Are we "buying up the opportunities" God gives us in our relationships with others
- 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/


The Bible’s Very Words Are Inspired

By Joe Slater

    We communicate with words. They may be written or spoken. Yes, you might communicate with a look; but that look means something that can be expressed in words.
    God also communicates with words; He always has. Creation occurred when God spoke words such as “Let there be light” (Genesis 1:3). “He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast” (Psalm 33:9).
    Today God speaks with us through the Bible, the written word which He inspired. Paul wrote, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16), “breathed out by God” (ESV). Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
    Since the very words of Scripture proceeded from God’s mouth, we ought to treat every word reverently with careful effort to understand. For example, Jesus proved an important point based on the tense of a verb. He quoted God’s words to Moses in Exodus 3:6, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Matthew 22:32). Not “I WAS” their God back when they were alive, but “I AM” their God. Jesus then said, “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living,” showing that though they were physically dead, their souls were indeed alive, proving that the Sadducees erred in denying the doctrine of resurrection.
     Likewise, Paul used the number of a noun (singular as opposed to plural) to prove that only those in Christ were heirs of the promises God made to Abraham. “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘And to your seed,’ who is Christ” (Galatians 3:16).
    Every word of Scripture is inspired. Let is strive for accuracy in our understanding and our teaching!
- 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


Where is Your Focus?

By Rob Albright

     In John 6, Jesus fed thousands of people on the one side of the Sea of Galilee. The disciples entered a boat and went to the other side of the sea. Jesus did not go with them. But when the disciples started to look for Him, they found Him and wanted to know how He got there.
     Jesus made a statement in John 6:26 – “You seek me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for food that endures to everlasting life.” The people were not interested in the things which showed them His deity and His power to save. They were just interested in the food that benefited their physical hunger.
     We see the lesson for us is not to make the primary focus in life on the material but the spiritual. Too often we get busy with the material have no time for spiritual matters. If we put the spiritual first, the material will come (Matthew 6:33). Food for the soul gives lasting strength and that is what is primary.
- Rob Albright serves as one of the ministers at the Northwest Church of Christ in Greensboro, NC. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.nwchurchofchrist.com/


Monday, November 15, 2021

Trust And Obey

By Joe Slater

    In the final analysis, “Trust And Obey” has been the requirement of God from the Garden of Eden until now. For Adam and Eve, it was “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (Genesis 1:28). Eat all the vegetables and fruit you want with the single exception of the fruit of one particular tree. Trust and obey.
    During the Patriarchal Age God expressed His will to individuals directly. He told Cain and Abel to offer sacrifice. He directed Noah to build the ark. Abraham was to leave Ur of the Chaldees and go to the place God showed him. He commissioned Moses to lead the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt. Trust and obey.
    God gave Moses His law on Mt. Sinai. It contained numerous statues and ordinances for the His chosen people, Israel, to obey carefully. “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you” (Deuteronomy 4:2). Trust and obey.
    Neither Adam and Eve nor any of their descendants trusted and obeyed flawlessly. God knew they wouldn’t. In His mercy He planned from eternity to send Jesus to offer His own body and blood to save sinners. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). “If you will confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts
2:38). Trust and obey.
“Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be
happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.” 
- 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


When Your Life is Gone

By Gerald Cowan

                                    When life has closed its door on you
                                    And you have gone to your last sleep,
                                    No longer present on the earth,
                                    Will any miss you, any weep?
  
                                    The self-absorbed may answer, “Yes,
                                    I will be missed; there will be tears.”
                                    But why? Will they be tears of joy
                                    Or tears of sorrow, pain, and fears?

                                    If you are missed it may imply
                                    That you touched other lives for good,  
                                    Encouraged and supported them
                                    And healed their hurts as Jesus would.

                                    If not missed what will that imply?
                                    You went on your own selfish way,
                                    Saw nothing but your own desires?
                                    Perhaps did not for others pray?

                                    On what you gathered for yourself
                                    Your legacy does not depend
                                    But on the lives you marked for good,
                                    To whom and how you were a friend.
 
                                    When life is gone and you must meet
                                    God’s Christ, the Lord who judges all,
                                    Then what you did for others will
                                    Determine if you stand or fall.
                              
                                    When life is gone you will not weep
                                    Nor for missed treasures raise your voice.
                                    If Jesus says, “You come with me
                                    To heaven,” then you can rejoice.
- 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


Heart and a Foothold

By Ron Thomas

    Many churches, both the Lord’s and man-made institutions, are struggling to attain what was lost pre-pandemic. In our own midst, we have many who are spiritually sick (all of us), but a number more who are worse off. This is evident because of their lack of attendance (a reflection of the heart). We are not a very large congregation, but we should be averaging at least 70 on a weekly basis. Those who are physically sick are not are in mind with these remarks.
    Spiritual sickness is directly related to this world’s physical, material, emotional, mental distractions. The Lord gave attention to this in His parable of the Sower (or soils). There are some hearts which exhibit no depth at all, but are hardened by the desires they have, and consequently reject the Lord. Some hearts have only surface depth, so the seed of the Word of God begins to grow, but perishes when the heat begins to increase. Some hearts allow one distraction after another. “I can’t get there because....”
    The hearts received by the Lord, are those hearts that receive His word and produce a crop. Those who produce a crop struggle with similar things as everyone one else; they refuse, however, to let the distractions gain a foothold. Satan’s foothold is not easily shaken, but not easily shaken is not impossible.
    What kind of heart do you have?
- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website. www.sunrushchurchofchrist.org


Is It Worth Your Life?

By Joe Chesser

    Sometimes our priorities get all mixed up. Sometimes we major in minors. Sometimes we give things of little importance our utmost attention. For example, if our house was on fire, what inside the house would be worth risking our life to save? Our furniture? Our electronics? Our guns? Our photos? Our cars? As valuable as these things may be to us, are they worth risking our lives to save them?
    Jesus made this point when he was warning about the coming destruction of Jerusalem. He said, “When you see the abomination of desolation … standing in the holy place … then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak” (Matthew 24.15-18).
    If our physical lives are more valuable than anything we possess, how much more valuable are our souls than anything we possess? Jesus answers that question for us by saying, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16.26).
    Then why are we so often willing to rush into a burning house to save trinkets, or why are we so often willing to neglect our souls for fun at the beach or for a bigger house or for a promotion at work or for … whatever? Could it be that our priorities are money, fame, accomplishment, power or things? Are these things worth risking our lives to collect and protect? Perhaps we have not learned that “godliness with contentment is great gain, for we have brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6.6-9). Are things worth risking our life to get!
    Perhaps we have failed to find our contentment in God. King David wrote, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16.11). He also said, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you desires of your heart” (Psalm 37.4). It’s easy to find contentment in God when God is our delight. Finding contentment in God is a learned process. As Paul wrote, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content … I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4.11, 13).
    Jesus wants us to learn to turn things that are upside down right side up. We do this when we make God our priority, when we seek Him and His kingdom above everything else (Matt. 6.33). That’s the only thing worth giving up our life to attain.
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com


It Is What It Is!

By Donna Wittlif

    “It is what it is.” Usually said with a glum face and a voice of discouragement, this little saying means things cannot be changed. How wrong! It is true that some things, such as our age, cannot be changed, but most things in life are not static.
     “That’s how he or she is” implies that the person cannot or will not change. It negates the ability of God to change someone through the power of His Word. It denies that in the future the person may make an effort to better himself or his circumstances.
    The Bible encourages Christians to grow in the knowledge of God and Christ so that we may be filled with the fullness of God (Eph. 3:19). By studying the Bible and praying, we augment our faith and bring our lives into harmony with God’s will. God created each of us for the purpose of serving Him and bringing Him glory.
    We cannot serve God by looking at people and situations and saying, “It is what it is. I cannot do anything to change it.” That fatalistic attitude hinders us from making changes in ourselves and keeps us from trying to help others and making their lives better.
    With God’s help and the power He gives us, we can see the possibilities of making our world a better place. Let us not give in to feeling overwhelmed and defeated, but lean on God and His power to accomplish the goals He has set before us. May we not forget that we are soldiers in His army. The battle belongs to the Lord, and through Him we will win many victories.
- Donna Wittlif, the founder and first editor of BulletinGold, lives in Denver, CO. Donna is also a writer of fiction. Her novels, World Eternal: Promises and World Eternal: Proselytes, and World Eternal: Perils, and her newest book, Finding Her Heart,  are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other book outlets. For more information visit her website. http://www.donnarwittlif.com/


Sunday, November 7, 2021

A Little Fire Does a Lot

By Bill Brandstatter

    I am amazed by the wildfires in California. As they are burning, we are seeing the smoke in Illinois. The fires started small as fires always do and grew to be huge. The effects are being seen hundreds of miles away.
    James describes our tongues as fire. He mentions; “How great a forest a little fire kindles!” (James 3:5b) It is true, isn’t it? Sometimes the smallest remark will produce a great  response. Something little that is no big deal can grow quickly and become something prominent. Jesus described how idle words will meet us at the judgment. Those words may be little in size but are big in result. (Matt. 12:23-24)
    Let us learn how to answer all people in all situations (Col. 4:6). Paul notes that what we say should provide “grace to the hearers.”
    Let us try to make little words become big words. Simple words like “Thank you,”; “You’re welcome”; “Excuse Me”; “Hope you don’t mind;” “Pardon me” are all small words but they make a big difference.
    Let us try to use the small words mentioned above in places we never used them before. Do you and your spouse say, “Please” and “thank you” to each other? Do husbands and wives say “You’re welcome” to each other? They should. A little bit goes a long way. If you don’t currently do that, try it and see the effect it will have. It might make a difference in your marriage. It might make a difference in your home and family. It might make a big difference in the world. “How great a forest a little fire kindles!”
- Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://marionchurchofchrist.com/


Describing Our Infinite God

By Adam Faughn

    As the song says of our God, "I stand in awe of You." When we try to think of God, it is both a glorious comfort and a mind-boggling exercise. We simply cannot fathom His perfect attributes, but we are grateful for each one of them.
    Add to that trying to describe those attributes, and we will always come up short. It is not wrong for us to seek to describe them, but we must realize that any analogy or picture we use can never fully give a sense of something that is infinite and beyond our ability to comprehend.
    However, then we turn to the Bible, and we see texts where inspired writers did try to give us descriptions to at least put these traits into words that we could understand. Scores of times, we have these descriptions, but for this article, I want to focus on just two that are found in back-to-back verses because they both involve "directions," but the vastness of those directions boggle our minds.
    In Psalm 103, David writes what we have as 22 verses praising God. It is a poem that, from beginning to end, gives us language to use to honor and glorify our heavenly Father. Right in the middle of that poem, we read these two verses:
 For as high as the heavens are above
 the earth, so great is His steadfast love
 toward those who fear Him; as far as
 the east is from the west, so far does
    He remove our transgressions from us. (verses 11-12)  In those two beautiful verses, notice these two "directions."
    1. The Infinite Height of His Love. How far are the heavens above the earth? When David wrote these words, there was simply no way he could have understood just how far "out there" space goes. While humans have understood for a long time that stars and planets were a long way away, they simply did not have the tools to understand just how far. Amazingly, we are not sure either, even with our modern technology.
    That said, we do know that when we consider the distance from the surface of the earth to the farthest known reaches of space, we are dealing with multiple billions of light-years. The distances to these places are expressed in numbers too large for most of us to even fathom.
    David used that concept to say that if you were to start on the surface of the earth and go "up," you could just keep going through the heavens–as far as you could go–and that would be some way to express the magnitude of the love (literally, the covenant of love and mercy) that God has toward His people. It is a concept that, though we adore it, we cannot possibly fathom it completely
    2. The Infinite Width of His Forgiveness. If you were to leave your front door this morning, turn east and go as far east as you could travel (assuming you could swim or take a boat across the waters in your way), how far would you go until you turned west? You never would! If you don't believe me, put your finger on a globe and spin it, keeping your finger on the surface of the globe. You can keep spinning and spinning forever and never have to change direction.
    That might just be why David chose the word picture of "east and west" in verse 12. After all, if you go north, you will eventually turn south (and vice versa), but if you go east, you never have to go west (and vice versa)!
    That is a picture of how far away God sends your sins when He forgives. And look at verse 12 again. It does not say that He sends those sins away from Him that far (although that would be true); it says He sends them away from us by that vast difference. hose sins are remembered by our God no more (cf. Hebrews 8:12). Our sins are not held against us by our God even to the tiniest degree once they are forgiven. There is an infinite distance between our soul and our sin when God forgives.
    With those two pictures in mind, go back to how we started. These word pictures are amazingly comforting and should leave us in awe of our God. And one reason that should be true is because, as mind-boggling as these pictures are, they still do not perfectly describe God's love or forgiveness because these traits of our Father are literally infinite and limitless.
    That is the God we love and serve, and it is the God we should always "stand in awe of." Infinite love. Infinite forgiveness. That's our God!
- Adam Faughn preaches for the Central Church of Christ in Paducah KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.centralchurchofchrist.org Visit the Faughn Family blog, A Legacy of Faith.


Am I Become Your Enemy?

By Larry Pasley

    Boudreaux and Thibodaux were both standing by the road, pounding a sign into the ground,  that read:
'Da End is Near
 Turn Yo Sef 'Roun Now
 Afore It Be Too Late!'
    As a car sped past them, the driver leaned out his window  and yelled, 
    'You religious nuts!'
    From the curve they heard screeching tires, and a big splash...Boudreaux turns to Thibodaux and  asks,
    'Do ya tink maybe da sign should  jussay.....'Bridge Out?'

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>

    Why is it that people get angry with us when we try to warn them against their actions which will lead them to an eternity in hell?
    The apostle Paul warned the Galatians about going back to the Law of Moses. He anticipated their rejection of his admonitions and said to them, “Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” Galatians 4:16 
    Ezekiel was told to warn those who were in error, “When I say to the wicked, 'You shall surely die,' and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. 19  Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul. 20  Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. 21  Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul." Ezekiel 3:18-21
    Paul tells us that we have a responsibility to those in sin in Galatians 6:1  Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.
    James also tells us we save a sinner’s soul from death in James 5:19-20  Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20  let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.
    Jude even says we can even save some from the fire. Jude 1:22-23  And on some have compassion, making a distinction; 23  but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.
    Judgment day is coming. Romans 2:6-8  who "will render to each one according to his deeds": 7  eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; 8  but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness--indignation and wrath,
    So, when I or someone else tries to warn you of error in your life, please do not consider us as your enemy but rather as your friend who loves you and wants you to be saved from the fires of hell and be eternally in heaven with God.
    May we all strive to enter in that narrow gate and appreciate those who want to help us get there.
- Larry Pasley serves as a minister with the Jackson Street Church of Christ in Alexandria, LA. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at http://www.JacksonStAlex.com


Church

By Kevin Rutherford

    The word “church” translates a Greek word that refers to those who are called out from society in general to a specific group for the purposes of assembly. The church spoken of in the New Testament is that group called out from society by the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the purpose of assembling together in worship and service to God. This group that has been set aside from the rest of culture is that body which is made up of the saved. It is the church which God planned from before the beginning of time (Ephesians 3:8-13), and which Jesus Christ established at the right time (Galatians 4:4-5). It is sometimes referred to as the Way (Acts 9:2; 19:9; 24:14), the church of God (Acts 20:28), churches of Christ (Romans 16:16), house of God (1 Timothy 3:15), etc. Each of these references alludes to a particular identifying aspect of the church of the New Testament. The church is the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23) and Jesus Christ the Way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). The church belongs to Christ and must therefore submit to the authority of Christ (Matthew 16:18).
    The church must also submit to the authority of Jesus Christ because He is the Head of the church (Colossians 1:13-18). That is, Jesus Christ has all authority over the church (Matthew 28:18). We must therefore do all things by His authority (Colossians 3:17). No man has the right to establish his own church, or to change the church which Jesus Christ established into something more suitable to the current whims and fancies of ever changing culture. The church must remain in submission to the one who established it, ad the one who has authority over it. Jesus Christ reigns as King over His kingdom (Revelation 19:16), Head over His body (Ephesians 1:22-23), Groom over His bride (Ephesians 5:22-33), and Firstborn over His house (Colossians 1:18; Hebrews 3:6).
    The way for the church to remain in submission to the authority of Jesus Christ is to abide by the New Covenant given by Jesus Christ (John 14:26; 16:13-15; Hebrews 2:1-4). The New Covenant is given from the Lord for all of mankind, but it also serves as the constitution, law, authority, and guide for all true churches of Christ (2 Timothy 3:14-4:5). To love, respect, revere, and obey the New Covenant is to love, respect, revere, and obey the One who gave it. No man has the right to go against New Testament authority in matters affecting the church or anything else. The New Testament is the authority and standard for Christianity. Apart from the New Testament one cannot have the genuine, authentic, true church.
    The authentic and true church is the one established by Jesus Christ, and over which Jesus Christ reigns. It is the one identified, sanctified, and made holy by the doctrine of Christ. It is the one church that has been purified and purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ (Acts 20:28). Therefore, we must make a clear distinction between churches established by men which do not follow the will of Jesus Christ as set forth in the New Testament, and the genuine, true, authentic church of Jesus Christ described and patterned for us in the New Testament (Matthew 7:13-29).
    Every church established by men in opposition to the one established by Jesus Christ is a blind leader that shall be rooted up (Matthew 15:1-14). Every church established upon the wishes and whims of faddish people in contradiction to the Lord’s church that is established upon the Word of God, is the church that is entirely unacceptable to God (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). A fundamental principal regarding man’s relationship to God is that the Creator has authority over the creation (Jeremiah 10:23; Isaiah 55:8-9; Job 42:1-6; Matthew 7:21-22; Hebrews 5:8-9). Therefore, those who establish, create, and make their own church with expectation that God will just accept it are sadly mistaken. No man has the right to stand up in opposition to God and demand that God accept what man wants over what God demands (Matthew15:1-9). No man is wise enough to develop a church more perfectly suited to its purpose than God. Any man that thinks himself clever enough to outdo God and create a better church is a man that had better humble himself before God humbles him (Psalm 51:17).
    The New Testament teaches us about the church by providing the record of the work of Jesus Christ in preparation for the church (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John). We learn about the church by reading of the early history of the church (Acts). In addition we can learn what God wants for the church bar studying and examining the inspired letters that were sent to the early churches (Romans through Jude). From the Lord’s reports concerning the seven churches of Asia, we can learn what God commends in contrast to what God condemns (Revelation 2 & 3). We can see what God demands and commands as we study the New Testament that has been given to us by Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ established the church, gave us the New Testament to guide the church, and is the head and authority over the church. No one other than Christ can establish the church, and no one other than Christ should ever be considered the authority over the church.
- Kevin V. Rutherford preaches for the Warners Chapel church of Christ in Clemmons, NC. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://warnerschapelchurchofchrist.org/


Tears Of The Poor

By Al Behel

    Thomas Carlyle once said, “The tears of the poor are the best epitaph of the dead.” Long ago King Solomon stated, “The righteous considers the cause of the poor” (Proverbs 29:7) and “He that has compassion on the poor lends to the Lord, and that which he has given He will pay to him again” (Proverbs 19:17).
    One of my college professors was walking across a parking lot with another student when they were approached by a man asking for financial help. The student reached in his pocket and gave the beggar some money. The professor, a bit taken back by the unquestioning generosity of the student, asked, “Do you always do that?” The student answered affirmatively. When asked why he would give to a beggar who might misuse the funds without questioning him, the student replied, “I would rather err on the side of mercy than on the side of justice.”
    Giving to the poor is like “lending” to the Lord. God will repay what the poor cannot repay. The story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) outlines three possible attitudes toward those in need. First, we may actively hurt or oppress them. Second, we may actively help them. And, third, we may completely ignore them. The robbers inflicted harm upon the traveler. The Samaritan showed active compassion in helping the man. But, the priest and Levite were simply indifferent toward him.
    Few of us would inflict harm on the poor or needy., but ignoring them is easy to do. But it is not the spirit of Jesus who said He had come to preach good news to the poor. Solomon commended the “virtuous” woman as one who “stretches out her hand to the poor...she extends her hands to the needy” (Proverbs 31:20).
    God does not bless me so I can be rich. He blesses me so I can be a servant. Each gift is a sacred trust. The extended hand is filled with compassion for the needy. Many around us are suffering. We are the body of Christ. That means we are his eyes that see their needs, his heart that feels compassion, and his hands that serve their needs. Many of those needs are for emotional and spiritual support as well as physical.
    God has no other hands, no other eyes, no other hearts, no other servants to make a difference to our world. He is counting on us to deliver a message of redemptive love and grace, and to lift hearts and lives that are struggling around us. 
- Al Behel preaches for the Great Smoky Mountains Church of Christ in Pigeon Forge, TN. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://greatsmokymountainschurchofchrist.com/


Monday, November 1, 2021

The Weeping Christ

By Joe Chesser

    Every time I read the gospels, I am more impressed with both the humanity and deity of Jesus.  Of course, that’s why they were written, to help us get to know Jesus better and better, and thereby strengthening our faith and leading us to eternal life with Him (John 20:30-31).  But the particular thing about Jesus that caught my attention this time is found in Luke19:41-42:
          “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said,
           ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace –
            but now it is hidden from your eyes.’”
    There is another more familiar verse about Jesus weeping found in John 11.  On that occasion, the cause of Jesus’ tears was the death of a dear friend.  He loved Lazarus and his sisters, and he shared tears of compassion with Mary and Martha at Lazarus’ death.  But he knew those tears would be short lived.  He knew that in just a matter of moments the tears would turn to laughter and praise to God when He would call to His friend, “Lazarus, come out!”
    However, in Luke 19 Jesus’ tears were different.  On this occasion his compassion and weeping for the city of Jerusalem were not going to end in laughter and praise.  Unlike the situation with Lazarus, there was nothing Jesus could do to turn His weeping into joy.  His deity wouldn’t allow it.  As a whole, the people of Jerusalem were spiritually hard-hearted.  He would have loved to have gathered them together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but they refused (Luke 13:34).  They were unwilling to accept His help, even with their greatest needs.  Oh how He wanted to!  He longed with all His heart to help.  But all He could do was weep for them.  Even though He could see the ugly destruction that lay ahead of them and even though He had the power to protect them from that suffering, in the end all He could do was weep.
    Jesus didn’t love Lazarus any more than He loved the people of Jerusalem.  He wept for both.  Jesus doesn’t love any person more than any other person.  God showed how much He loves the entire world by sending Jesus to the cross (John 3:16).  For some, Jesus’ love and compassion will result in eternal life.  But for most, His love and compassion will result in death and destruction (Matthew 7:14).  The difference is not Jesus.  The difference is us.  Lazarus loved Jesus, believed in Jesus, followed Jesus.  Jesus’ tears for him ended in blessings.  On the other hand, Jerusalem did not believe in or love or follow Jesus.  His tears for them are the most heart-breaking of all.  They were tears about what could have been, yet in the end were tears without hope.
    Jesus’ compassion for people is evident in His tears.  He loves us more than we can know.  Jerusalem had the opportunity to believe in and follow Jesus, but they were unwilling to do so.  My prayer is that you will accept His offers of help by believing in Him, loving Him and obeying Him. You don’t want His tears to be hopeless.
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com


Ten Little Christians

By Larry Pasley

Ten Little Christians standing in line
One disliked the preacher, then there were nine
Nine little Christians stayed up very late
One overslept, then there were eight
Eight little Christians on their way to Heaven
One took the low road and then there were seven
Seven little Christians chirping like chicks
One disliked the music, then there were six
Six little Christians seemed very much alive
but one lost his interest then there was five
Five little Christians pulling for Heaven's Shore
but one stopped to rest , then there were four
Four little Christians each busy as a bee
One got his feelings hurt, then there were three
Three little Christians knew not what to do
One joined the sporty crowd, then there were two
Two little Christians, our rhyme is nearly done
They differed with each other, then there was one
One little Christian can't do much 'tis true
brought his friend to bible study- - then there were two
Two earnest Christians, each won one more
That doubled the number, then there were four
Four sincere Christians worked early and late
Each won another then there were eight
Eight splendid Christians if they doubled as before
In only just ten years, we'd have 1,024
In this little jingle, there is a lesson true,
You belong either to the building or to the wrecking crew!

<><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><><>

    Church decline and growth is determined by many factors. Some of those are referred to in the poem above. The question for each of us is seen in the last line.
    Are we part of the building crew or the wrecking crew?
    If everyone in this congregation was just like you, would the church be growing or declining?
    May we be sure we are helping to build up the church not tear it down.
- Larry Pasley serves as a minister with the Jackson Street Church of Christ in Alexandria, LA. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at http://www.JacksonStAlex.com


I Want To Go To Heaven

By Al Behel

Every athlete exercises self-control…They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one…” (I Cor. 9:25)
    John “Pepper” Martin played for the St. Louis Cardinals and was the star of the 1931 World Series. Following one of those games Pepper was interviewed by a newsman. The first question he was asked was, “Pepper, what’s your chief ambition?” Without hesitating Pepper responded, “My chief ambition is to go to heaven.”
    The newsman who interviewed Pepper Martin laughed at his response and said rather sarcastically, “Oh, you want to play a harp, eh?” Martin shot back at him, “My friend, I don’t think that is funny. I know you don’t mean to be a smart aleck, but there’s something wrong with a person’s attitude when he’s flippant about serious things. If there’s anything foolish about reading the Bible every day and believing what it says, and if there’s anything funny about wanting to go to heaven when you leave this world, then I’m afraid life here isn’t worth living.”
    What a goal! To go to heaven. I’ve often asked people, “If you could go anywhere and do anything, what would you choose?’ The responses have been interesting. A common response is, “I’d like to go to Europe, Paris, or to Greece, etc.” I don’t remember anyone saying, “I’d like to go to heaven.”
    The Christian life is like running a race. In the ancient Olympic games the winner received a perishable wreath of ivy or pine. We are in a race for an imperishable wreath that will never decay. We want to go to heaven. Nothing we gain in life in our careers or accumulate through wealth will be taken into our caskets. Our friends will not go with us. We will go alone. All earthly treasures will be left behind. But, we look beyond these temporary trinkets to an eternal home where we will live for all eternity. In the words of our hymn, “Heaven will surely be worth it all.”
- Al Behel preaches for the Great Smoky Mountains Church of Christ in Pigeon Forge, TN. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://greatsmokymountainschurchofchrist.com/


When Parents Learn

By Ron Thomas

    Children will always listen to words of instructions from their parents. This is both a compelling matter and a matter of love. Listen they will, but they learn so much more by the actions of their parents. Sometimes parents, even though they know this, do not allow this understanding to remind them of the importance of living righteously. From their parents, the children learn what is important in their lives. If the Lord is very important, the children learn this by the actions of the parents. On the other hand, if the Lord is not all that important, the children learn this by the actions of the parents as well. At some time in the future, when parents have learned (perhaps relearned) and come to value the Lord’s way differently than they have in previous years, they also learn they are too late to save their children because their earlier actions taught so well! Train up a child in the way he should go, And even when he is old he will not depart from it (Proverbs 22:6, ASV).
    The moral and spiritual grounding of each person is the starting place of the moral and spiritual grounding of the family. Without the Lord, the moral grounding drifts on the water like a piece of driftwood. Many people have a moral and spiritual grounding in place, but fail to implement it to firmly guide their lives. The byproduct is a family confused about what is important.
- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website. http://sunrushchurchofchrist.com/


Such Were Some of You

By Clifton Angel

"Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Corinthians 6:9–10).

    We see it happening all around us. And we see it so much so that we may be tempted to become contempt and avoid anyone who is involved in such and refuse to help them. We may be tempted to become complacent and do not see the need to help anyone who is involved in such. And we may be tempted to become corrupt and be involved again with these ourselves. I say "again" because of the words in the next verse: such were some of you (1 Corinthians 6:11). "But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God" (1 Corinthians 6:11).
    If we have been washed in the blood of Jesus, let us realize the great mercy, love, and graciousness that God has shown toward us through Him. Let us never become corrupt again. Let us never become complacent to where we do not do not see the need to help anyone who is involved in such. Let us never become contempt so that we avoid anyone who is involved in such and refuse to help them.
    Maybe you've yet to be washed in the blood. Jesus washes our sins in his blood (Revelation 1:5). Jesus washes away our sins when we submit to baptism (Acts 22:16). But baptism must be preceded by, hearing God's Word (Romans 10:17), believing that Jesus is the Christ (John 8:24), repenting of your past life of sin (2 Corinthians 7:10), and confessing your faith in Jesus (Romans 10:10).
- 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/