Sunday, April 24, 2022

Faith and Optimism – A Timeless Challenge

By Joe Chesser


    When your cup runs over, is it a blessing, or a mess?  Is your glass half full or half empty?  Do you make difficulties out of your opportunities, or opportunities out of your difficulties?  Are you the kind that complains about the noise when opportunity knocks?  Do you claim to be an optimist who doubts that being one really helps?

    While reading Psalm 23 it occurred to me that King David was a true optimist.  He wrote things like:  “I am never in need ... green pastures ... peaceful waters ... paths of righteousness ... my cup overflows ... even though I walk through the dark valley of death, because you are with me, I fear no harm ... your rod and staff give me courage.”  His faith in God enabled him to overcome obstacles that would probably derail the faith of most of us.  His trust in God allowed him to see winning possibilities in the most horrible circumstances.  Remember how he faced a lion, a bear, a giant, and a mentally unstable king?  Remember how he faced the death of a child, and rebellion from within his own family?  His faith in God empowered him to live with optimism and assurance of victory.

    When faced with setbacks and difficulties, our reactions reveal whether we are people of faith and optimism, or people of pessimism and defeat.  There are three basic differences in the way optimists and pessimists react to adverse circumstances.

    The first is that the optimist sees a setback as temporary, while the pessimist sees it as permanent.  When David’s infant child died, he saw it only as a temporary separation.  Even after praying and fasting that the child would not die, his faith in God never wavered.  He could not bring the child back, but he said, “I will go to him” (2 Sam. 12:23).  Even death is not permanent for those with faith in God.

    The second difference is that the optimist sees difficulties as specific, while the pessimist sees them as pervasive.  David’s sin with Bathsheba was not allowed to destroy his whole life and eternity.  He messed up big time, but he dealt with it as the specific sin it was, repented, and went on to live as a man with the heart of God.  His failure with Bathsheba broke his heart, but it did not cause his whole life to be a failure.

    The third difference is that optimists view events as external, while pessimists interpret events as personal.  King Saul’s repeated attempts to kill David was seen by David as rebellion against God, not him personally. He would not raise his hand against Saul because he still saw him as the Lord’s anointed.  Difficulties are most often simply external circumstances, not personal attacks.

    It's a timeless challenge to be more like David, to learn from him how to live by faith and optimism, to see the setbacks in life like a man who had the heart of God.

- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at

Sleep Well at Night

By Ron Thomas


    Have you heard another say to you, "How does he sleep at night!" This is not a question asked, but a pointed and judgmental statement about the thinking or bad actions of the one this remark is pointed to.

    How does one sleep at night? Some have a hardened heart, troubled not by any of the day's events and actions. Others have a deceived heart, that is, they see themselves as the victim in just about every regard, they've done nothing wrong. Most, on the other hand, every now and again, do struggle with this.

    The new English Translation (NET) reads in Proverbs 3, My child, do not let them escape from your sight; safeguard sound wisdom and discretion. So they will give life to you, and grace to adorn your neck. Then you will walk on your way with security, and you will not stumble. When you lie down you will not be filled with fear; when you lie down your sleep will be pleasant (3:21-24).

    Live your life in such a way you minimize your regrets. The best way to do that is to live with the wisdom of the Lord, letting it reign in your heart.
- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website.

A Fool for the Lord

By David R. Ferguson


    When you hear the Bible being read out loud, or when you read it to yourself, do you ever try to make a mental picture of the characters in these stories? I know I do. I often wonder how much my imagined appearance of these characters lines up with what was the reality. The truth of the matter is that we aren’t given much information from the Bible as to what these people looked like, besides a few women who are described as being beautiful (Sarah, Rebecca, Esther, Abishag, and the woman in Song of Solomon, who just may have been Abishag); and a few men who are said to be handsome (Joseph, David, Absalom, and Adonijah). We also have some individuals the Bible says were hairy (Esau) or they had long hair (Samson, Elijah, Absalom, Nebuchadnezzar, and John the Baptist).

    Although the Bible doesn’t say what the Apostle Paul looked like, we do have a non-Biblical account of his appearance which says the following: “He was a man of middling size, and his hair was scanty, and his legs were a little crooked, and his knees were projecting, and he had large eyes and his eyebrows met, and his nose was somewhat long, and he was full of grace and mercy; at one time he seemed like a man, and at another time he seemed like an Angel.” I am the first to admit that description hardly is the picture of Paul that comes to my mind!

    Paul wrote in Galatians 6:14 [NASB], “But may I never boast except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” This tells me there is one physical description I am sure applied to Paul: He was Cross-eyed! And no, I am not saying his eyes were crossed. I am saying Paul’s entire being was focused on Jesus and Him crucified on that cruel Cross of Calvary. In Hebrews 12:2 [NASB], the writer tells us that we should be “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

    May it be said of ALL those who have been born again into Jesus Christ that we, too, are Cross-eyed with our eyes focused on Him and the work He performed on our behalf on Calvary! Once we come to the Lord in obedient, saving faith we should do as Cross-eyed Paul and “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14 [NAS]). May we forever remain Cross-eyed and look to Jesus as “the originator and perfecter of the faith” (Hebrews 12:2 [NAS]).
- David R. Ferguson preaches for the Mentor Church of Christ in Mentor, OH.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: or

God: Our Refuge & Strength

By Joe Slater


“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear . . .” (Psalm 46:1-2a).

    God is our refuge, our place of shelter in life’s storms. Danger isn’t always physical; our adversary walks about as a roaring lion seeking to devour us. Jesus taught us to pray, “Deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13).

    God is our strength. Our own strength will fail us, but God’s strength never will. Not just our physical strength but our moral and spiritual strength may be taxed to the breaking point by whatever trials and temptations we are facing.

     God is a very present help in trouble. He is not distant from us or unconcerned about us. Even people who do not know Him are objects of His care, as Paul told the philosophers in Athens, “He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:27-28). That being true of people in general, how much more should we have confidence He is present with us, especially during difficult times?

    Therefore, we will not fear. Since God is our refuge, our strength, and a very present help in trouble, why would we fear? When Jesus’ disciples became afraid, He said, “Oh you of little faith! Why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31). Little faith is often our problem, too. We find ourselves saying with the man in Mark 9:24, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

    Your trials aren’t the same as mine, but we all encounter trials that put us to the test. Let’s remember that God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. So, let us not be afraid, but confident and strong in the Lord!
- Joe Slater serves as minister of the Church of Christ in Justin, TX. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

The Glorious Church

By Ron Bartanen


    Among the descriptive terms used in the New Testament with reference to that body of people that we generally refer to as the church, none is more descriptive of our close relationship to Christ than that of a bride.  In Ephesians 5:22-33 Paul, while admonishing wives to be submissive to their husbands, and husbands to love their wives, illustrates their relationship to one another as a reflection of the relationship between Christ and the church.  The husband is to be “the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church” (v. 23), but this headship is to be exercised in the spirit of Christ, as he further writes, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it” (v. 25).  He anticipates the time when, at the return of Christ, He presents His bride to Himself as “a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish” (v. 26).

    The beauty and glory of the wedding-attire of the bride of Christ is not of her own doing, but of her husband’s.  He has so designed the church that in spite of the deficiencies of those composing the church, it will, in that day, be seen as “a glorious church.”  We would do well to consider why and how this could be so.

    First, the church owes its existence to Christ.   The passage in Eph. 5 declares that Christ “gave himself for it” (v. 25b).  He purchased the materials that compose the church (the redeemed) with His own blood (Acts 20:28).  Had Christ not shed His blood at Calvary, the church would be non-existent.  Under another figure, He is the church’s builder (Matt. 16:18; Heb. 8:2).  The church’s glory is a reflection of the glory of its builder.

    Second, the glory of the church is seen in its head, Jesus Christ.  The Lord’s church has no mere human, or council of men, as its head.  As Paul wrote in Col. 1:18: “He is the head of the body, the church…that in all things he might have the preeminence.”

    Third, the glory of the church is evident in the church’s foundation.  “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11).   The institutions of men, including religious institutions that are founded upon principles that are based upon the wisdom of the world are doomed to ultimate failure.  Jesus’ parable of the two houses, one built upon a rock, and the other upon sand illustrate the need for building our lives and hopes upon Christ and His word, affirming that that which is built upon Him will stand the storm of God’s judgment, while those that ignore this foundation and build upon others will fall, and He said great would be its fall (Matthew 7:24-27).

    Fourth, the church is glorious because of its glorious purpose.  Paul wrote of its purpose when he said, “Unto him (Christ) be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end” (Eph. 3:21).  Through Christ, the redeemed glorify God as the people reconciled to God “in one body by the cross” (Eph. 2:16).  Returning to Eph. 5, Christ is both the “head of the church, and he is the Savior of the body” (v. 23).  The purpose of the church is to exist in this world as that body of people called out of the world to show forth the good news of salvation in Christ.

    While the church is commonly vilified in the world, its glory will one day be evident.  Among the closing visions of John on the Isle of Patmos is that of “the bride, the Lamb’s (Christ’s) wife” (Rev. 21:9).  She is portrayed as a city, “the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, having the glory of God…” (21:10b-11a).  A city is identified most of all by its inhabitants.  The mansions in which we shall dwell (John 14:1-4) will be glorious, but also what we suffer for Christ’s sake personally is “ not worthy to b e compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).

    Those who shall partake of this glory are identified as those who are first sanctified and cleansed of sin “with the washing of water by the word” (Eph. 5:26).  Have you surrendered yourself to Christ, and been added by the Lord to His glorious church?  (Read Acts 2:36-47)
- 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:

Sunday, April 17, 2022

The First Words from the Cross

By Ron Bartanen


     The last words spoken by a loved one are probably the words most indelibly impressed in your mind.  There is special significance to words spoken by one who realizes that life is ebbing away.  There is no time for frivolous talk, and words are carefully chosen.  Such also are the words of Jesus, all of which are precious to the believer, but the final words, as uttered upon the cross by the suffering Savior, serve as a unique window to His soul.  They have frequently been referred to as “The Seven Words From Calvary.”  History records that there were thousands of Jews that had been hung upon Roman crosses for villainous deeds, but the words they spoke would not in any way resemble the words that mocking crowd would hear from Jesus’ lips the day He was crucified.  I wish, in these few lines, to think on Jesus’ first utterance: “Father, forgive them: for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).  What a contrast that must have been to the curses and hate-filled speech customarily heard on similar occasions! In that one sentence we find an invocation, a petition and an argument.

     The invocation: His first utterance upon the cross was not addressed to His tormentors, or to the crowd of curious and taunting bystanders, but was a prayer, and the first word of that prayer was, “Father.”  He spoke neither words of condemnation, nor words entreating mercy to the multitude, but addressed the heavenly Father.  Even the pain and humiliation Jesus suffered that day could not stifle His faith.  If ever there had been an occasion when it would appear God’s hand was no longer in control, it would have been that day as Jesus suffered the most unjust judgment ever meted out.  Because it was the Father’s will, Jesus endured the cross.

     The Petition: He neither cried out for mercy for Himself, nor for judgment against His executioners, but plead, “Forgive them.”  It was the language of grace—unmerited favor toward even the worst of offenders.  Until Christ, the common word was, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy,” but Jesus exhibited a worthier spirit of love.  Certainly while He would have had the right as the Supreme Judge to pronounce eternal woe upon all, He instead chose grace and mercy.  Surely, if Jesus had not prayed such a prayer as this, as someone once observed, the earth would have opened and swallowed them all up.  Instead, their lives were spared that forgiveness could be offered to them, as Peter later would plead with them: “Repent and be baptized…in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38).

     The Argument: “For they know not what they do.”  Peter would later say to many of these, “I know that through ignorance you did it” (Acts 3:17).  Saul of Tarsus, an early persecutor of believers, would later obtain mercy because, as he said, “I did it ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Tim. 1:13).  However, though done in ignorance, justice demanded penalty.  The guilty still needed forgiveness.  However, the hand of judgment was withheld from the Jewish nation for the next 40 years as they had opportunity to repent and accept Christ, until God gave them up to the Roman armies to plunder and destroy.  Surely it is only because of man’s ignorance that His judgment is delayed, for He is “longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9b).

- 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:

Handling the Word of God Deceitfully

By Seth Myers


But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:2)

    There is a very unfortunate circumstance in our world. This one, in particular, does not only exist today—it has existed since virtually the beginning of time. It is the tragic reality that there are those who claim to believe in God—some (most?) of whom even claim to follow Jesus Christ—who are guilty of “handling the word of God deceitfully” (2 Cor. 4:2).

    There are several different ways one can handle the word of God deceitfully, and, naturally, some are more common than others. Nevertheless, arguably the single most common method of “handling the word of God deceitfully” is simply failing to declare “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).

    For instance, it is shocking to note that most religious organizations which claim to follow Jesus handle the word of God deceitfully when it comes to teaching how a person is to be saved. This they do by failing to appeal to Scriptures that include necessary elements of God’s plan, simply because they (or their respective official creeds, catechisms, or constitutions) do not approve of them. Unlike Paul, such persons do “shrink…from declaring the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).

    You see, Jesus and His apostles plainly and repeatedly taught the essentiality of water baptism in order for an individual to receive the forgiveness of past sins. Read the following Scriptures for yourself: Mark 16:16; John 3:3-5; Acts 2:38; 8:36-38; Rom. 6:3-5; Gal. 3:27; 1 Pet. 3:21; etc. Anyone who teaches anything that contradicts those inspired passages is “handling the word of God deceitfully” (2 Cor. 4:2). As the apostle Paul, himself, said: “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ” (2 Cor. 11:13).

- Seth Myers preaches for the Highway Church of Christ in Sullivan, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

The Transitions of Life

By Bryan McAlister


“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

    Finding a companion is a blessing, one to be cherished. If your companion stumbles or is hurt, there is one who is ready to help in time of trouble and need. It is a fitting theme for marriage, but that is a theme fit for another day. For now, with the hearts of many of our brethren hurting and wearied, be it at home, the Ukraine, or any point between or beyond, we look to God’s words to us, for a companion who is eternal and untouched by the troubles of our hearts. We look for a companion stronger than us, wiser than us, and holier than us. We look for a companion who is not burdened by our weakness or our worry. We look for a companion who is able to conquer what we encounter. Scripture reveals Who that companion is for us.

     “I will lift up my eyes to the hills - From whence comes my help” (Psalm 121:1)? A person’s eyes can tell the whole story. In one look you can see pain or pleasure, sorrow or surprise. With one look you can know if a person is distracted, disappointed, or even despondent. The eyes are the window to the soul. “My heart pants, my strength fails me; as for the light of my eyes, it also has gone from me” (Psalm 38:10). “I am weary with my crying; my throat is dry; my eyes fail while I wait for my God” (Psalm 69:3).

    Did you see that? The light of life had been taken from the eyes of the one hurting. The eyes of the hurting had cried so much, their throat had gone dry and the eyes failed, they had no more tears to give. When the heart has reached its breaking point, when it has had all that it can take; when the eyes have cried all the tears they can cry and when there is an emptiness beyond description of words, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills.” Disease, divorce, death, discouragement, debt, disaster; if you stare long enough and intently enough at any one of these, your eyes will be filled with the pain of these moments. “From whence comes my help?” It was rhetorical, because deep down inside, cutting through the pain, was the reminder of truth, “My help comes from the Lord.”

    The transitions our soul will encounter are too numerous to name here. Suffice it to say, whether it is in the course of life, a change in season of living, a new work, new school, a new challenge, or change of any shape, we are a people who, by the virtue of our relationship with the Lord, turn to His Word for the help and comfort our lives long to receive. His Word is our source for the strength of every day and the supply of every step in our sometimes difficult way. “I will lift up my eyes to the hills - From whence comes my help? My help comes from the Lord” (Psalm 121).
- Bryan McAlister preaches for the Walnut Street Church of Christ in Dickson, TN. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:


By David A. Sargent


    My e-mail server has a new feature in the “Trash” folder: “Recover Deleted Items.” 

I understand the value of this feature.  If I accidentally delete a message that I intended to keep (I’m sure that has happened in the past!), I can click on this button and retrieve it.

    On the other hand, when I saw this new feature, I thought, “Why would anyone want to recover items that they have deleted?”  The things that I delete are spam messages, ads in which I have no interest (and didn’t want in the first place!), old news, junk mail (how did I get on their mailing list?), and messages that I don’t want on my computer or in my mind.  I’ve also deleted messages that after I’ve thought about them, decided not to send them out.  I don’t want to recover any of the messages that I’ve intentionally deleted!

    Do you think God has a “feature” that “recovers deleted items”?  Some fear that the sins that God has forgiven will be brought up again at judgment.  Such people live in constant fear that the mistakes of their past will haunt them throughout eternity.

    That’s NOT what God wants for you and for me!

    Consider a few of the passages of Scripture that inform us about how God forgives:

·       “For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”   – Psalm 103:11-12

·       Micah the prophet praised God for His mercy and compassion:  “You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”      – Micah 7:19

·       The writer of the book of Hebrews extolled the blessings of the New Covenant in which there is complete forgiveness: “For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” – Hebrews 8:12

    Did you catch that?  “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” 

He will NOT recover deleted items!

    “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were STILL sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8

    God sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins.  Through Jesus, we can have forgiveness for our sins and receive the gift of eternal life: “For the wages of sin is DEATH, but the gift of God is eternal LIFE in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

    God will forgive those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are confess (immersed) into Christ (Acts 2:38).  Then, as one continues to walk in the light of His Word, the blood of Jesus will continue to cleanse that one of sin (1 John 1:7).

    Through Christ, our sins are “washed away” (Acts 22:16), “forgiven” (Acts 2:38), “covered” (Romans 4:7)..... DELETED!!  And God won’t recover any deleted items!

    Won’t YOU accept His offer of forgiveness and life on His terms?
- David A. Sargent, minister for the Church of Christ at Creekwood in Mobile, Alabama, is also the editor of an electronic devotional entitled "Living Water." To learn more about this excellent resource contact David via their website:

Slow to Anger

By Ron Adams

". . . But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God."
James 1:19-20

God realizes that anger can build up within us. That's not wrong within itself. However, the Scriptures tell us that we are to be "slow to anger." When you are able to maintain control of your anger, you demonstrate great inner strength. The one who "flies off the handle" at the least provocation has little inner strength and is at the mercy of others.

Some Gems From the Book of Proverbs
He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.
Proverbs 16:32
He who is slow to anger has great understanding,
But he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.
Proverbs 14:29
A hot-tempered man stirs up strife,
But the slow to anger pacifies contention.
Proverbs 15:18
A man's discretion makes him slow to anger,
And it is his glory to overlook a transgression.
Proverbs 19:11
- Ron Adams publishes F.Y.C., a monthly publication. Bible references are from the NASB except where another translation is referenced. Back issues are archived at Be thoughtful and kind. All rights reserved. © 2021

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Freedom Of or From Religion??

By Gerald Cowan


    Your first impulse may be to deny the statement in the title. You may say that God has made us free moral agents with the power to choose one thing or another, and that our religion must be a matter of individual choice. Of course there is some truth in that. But what does it mean? And how many possibilities are there from which to choose? It may come as a surprise to you to learn that God offers only one religion, and your only choice is to accept it or reject it. That’s it. Take it or leave it. But His response to you will be based firmly upon your choice to do it His way or not. Oh yes, you may substitute any number of things for what He asks, and you may be well satisfied with the arrangement. But the fact remains that God’s offer has been rejected, which means God has been rejected, which means you have been rejected by God. Read carefully 1 Corinthians 1:10-11, Galatians 1:6-8, Ephesians 4:4-6, Romans 1:16-17, and John 12:48. Everyone is free to reject the offer of God, but he is not free to reject the consequences of his rejection (Romans 6:16-17).

    Freedom of religion in our society is usually interpreted to mean that each person is free to choose and practice whatever suits his religious needs and desires, so long as it does not violate the rights of others. No person is to be allowed to force his religious beliefs upon others. That is the view which led to the ruling of the Supreme Court against Bible reading and prayer in public schools. The ruling was not intended to encourage atheism, but simply to define the state’s relationship to religion as neutral. However, atheists were encouraged by the ruling and have pressed for the removal of religion from all aspects of public life – think what you want, but do not speak it or act it out, lest someone of a different persuasion have his feelings hurt. Now that psychology and psychiatry have convinced us that thoughts are parents to deeds – the Bible taught that a long time before those two psy’s made their appearance (Proverbs 4:23, Mark 7:20-23) – we may lose our freedom even to think religious thoughts. Atheism belittles and ridicules and actively opposes and punishes religion, but that is not considered a hate crime because they have found the courts of human opinion and civil law to be on their side.

    Atheism likes to assume that man can be free from religion, but that is impossible. The word religion, reduced to its simplest definition, means “tied back or tied to,” hence a way of life; a pattern for living. The laws or principles that one applies to his life can properly be called his religion. The Christian religion  is simply the way of life which takes its direction from and submits to the authority of Jesus Christ, which is the one proper way to the one true God (Matthew 28:18-20, Colossians 3:17, John 14:1-9). One’s way of life need not have any god in it to be a religion. So atheism is a religion – a way of life without God, without any god. Atheism is from Greek ATHEOS, and means literally “without God, having no god.” It does not necessarily imply or require disbelief or denial of the existence of God. It implies only that one has no god in his life, that he is unaffected by and not associated with any god. Some may cultivate atheism for its value in shocking other people. One cannot prove or disprove the existence of God or gods. But one can reject any and all existing gods – that is atheism. Some are atheists because they have been disillusioned and turned off by the hypocrisy of so many professing believers, especially the absurdity of so many different and contradictory beliefs and commandments all supposedly emanating from the same God and the same Christ. Some will not accept the concept of a God they cannot fully understand. And then of course there is the atheism of indifference – the “I couldn’t care less” attitude about God and Christianity.     

    So far you may be saying, “Well, thank God I am not an atheist! I have not denied the existence and reality of God.”  Good for you! That puts you in a rather select group called believers in God. But have you obeyed God? Have you accepted the religion that He offers to you through Jesus Christ? Remember that an atheist is one who is without God. He is separated from God, rejected by God, out of fellowship with God, having neither part nor lot with God. It may not be by his own choice – he may actually think he is with God and of God in Jesus Christ. The only time the word atheist appears in scripture is in the Greek text of Ephesians 2:1-12. Notice how the apostle uses the word. He says, “You Christians at Ephesus are now alive to God in Jesus Christ. But at one time you were dead (separated from God) because of your way of life which was according to the desires of your own minds, in keeping with the customs of the world but contrary to the will of God and the religion offered by God (2:1-3). you were at that time aliens and strangers to God’s covenants of promise. You had no hope and were without God (ATHEIOI, atheists) in the world (2:12). Do you get the implication of that? There is no freedom of religion given to us by God. We either accept the  religion He offers and do things His way, or we are atheists. What do you think is the eventual and eternal outcome for those who are without God and do not obey the gospel of Christ? Hint: you will find help with the answer to that question in 1 Peter 4:17-19 and 1 Thessalonians 1:7-9. 
- 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

Watch Out!

By R.W. McAlister


    The word “watch” is found 63 times in the Bible in various senses. Jesus said to His disciples at Gethsemane, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me” (Mt. 26:38). Then, in v. 41: “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation…” Paul wrote in I Cor. 16:13-14:  “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith…” We need to be concerned with the command to “watch,” meaning that we must be alert. When you read through the New Testament, you’ll find several places where Christians are told to watch so that they’ll remain faithful. Here are just a few ways in which we must watch:

    1. Elders are to watch out for our souls. Hebrews 13:17: “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”

    2. Christians should always be watching how they conduct their lives so that they’ll be ready for the second coming of Christ.  Mark 13:35-37: “Watch ye therefore: for ye know not when the master of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cockcrowing, or in the morning: 36Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. 37And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch.”

    3. Watch for opportunities to teach others about Christ. John 4:35: “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.”

    4. Watch for false teachers. I John 4:1: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” Also, Romans 16:17: “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.”

    5. Watch our temper and our speech. James 1:19-20: “… my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: 20For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” 

    Christians, friends, in all these areas, we must be watching! Are you? 
- 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:

Obey Jesus

By David Bragg


    On November 12, 2020, a priority mail package arrived at the physics department of the City College of New York. It was sent anonymously in the heart of a worldwide pandemic that had most of the faculty working from home. The package sat there, unopened, until September 2021. That is when Professor Vinod Menon opened it to find $180,000 in cash inside! The note with the money revealed that the sender was an appreciative graduate who wanted to give back to his alma mater (CNN).

    For about 10 months that box sat there unopened. For 43 weeks no one at the school had any idea of the valuable contents awaiting inside. It was not until that professor, after around 300 days did something, i.e., opened the box, that the value of its contents could be truly appreciated.

    The same thing is true when it comes to God’s commands contained in the New Testament. We can’t really appreciate their value until we do something, i.e., obey them. Then we truly appreciate their value. That is what Jesus had in mind when He declared, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’” … (Matthew 7:21).

- David Bragg serves as one of the ministers at the Northwest Church of Christ in Greensboro, NC and is co-editor of BulletinGold. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: or his blog:

Suicide is a Very Complicated Issue

By Kevin Rutherford


    Suicide is a very complicated issue. It is one that we cannot be flippant about and careless with. This is a discussion that should always be accompanied by caution, compassion, and care. If anyone reading this article has come to such a condition that you have had thoughts of suicide, please seek professional and spiritual help. You are important.

    It is likely that in many cases the one who commits suicide is not capable of thinking in a rational manner. Perhaps a chemical imbalance or some other clinical factor is involve, creating extreme depression and an inability to think correctly. There are situations where clinical treatment can help an individual suffering from imbalances of chemicals in the brain, and as long as the individuals are receiving treatment the condition is kept under control. In some cases there have been people who have stopped receiving the treatment and have then committed suicide because they were not able to think correctly without the medicine. In such cases I would not suggest in any way the individual is lost eternally because of the act of suicide.

    There may at times be spiritual problems that lead to thoughts of suicide, but we must not assume that is always the case. Some Christians who have appeared to be very strong spiritually have considered, attempted, or committed suicide. So let me say again, suicide is a very complicated issue. It is one that we cannot be flippant about or careless with. Any discussion of suicide should be accompanied by caution, compassion, and care. In fact, we need to steer clear of broad sweeping statements that would declare every suicide an evil and sinful act.

     Consider compassion for those whose level of depression, discouragement, and despair have brought them to the point of wanting to take their own lives.

    Taking one’s own life results in extreme torment and misery for years to come for family and friends. Those considering suicide should consider the effect of this action upon others, should consider the effect of this action upon others, should consider the God given value of their lives, and should not be ashamed to seek professional help.

    Job suffered immensely. His children had been killed, he lost his wealth, and he suffered from a painful disease (Job 1-2). In fact, he suffered so much he wished he had been still born (Job 3:11-19). He desperately hoped he would die and longed for death as though death were a treasure (Job 3:20-26). His wife shared in all of the suffering except the painful disease. She encouraged Job to just go ahead and curse God and die (Job 2:7-10). She was either encouraging him to just give up on life and perhaps die that way, or she was encouraging him to commit suicide. Despite the intense suffering Job endured, he did not commit suicide. That was not the answer. That was not the right approach. Job became desperately miserable and upset as he demanded God to tell him why he was suffering. Yet, he did not turn to suicide.

    Elijah suffered immensely. He lived in a very violent and dangerous time (1 Kings 18-19). Many prophets of God, like himself, had been killed by the orders of Ahab and Jezebel. After Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal, Jezebel promised she would kill him. Elijah’s situation became so discouraging to him that he asked God to just go ahead and kill him (1 Kings 19:4). In other words, Elijah thought death may be better than having to live the way he was living. Yet Elijah did not commit suicide, and God wouldn’t take his life either.

    At one point Moses was so overwhelmed by the intense pressure and load of leading a stubborn and rebellious nation that he just wanted to die (Numbers 11:11-15). He thought death would be better than the situation he was suffering through. He asked God to kill him. Despite all of this Moses did not commit suicide.

    Job, Elijah, and Moses are all examples of righteous people who wanted to die. They wanted God to end it for them. In all three cases God left them to suffer here on this earth for a time. In none of these cases did these suffering servants of God who desperately longed for death commit suicide.

     Having said, this, if any of you reading this have considered, or are considering suicide, please seek help. God loves, you are important, and your life is important. Don’t throw away the gift of life God has given you. You are a steward over your life and you have been created to use that life in service of God. If you ever doubt your importance to God, please remember the lengths to which He has gone so that you can spend an eternity in heaven with Him someday. The suffering Jesus endured as He took the wrath and death we deserve is great evidence of your tremendous value. It is also evidence that He understands tremendous grief and pain. Don’t give up. Please seek help.

- Kevin V. Rutherford preaches for the Warners Chapel church of Christ in Clemmons, NC. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

He Calls Them All by Name

By David R. Ferguson


    There is a group of stars in the northern sky known as the Pleiades or the Seven Sisters. According to Greek mythology, the Pleiades were seven sisters: Maia, Electra, Alcyone, Taygete, Sterope, Celaeno and Merope. Their parents were Atlas, a Titan doomed forever to hold aloft upon his shoulders the Earth and sky, and an Oceanid sea nymph named Pleione, the protectress of those who venture forth sailing upon the wide seas. After a chance encounter with the great hunter Orion, the beautiful and graceful Pleiades and their mother became the object of his pursuit. Passionately enamored with the young women, he pursued them all over the face of the Earth. According to one version of their tale, the Pleiades were hunting companions of Diana, the goddess of the Moon and a great huntress herself. When Orion unexpectedly came upon Diana and the Seven Sisters hunting a hind, Diana was angered at Orion’s pursuing her friends and called upon Zeus to intervene, which he did by changing the young women into doves who flew away into the heavens. Diana, enraged at the loss of her companions, then sought her brother Apollo to send a great scorpion to sting and kill Orion as punishment to Orion for chasing away her friends. Not to be outdone in this, Zeus placed the dead hunter Orion in the sky and changed the Pleiades from doves into stars for Orion to chase after throughout eternity with Scorpio forever nipping at his heel.

    These make for interesting stories told around a campfire at night, but the true tale is by far much better. God spoke the universe into existence, including these stars known as the Pleiades. We are told in Psalm 33:9 [ESV], “For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm.” Furthermore, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Hebrews 11:3 [ESV]). Not only did He speak them into existence, He gave each of these wondrous stars a name: “Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? He Who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of His might, and because He is strong in power not one is missing” (Isaiah 40:26 [ESV]).

    One day long ago one of these stars that God calls by name each night was given a very special assignment by its Master. This star was to be the one that would lead the Gentile Wise Men to the Child King Who was born in Bethlehem. I find it fascinating that God used one of His stars to light the way for these Gentile Magi to find “the Light of the world” (John 8:12 [ESV]). Centuries earlier, it was prophesied by Isaiah that the Messiah would be “a Light of the Gentiles” (Isaiah 42:6), and Simeon confirms this prophesy was fulfilled when He stated during the presentation of Jesus at the Temple when Jesus was eight days old, that He was “a Light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to Your people Israel” (Luke 2:32 [ESV]). These seekers followed the star as it guided them to Jerusalem, and they asked King Herod, “Where is He Who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:2 [ESV]).

    Yes, our Mighty God calls out the stars by name one by one each night because God loves His creation…and that means He loves YOU! YOU are NOT insignificant! Remember, God knew YOU even before you were born (Jeremiah 1:5). He loves and cares so much for you that Jesus Christ gave His life on the Cross in YOUR behalf.

- David R. Ferguson preaches for the Mentor Church of Christ in Mentor, OH.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: or

Monday, April 4, 2022

The Beauty of Jesus

By Al Behel


    Someone has said that by the time you are 50 years old you have the face you deserve. Perhaps there is a lot of truth in that statement. The years we have spent frowning, scowling, worrying, smiling, or laughing are etched on our faces. Every day we are making a face that will tell a great deal about how we have lived our lives.

    Billions of dollars are spent each year by both men and women trying to change our faces. Plastic surgery, cosmetics, herbal supplements, lotions, creams, and countless other techniques are used to erase the unwanted marks and create a new image.

    Paul tells us that if we keep looking at Jesus we will start to look more and more like him (2 Corinthians 3:18). Those compassion lines and smiles of kindness lines will be permanently etched on our faces. We will become more like him on the inside and the outside will glow with his presence within us. We will be transformed into “his image”.

    When Moses descended from Mount Sinai after being in the presence of God his face was aglow with a radiance that made it impossible for the people to look upon him. When the apostles Peter and John stood before the threatening Sanhedrin Court, that august body could not miss the fact that they had been with Jesus.

    That’s the way it is for all of us. When we spend time with him, his beauty becomes a part of us. The hymn expresses it so well:

Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me,

All His wonderful passion and purity;

Oh, Thou Spirit divine, all my nature refine

Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me. —Orsborn

    No cosmetic surgery or any other treatment will give us the face of Jesus. As we behold his glory and experience his grace we will begin to look more and more like Him.

- Al Behel preaches for the Great Smoky Mountains Church of Christ in Pigeon Forge, TN. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

Double Standards

By Joe Slater


    Jesus never approved of sin, but He directed His most severe criticism toward people with double standards. His withering denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees stemmed from their shameless, two-faced behavior. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” (Matthew 23:13). Those experts in the Law were quite accomplished at telling others what to do; their own behavior, however, wouldn’t pass the smell test.

    King David understood that God’s Law applied to him just as it did to his subjects. David was far from flawless (witness that awful episode of adultery with Bathsheba and murder to try to cover it up). To rebuke him for those sins, Nathan told David a parable about a greedy rich man who stole a pet lamb from his poor neighbor. The rich man slaughtered that lamb to feed a guest.

    Nathan’s story gave David just enough rope to hang himself! The indignant king pledged to execute the rich man for being so heartless and cruel (2 Samuel 12:3). Then came Nathan’s immortal words: “You are the man!” (v. 7). To his credit, David owned up to his sin and repented, rather than acting like God’s commands against adultery and murder applied to others, but not to himself.

    Why is it so easy for me to see your faults, but to ignore the same (or worse) shortcomings in myself? Jesus warned of this danger: “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). While many abuse this text as though it forbids all judging, context shows the Lord was dealing with unrighteous, hypocritical judgment. Until I get the plank out of my own eye, what business do I have criticizing you for the speck of sawdust in your eye? (vv. 3-5).

    Brother Roy Lanier, Sr., used to tell us preacher boys: “What’s sauce for the goose ought to be at least salad dressing for the gander.” God shows no partiality; neither should we. God’s word applies to me just as it does to you.

- Joe Slater serves as minister of the Church of Christ in Justin, TX. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

Be Careful What You Say

By Bill Brandstatter


    We live in a time when a person has to be careful what words are used. Many are looking for something that is wrong. The way something is said is often noticed. Sometimes even the intent is in question by some. What we say is important. Our words mean a great deal.

   Words are accountable. We are accountable for what we say. Jesus said, “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matt.12:37 NKJV) What we say matters a great deal. Do we speak before we think? James advices us to be “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” (James 1:20) How many times have we said something only to regret it later? In a Bible class once, a lady stated, “We need to think twice and speak once.”

    Words are authentic. Words tell something about us. Jesus stated, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) If a person talks long enough, the heart is revealed through the words that are spoken. Someone once stated, “It is better to keep silent and thought of as a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

    Words are appropriate. Often there are the right words to say at the right time. Do we use appropriate words? Sometimes a person can say the right thing at the wrong time. There are right words to use at the right time. The apostle Paul helps in our understanding by stating “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” (Col. 4:6) Peter states Christians should be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in them. (1 Pet. 3:15)

    Words are aped. Our words may be copied or imitated. I was reminded of this recently when my two-year old granddaughter visited us. The way a toddler learns words is to repeat what is heard. If I don’t want my children to say certain words, I shouldn’t say them. I have heard individuals respond to a child’s language by stating, “Where did he hear that?” The best statement to follow about saying the right thing so it won’t be copied is found in Eph. 4:29. Paul writes, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” Someone is always listening to what we say. Do we want it repeated?

   Let us always remember that God knows us. He knows what we say. He knows who we are. Do we want God to hear what we say? Let us be careful to speak the words that will please Him.

Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

Two Things That Trouble Me About Some Christians Today

By Edd Sterchi

    There are a couple things that concern me when I observe some Christians in today’s times: How much of the world is in them and how little of the Bible is in them.
    I believe that there is a correlation at work here: the less of the Bible that one knows, the more of the world that will creep in. Of course, the opposite is true, as well: the more of the Bible that one knows, the less the world will influence them.
    It basically comes down to this: The world or the Word – we must make our choice.
    “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (1 John 2:15-17)
- Edd Sterchi preaches for the Broadway Church of Christ in Campbellsville, KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

Be a Bridge

By Ron Thomas

    Take a look around you. Look at the members of the congregation where you attend; take notice of the varied ways of thinking you hear every now and again. Some of those you hear, you agree with, but others not. Not only do you not agree, but you strongly disagree, and even wonder how any can think that way. Be reminded, though, that as you think this about them, they think this about you.
    Perhaps, you both are correct.
    How do you bridge the significant gap between the two ways of thinking? For certain, it can't be done with any long-lasting effect by insisting your way is the only right way, or even the best way among the alternatives. Even though you believe this strongly (no one willingly believes a lie), there are others who believe just the opposite. What if you tried to be a “moderate” between two ways of thinking, will that get you very far? Perhaps it will give you a reprieve or a cover of sorts over the gap in the varied ways of thinking, but it is only a thinly covered gap. Given turbulent experiences, those who hold contrasting, even contradictory opinions, both go to their respective corners and wrap their arms around that which they know.
    In the end, it does not seem possible to bridge any gap with this approach.
    There is really only one bridge for humanity to be utilizing. It was Jesus who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life...” Think about what that means.
1) He is the way. That means there is only one path to walk.
2) He is the truth. That means there is only one right way of thinking, and it does not have its origin in any of us.
3) He is the life. When our physical lives are finished, what then? With the Lord’s way, His way is life; the realm of eternity in which He reside is not measured by time. I think that is the life for me. How about you?
    How can you be a bridge? Begin by not thinking truth rests with you. Secondly, approach a person with the Lord’s “golden rule” (Matt. 7:12). Third, be a contributor to another’s struggle by offering options to consider, not giving answers. Fourth, perhaps most importantly, pattern your life after the life of Jesus.
- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website.