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Monday, February 22, 2021

Oops, Again!

By David Bragg

    In 1943 President Franklin D. Roosevelt set out across the Atlantic Ocean on the USS Iowa for his historic meeting with Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin at Tehran. One of the ships accompanying FDR was the USS William D. Porter. Named in honor of the famous Civil War Admiral who worked closely with Gen. U. S. Grant, this recently commissioned destroyer ran into problems on the high seas and the crew accidentally allowed a depth charge to fall overboard, forcing the Iowa to take evasive action thinking they were under attack by a Germans.
    On the next day FDR requested that the fleet hold an anti-aircraft drill. During that exercise the crew of the Porter accidentally fired a live torpedo at the President's ship! Fortunately, the Iowa turned in time.
    Apparently not willing to risk yet another mishap, the USS Porter was ordered to Bermuda where the entire crew was arrested. Or were they? Contrary to a multitude of seemingly legitimate websites relating this story, Wikipedia attributes the tale as "Internet legend," not fact.
    So, I can't say everything above happened just as described, but if it did this story might reflect the long history of denominational Christianity. Jesus plainly stated that His church would be established in the lifetime of most of His Apostles (Matt. 16:18; Mark 9:1). And it was (Acts 2).
    Jesus plainly called for the unity of all future believers (John 17:21). Yet, denominationalism, is by definition an attack on Jesus’ words. Paul would later upbraid the Corinthians, “Is Christ divided?” (1 Cor. 1:13). We MUST preserve unity with Christ and with each other if we truly want to be the Lord’s church.
- David Bragg serves as one of the ministers at the Northwest Church of Christ in Greensboro, NC and is co-editor of BulletinGold. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.nwchurchofchrist.com/ or his blog: http://davidbragg.blogspot.com/


Rulers

By Kevin V. Rutherford

    The lust for power and authority will ruin a person. A desire for self-glorification will destroy a soul. Individuals like this will forever be blinded by their arrogance, and they will not be able to see themselves as they are. They cannot understand what is happening around them. They only see what they want to see. They only see what justifies their sense of self-importance.
    In our study of the Gospel of Matthew on Wednesday nights we have seen individuals who fit the description just given. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were rulers among the Jews who, though powerful and wealthy, did not seem to be intoxicated with their power and wealth (John 3:1-2; 19:38-42; Mark 15:42-47). However, most of the rulers of the Jews in Jesus’ day loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. They hated Jesus because He exposed their sin (John 7:7). They were envious of Jesus because the multitudes praised Him instead of them (Matthew 2:18).
    Their arrogance led them to the point they chose to kill Jesus. Their lust and love of power, influence, wealth, authority, position, and the praise of men caused them to come to a point of extreme malice. Extreme enough to seek the most painful and shameful method of execution for the one who seemed to have more influence among the multitudes than they.
    The target of their bitter hatred was the Divine Son of God. It was Jesus who had come in the flesh. Jesus lived a life of love, compassion, service, humility, and patience. He was good. Good in the sense that God is perfectly holy in every way. Those who wanted Him dead were evil. They were obsessed with the kind of evil that poisons a person’s heart when he gives himself over to arrogance.
    Matthew chapter twenty-three records Jesus’ condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus said, “all their works they do to be seen by men” (Matthew 23:5). He called them “hypocrites,” “fools,” and “blind”. Jesus said they were “serpents, a brood of vipers” (Matthew 23:33), and He rhetorically questioned whether or not they could escape the condemnation of hell. In contrast, consider the time the Lord washed the feet of the disciples (John 13). Jesus acted in such a way as to demonstrate timeless lessons of humility and service. God, on His knees to serve man was showing us the way to view ourselves in relation to others.
    Consider also the fact that though the Creator has unlimited wisdom, knowledge, and power, He emptied Himself and became a man, then suffered and died on the cross (Philippians 2:5-11). Men scramble for glory, power, and praise, and when they receive “chief seats,” they hold on to them at all costs. God gave up heaven, emptied Himself, became flesh, dwelt among man, served man, and died for man. The Creator allowed the creation to brutally torture Him and kill Him. The creation gladly did so out of a lust for power, from a heart of envy, and from the bitterness of hearts soaked in sin and enveloped in evil. Their lust for power, led them to lust for blood. Their arrogance brought them to dark places. But the Creator humbly died for His creation.
    The Bible says, “nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42-43). Those who do good deeds to receive the praise of men, have their reward in that praise (Matthew 6:2). Those who pray for show so as to look good before men, have their reward in the praise of men (Matthew 6:5). The hypocrites who wanted to disfigure their faces and look sad while fasting so as to receive praise from men, have their reward in the praise they receive from men (Matthew 6:16). What a shame it would be if all the reward one ever received was the praise of men, for the praise of men will mean nothing when the Lord returns in judgment upon all nations.
- 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/


Selfishness

By Joe Slater

    Webster’s Dictionary defines “selfish” this way: “Concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself; seeking or concentrating on one’s own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others.”
    I doubt that many who read this article would want to jump up and tell the world how selfish we are. Yet selfishness has lost much of its social stigma. You might be surprised how many would unabashedly say, “I’m looking out for number one; if somebody else gets hurt in the process, too bad!”
    Galatians 6:7 says we reap what we sow. Our society has become more selfish because we have sown the seeds of selfishness. Do you remember when “me” books were all the rage? They were simple story books to give to children, but each one was customized to make the recipient the main character. This is but one example of making self the most important consideration in life.
    Many older brethren (including myself) feel alarmed at the lack of concern for sound doctrinecharacterizing some of the “Millennial” generation. But to their credit, many Millennials understand better than older generations the importance of putting Christianity into action by helping the less fortunate in substantial ways. They see that many congregations have become inwardly-focused, with most resources (monetary and otherwise) directed toward serving “us.” Something tells me we’ll have better results convincing them about doctrine if we show them we’re serious about putting our faith to work serving “the least of these”!
    More next week! 
- 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


Selfishness (#2)

By Joe Slater

    Selfishness isn’t new! Scripture warns often against over-emphasizing self. Paul, for example, wrote: “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:14). Did he say, “Totally ignore your own interests”? No, he warned us not to think exclusively, or even excessively, of ourselves. If I am cold, I might adjust the thermostat to warm the room. But if someone else feels too warm, I could go put on a sweater instead. I should consider the other person’s comfort, not just my own.
    Of course, selfishness goes far deeper than thermostats and sweaters. Peter warned of ungodly false teachers who “walk according to the flesh in the list of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed” (2 Peter 2:10). Uncleanness and lust obviously point to sexual immorality which characterizes modern society and has impacted the church negatively. Such selfish behavior ignores the boundaries God set on sexual activity, focusing instead on fleshly gratification without the commitment of marriage.
    Even from a strictly worldly standpoint, pre-marital and extra-marital sexual activity bring harmful results, be they physical (disease; unwanted pregnancy) or emotional (guilt, betrayal, anger). These pale, however, in comparison to the spiritual wreckage. Unfortunately, though, selfishness often prevents the person from understanding, much less caring, how their sinful behavior affects their own relationship with God or that of others involved. The momentary pleasures of sin numb them to the eternal consequences.
More next week! 
- 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


Selfishness (#3)

By Joe Slater

    Selfish people often despise authority (2 Peter 2:10). Do you remember being irked as a child when your parents, teachers, or other adults told you what to do? Wise parents discipline their children, teaching them to respect authority. As adults, we recognize civil authorities’ right to tell us to drive on the right side of the road and keep our speed within the posted limit, even when we want to go faster.
    Unfortunately, while everyone grows older, not everyone grows up! Some adults kept the self-willed attitude of their youth, and it shows as they resist not only civil authority, but the authority of God Himself! The selfish person childishly exclaims, “I’ll do what I want!” But the mature Christian humbly says, “I’ll do as I ought.”
    Just suppose that Jesus had been selfish – where would we be? When He left the glorious splendor of heaven to take on human flesh, was He thinking of His own personal benefit? Hear the Savior’s words: “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38). Jesus submitted to the authority of His Heavenly Father and acted unselfishly to save us. Pleasing the Father and saving us were more important to Jesus than His own personal comfort. Hebrews 12:2 exhorts us to look “unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame . . .”
    A single word tells how to overcome selfishness: LOVE. If we love God, we will seek to please Him through obedience to His commands (John 15:14). If we love each other, we will act in one another’s best interests. “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God” (1 John 4:7). 
- 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


Monday, February 15, 2021

Don’t Quit!

By Lance Cordle

    Like many people these days, I own an e-reader (electronic reading tablet). Also like many people, I keep several books loaded on it for the times of reading pleasure, as well as for when I have some time to kill in a waiting room, mall, etc. The company that produces my tablet sent me a challenge at the beginning of 2021: Basically, “Don’t Quit!” Read more and we will reward you. They offered badges for reading seven days in a month, fifteen days in a month and thirty days in a month, and others.
    However, the badge that especially caught my attention was a badge for reading from my tablet on January 19th. January 19th? What is so special about January 19th? According to the notification, someone, somewhere has determined that January 19th is the day when most people give up on their resolutions for the new year. So, as a way of saying to their readers, “Don’t Quit!”, they offered a badge for the day that most people would be giving up (or had already done so).
    Whether in a good habit such as reading, or exercise, Bible study, or living a godly life, we need to be encouraged to keep going. That is why the book of Hebrews was written and included in the biblical canon. Most students of the Bible believe that the fall of Jerusalem (A.D. 70) was set to occur within a few years following the writing of this book. Whatever the circumstance was, at the time of writing (mental persecution, peer pressure, seizure of property), it was causing some Jewish Christians to quit following Jesus and return to Judaism. We do know, however, that they had not yet shed blood in their struggle (Hebrews 12:4). A “word of exhortation” (Hebrews 13:22) was needed, and provided in the form of the letter we now know as Hebrews. In fact, some scholars believe that Hebrews may have originally been a sermon.
    Whatever the original form, Hebrews is indeed a “word of exhortation.” Emphasizing Jesus and his way as “better” (superior) over and over again (at least thirteen times), the author admonishes the readers to continue to follow Jesus.
    We know that anything that is good is worth holding onto (Philippians 4:8)—whether it be marriage, friendship, education, reading, exercise, and, especially, following Jesus! Let us use our minds and commit to continuing to do those things which are good for us.
“. . . And let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith . . .” in other words, “Don’t Quit!”
- Lance Cordle preaches the Calvert City Church of Christ in Calvert City, KY.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.calvertchurchofchrist.com


Bitten By Snakes

By Joe Chesser

    The Israelites were not very smart. That’s because they were people, and people aren’t very smart, especially when it comes to things pertaining to God. For example, there is a short story you can read in Numbers 21. At this point in Israel’s history they had experienced many awesome examples of God’s power and deliverance (10 plagues in Egypt; the parting of the Red Sea; manna from heaven; water from a rock, etc.). The immediate context of the story in Numbers 21 is the total defeat and destruction of the king of Arad, his people and towns, by the Israelites.
    God had answered their prayers for help (21.1-3). Evidently they had very short memories. As they traveled on from Arad, skirting around the nation of Edom, they became impatient with Moses and God and began voicing their negative opinions against them (21.4-5). They must have had the “what-have-you-done-for-me-lately” syndrome. They asked dumb questions like, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert?” They complained, “There is no bread! There is no water! We detest this miserable food!” Sounds a lot like some of us when God doesn’t do for us what we think He should, doesn’t it? How quickly we forget the blessings of God.
    Most of the time, thankfully, God is patient with people (2 Peter 3.9). However, this wasn’t one of those times. God sent venomous snakes among them, and the snakes did what the snakes were sent to do – bite people. Many of the Israelites died (21.6). The people learned the hard way that complaining against God is not a good idea. Never has been, never will be. They also learned that confessing their sins to God is a good idea. So, when they confessed their sin, Moses prayed for the people, and God answered his prayer (21.7).
    But instead of sending the venomous snakes away from the Israelites, he had Moses make a bronze snake and mount it on a pole. God said, “anyone who is bitten can look at it and live” (21.8). The snakes still did what snakes do, but the people learned to trust God for deliverance from death by doing what God told them to do. Anyone who looked at the bronze snake lived. Surely there weren’t people stubborn enough to refuse to look at it!
    There’s more to the story, but it’s not about the Israelites, it’s about us. Their story has become our story. We, too, sin against God, all of us (Romans 3.23). The old serpent, Satan (Revelation 12.9), “bites” us with temptations which leads us to die spiritually (due to our sins). Yet, like them, God offers us hope. He doesn’t take away the temptations, but He does provide us a way to avoid death. “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3.14-15). Jesus is our only hope when bitten by Satan. Jesus was lifted up on the cross so that we can look to him (John 12.32) to overcome the deaths Satan desires.
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com