BulletinGold #171
April 2016   Vol 16 #1
 

April 2016                                      BG# 171                                      Vol. 16                                       Issue 01
BULLETINGold
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In this issue ...
Coming to Our Senses By Robert Guinn
Eastern Airlines Flight 401
By Steve Higginbotham
Bridling the Tongue
By David R. Ferguson
Can You Trust Your Bible?
By Gary Knuckles
Benefits of VBS
By Joe Chesser
Infant Baptism? By Joe Slater
Steadfast Christian Living
By Larry Miles
The Origin of Mother's Day By David Bragg
Behind Me By H. L. Gradowith
I Like My Church Because
By John Gipson
Pray for One Another
By Brian Mitchell
An Once of Prevention
By Gerald Cowan
Guaranteed Success from the Lord By Edd Sterch
A Crack in the Wall
By David A. Sargent
6 "Small" Things That Erode Marital Trust
By Adam Faughn
God’s Word on Baptism By Clifton Angel

Coming to Our Senses
By Robert Guinn

    It is that flash of realization and epiphany. Some call it the “Aha!” moment when something activates in the human consciousness that causes events, information, and conversations to come to a conclusion. The Prodigal Son had such a moment as we read the phrase, “He came to himself,” (Luke 15:17). In other words, he came to his senses.
    Is it possible to become so numb to our surroundings that we miss something very obvious and practical? We can answer this with a hearty, “Yes!” Our personal desires can narrow our focus to the degree that we hurt others in the process of acquiring whatever it is we are wanting. We do not know the exact reason the Prodigal Son wanted his share of his father’s property, but we know it was not to keep it (Luke 15:13). He wanted the benefits from his inheritance so much that he defrauded both his father and older brother. One does not typically inherit something until the person leaving it to them has left this life. Also, we know that the older son would have received a greater inheritance because he was the firstborn son. Thus, the Prodigal Son dishonored his father and robbed his brother just to get what he wanted.
   Now before we cast the first stone, let us think about our wants and desires. How many of us have done same thing? Money is not intrinsically evil, but the love of it is the root of evil (1 Timothy 6:10). The desire for wealth has caused people to lie, steal, cheat, and abuse others on the way to financial success. Sex is not evil. The Bible portrays it as beautiful act between a husband and wife (Song of Solomon), but the blinders of sexual pleasure have led people to participate in self-gratification, premarital sex, pornography, homosexuality, adultery, and other perversions of God’s design. Both of these examples damage not only our relationship with God, but also bring harm to ourselves and others. When the Prodigal Son’s eyes were finally opened, he realized that he was empty, rather than full; deprived, rather than elated; and shamed, rather than respected. Furthermore, he realized that he could not go back to his father the way he left. The only way he could return would be with humility, due to his poor treatment of his father and his father’s blessings.
   It is time for us to realize that we are not the most important person in the world or the only person impacted by our actions and choices. The “Whatever feels good, do it!” mentality ignores the thoughts and feelings of our fellow man and elevates us to the status of self-god, putting ourselves above God and others. Consider this: What if everyone you came in contact with thought only about themselves? What if no one showed you kindness or compassion? What if every human being treated each other as mere exploits to get what they wanted? Trust and meaningful relationships would cease to exist, turning it into an “every man for himself” type of world.
   Coming to our senses helps us realize that no one is perfect. Many of us have caused ourselves grief, pain, shame, and emptiness due to our choices and habits. Yet, there is hope. Like the Prodigal Son, we have a Father that will welcome us home, if we will come to Him in humble obedience. Let us come to our senses by answering the following questions honestly: What do I desire? Have I hurt anyone to get something I want? Am I hurting and/or suffering due my poor selfish choices?  Consider the following scriptures:
  • “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also,” (Matt. 6:21).
  • “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them,” (Matt. 7:12).
  • Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me…or what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Lk. 9:23, 25).
  • Jesus also said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30).
      Are you awake? Let us come to our senses and do what is right, not selfish.

- Robert Guinn preaches for the Central Church of Christ in Paducah KY.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.centralchurchofchrist.org


Eastern Airlines Flight 401
By Steve Higginbotham

     On the evening of December 29, 1972, Eastern Airlines flight 401 crashed into the Florida Everglades, killing 101 people. Any time a passenger plane crashes, it grabs our attention because so many lives are affected by the tragedy. But what makes this crash even more tragic is that it was completely avoidable.
     While preparing to land in Miami, FL, the co-pilot noticed that a light bulb on the instrument panel wasn't working, and he tried to replace it. Unsuccessful at his attempts to remove the burnt out bulb, the airplane was placed on auto-pilot and the pilot, himself, left his seat to assist him. However, somehow in the process, the auto-pilot was accidentally disengaged and while the pilot and co-pilot worked at replacing a burnt out light bulb, the plane slowly descended, and crashed.
     Think of it.. 101 people died because more attention was given to a burnt out light bulb than flying and landing the airplane. Sad indeed, but every day, mistakes more monumental than this take place. In fact, someone reading this article right now may unwittingly be in a "descent" that will lead to his destruction if he continues to devote his attention to things of lesser importance.
     Do you think people will some day meet God unprepared because they gave their attention to lesser things? Jobs, family, entertainment, social status, schooling, pleasure, wealth, etc. all have their place, but not at the expense of a "safe landing."
     Friends, don't get so caught up with the distractions of this world (Matthew 13:22), that you fail to "land safely." Give it some thought.

- Steve Higginbotham preaches for the Karns Church of Christ in Knoxville, TN. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at http://www.karnschurch.org Copyright © 2016 MercEmail Devotionals, Feel free to reproduce.

Bridling the Tongue
By David R. Ferguson

     James, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit,-shared his wisdom regarding the importance of bridling our tongues. He writes, “If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless” (James 1:26 [NAS]). Controlling what we say is not a trivial matter to God. It never has been.
    Many passages of Scripture can be found throughout all of God’s written word warning against the dangers of having a froward tongue.“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” is one of the Ten Commandments written by the hand of God in stone and found in Exodus 20:16 [NAS].
    Solomon writes of the good and the bad that a tongue can do, saying in Proverbs 10:19-21 [NAS], 19 When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise. 20 The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver, the heart of the wicked is worth little. 21 The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of understanding.
    James takes up this theme, too, saying,
5 So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by Hell. 7 For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. 8 But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; 10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. 11 Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh. (James 3:5-12 [NAS])
    If we speak using vile language, or if we say hateful things about others, or if we have lying or deceitful lips, we harm our testimony of Jesus Christ, and fail in our mission to live our lives like Him. The Apostle Paul writes that we are to “prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15 [NAS]). And John warns, “all liars…will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8 [NAS]).
    So guard your tongue! It is literally a matter of life and death!


- David R. Ferguson preaches for the Lakeland Church of Christ in Mattoon, IL.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://lakelandchurchofchrist.web.officelive.com/default.aspx

Can You Trust Your Bible?
By Gary Knuckles

     “You can’t trust your Bible because it’s been translated so many times.”
     It’s always been popular to criticize the Bible and try to diminish or destroy its influence. Some do so because they are unbelievers while others are looking for a less stringent form of the Christian faith. In either case, it is an effort to “loosen” moral restraints/responsibility so the individual can be “free to explore” their own distinctiveness.  
     It has been said that we cannot trust the Bible because it has been translated so many times. This misconception assumes that there is no manuscript evidence in Biblical languages and that all we have today is simply a copy of previous copies that have been edited and altered through the years.  
     In reality, we have thousands of manuscripts of the Bible in the Greek and Hebrew languages in which it was originally written. The Dead Sea Scrolls, found in 1947, date back to the period we most commonly call “the Intertestamental Period” between the end of Malachi and the beginning of Matthew’s gospel. Most New Testament manuscripts date from the second century AD, though a few have been dated to the period of the apostles. The remarkable thing about this is that these manuscripts for both the Old and New Testaments confirm the Bible as we have it today.  
     Not only do we have manuscript evidence for the Bible, we also know the languages in which it was written and can easily translate these into our modern English language. Through studies of ancient, non-biblical writings, we are able to understand the idioms of Biblical times, historical settings, and the wide range of meanings given to some words and phrases. There is actually more evidence for the Bible than there is for the writings of the ancient Greek philosophers! In fact, much of what we have from the ancient philosophers are copies of copies handed down through the years. Yet, some will accept their writings without question while disputing the genuineness of the Bible.  
     Yes, you can trust your Bible. It is not merely a copy of translations. It is the product of many tedious hours of studying, examination, testing, and cross referencing in order to give us God’s word as it was delivered to the authors!

- Gary Knuckles preaches for the Briensburg Church of Christ Church of Christ in Benton, KY.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.briensburgcofc.com/

Benefits of VBS
By Joe Chesser
 
     It’s Vacation Bible School time again. Are you excited about it? Are you looking forward to it? No doubt there has been a flurry of activity the last several days getting ready for it. Lessons to prepare … craft materials to collect and purchase … snacks to organize … decorations to design and put up … phone calls to make.  
     For many, VBS is looked at as a relic or tradition of the past that we can’t seem to stop. I, too, sometimes wonder if VBS is worth all the effort and expense. Just what are the benefits of having a Vacation Bible School? But when I stopped to think about it, it didn’t take me long to answer my question with a lengthy list of benefits of VBS. Here are some of them.
  • God is glorified. Regardless of what the theme of VBS might be, the foundational purpose of VBS is to get children and adults to think about and appreciate God. VBS offers a unique opportunity through special songs, classes and other activities to focus on God. If there were no other benefits, this alone would make VBS worthwhile.
  • Children and adults are taught valuable lessons. No one is so foolish as to believe that we can learn all we need to know about God by attending VBS each year. Yet, lessons are taught that help build and shape our spiritual lives. In Isaiah 28:10 the prophet wrote: “For precept must be upon precept ... line upon line ... here a little, and there a little.” As water falling from the ceiling of a cave forms stalagmites drip by drip, so each of the Bible classes we attend helps form our spiritual character lesson by lesson, here a little, there a little. The more classes we attend, the stronger we can become.
  • VBS is exciting and memorable. There is a special excitement and energy present at VBS. The songs we sing boosts the value of VBS. The classes are given extra preparation and focus. All of this helps make VBS memorable. Do you remember how the building was decorated last year? Do you remember our theme song? It’s good to get excited about the Lord, and VBS offers us an opportunity to do just that. (I’ll not mention that we ought to be excited about the Lord more than once a year.)
  • VBS helps save souls. VBS gives us the opportunity to invite our neighbors, family and friends to send their children to be taught about God (sometimes we even have adult classes so they can be taught as well). VBS can open the door to further teaching about the God and His word. And besides the outreach possibilities, VBS gives our own children the opportunity to learn to love the Lord and obey him.
     There are many more reasons why VBS is beneficial, but I’m out of room to write. Make sure you take advantage of what VBS offers you and your family.

- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.cofcfruitland.com/

Infant Baptism?
By Joe Slater
    As a baby, I was sprinkled with water to become part of a well-known Protestant denomination. Years later, having learned what the New Testament teaches, I was immersed into Christ for the remission of my sins.
    Not long after the church began, some people began baptizing babies because they erroneously thought infants were born tainted with Adam’s sin. God’s word, however, teaches that we are individually responsible for our own behavior; we do not inherit anyone else’s sin (Ezekiel 18:20; 2 Corinthians 5:10).
    Substituting sprinkling or pouring for baptism (immersion) also began early, usually in cases of severe illness. It has never had Scriptural authority.
    Most advocates of infant baptism admit that not a single example of it exists in the New Testament. If the apostles taught it and the first-century church practiced it, we wonder why it is never mentioned!
    Some insist that infants were included when Lydia and her household, and the jailer and his household, were baptized (Acts 16:15, 33). Proof, of course, is sorely lacking. Scripture does not indicate whether either of these was married, much less whether they had children, much less whether those children were infants.
    Consider the jailer’s household: They had the word of the Lord spoken to them (16:32); they were all baptized in the middle of the night (v. 33); they rejoiced greatly (v. 34); they believed in God (v. 34). How much of this applies to infants? Nobody preaches to infants, for we know they have no capacity to comprehend the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. And when is the last time you heard of anyone baptizing an infant in the middle of the night? Now, do baptized infants rejoice greatly? Hardly! Most of them protest rather loudly! And they certainly do not believe in God, not because they are wicked, but because they do not have the mental capacity to do so. Thus, to assume that the jailer’s household included infants is presumptuous and contrary to all evidence and reason. Ditto for Lydia’s household.
    Baptism is for those who have believed the gospel (Mark 16:16), repented of sin (Acts 2:38), and confessed that they believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Acts 8:37). Infants simply are not subjects for baptism as taught in the New Testament. They have no sins of which to repent or be forgiven.
    Let us diligently teach the truth regarding baptism, and urge everyone to comply with it!

- 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

Steadfast Christian Living
By Larry Miles
 
   The Apostle Paul told the Colossian Christians, and us today, that the goal of the true believer is steadfastness in Christ (Col. 1:23; 2:5-7). He want us to be grounded in the faith, knowing what we believe and why. He admonishes us to be in the fight of faith for the duration. Jesus has promised that He is returning, but we don’t know when, so we must be ready at all times.
   We are instructed to be active for Him, watching, waiting, and working for Jesus! Paul told the Ephesians that we are saved for good works. We are to be a “people zealous for good works.”
   To be this kind of Christian does not happen overnight, but comes into fruition as we grow in the Lord. It is the Lord’s desire that we grow in Him. It is His desire that we be grounded in the faith. He has equipped us for service by giving us the Word of God.
   We are to have the right anchors in life. We need the anchor that will hold in the storms of life—the Lord Jesus! We read in 1 Cor. 15:58: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
   Notice that while this steadfastness is commanded, and knowledge of the Word is needed, this must translate into an abundant life in the Lord. This takes us back to the words of Jesus in the Gospels, that He offers the Christian an abundant life, one that will help us, not only in our own spiritual growth, but will help us reach the lost with the Gospel and enable us to strengthen those in Christ.
   All of us should desire that kind of life, but it does not come without a desire to equip oneself for service. If we would lead the steadfast life that God requires, we must appropriate all of the spiritual resources available.

- Larry Miles lives in Louisville, KY and publishes "Larry's Lines" several times a week. Copyright 2009. Visit his website: http://larryslines.com/

The Origin of Mother's Day
By David Bragg


    The story of Anna Jarvis is fairly well known. Her campaign to set aside an annual Sunday to honor mothers began the year she lost her own mother, 1905. During the Civil War Miss Jarvis' mom worked in military hospitals taking care of wounded soldiers from both sides of the conflict. Her concern for better medical care continued well after peace was restored. It was that very zeal and selfless, sacrificial service that Anna Jarvis was intent on honoring.
    Her efforts met with success on a local level when her local denomination set aside a Sunday in May 1908 to honor her own mother. Nationally, however, would prove a more difficult prospect. In that same year Congress rejected the idea of a national Mother's Day. Just two years later Jarvis' home state of West Virginia recognized Mother's Day as a state holiday with other states to follow their example. By 1911 all of the states observed Mother's Day. President Woodrow Wilson, in 1914, signed a proclamation designating the second Sunday in May as a national holiday honoring mothers.
    The idea of honoring mothers (and fathers) was of course of divine origin. It was the fifth of the Ten Commandments, "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you" (Exodus 20:12). This is a theme often reinforced in the poetry sections of the Old Testament (cf. Proverbs 10:1; 31:10-31) and is included in the teaching of the Apostle Paul (cf. Ephesians 6:1–2).
    We are indebted to Anna Jarvis for her tireless efforts to honor mothers. But isn’t it wonderful that our God honors those who honor mothers?

 - David Bragg works with the Northwest Church of Christ in Greensboro, NC and is co-editor of BulletinGold. He may be contacted at bulletingold@gmail.com  


Behind Me
By H. L. Gradowith

I'm gonna lay down all of this life's burdens
And I'm gonna lay down all of this life's cares,
Yes I'm gonna leave them all far behind me
When I reach  that Lovely Country over There!

I'm gonna leave all my frowns behind me
And I'm gonna have a heart that never breaks;
The Lord's gonna wipe all the tears from my eyes
Up There in that Lovely Land of no mistakes!

The Lord will give me all I ever need There!
Yes, the Lord will call my name and say, Well done!
I will never want up There for anything!
When, at long last, my Savior welcomes me Home!

- H. L. Gradowith  For more information on H. L. Gradowith and GRADOWITH POEMS e-mail group visit http://www.geocities.com/fp5699/ - the website of Tim Smith, minister of the Enon Church of Christ in Webb, AL.

I Like My Church Because
By John Gipson
 
     She visited the congregation where I preached a number of times, and we studied together a few times. The thing that turned her off was the emphasis we placed on the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, and the importance of the new birth. She brought our studies to a close by saying, “I like my church because we don’t teach any doctrine.”
     Sadly, in some places, the church has turned a “believing church” into an assembly of activities, with countless programs and committees going to and fro to satisfy their own desires—many of which have less to do with being “servants of the Word.”
     Far too many folks have become religious consumers. They look to the church to meet their needs—and quickly look elsewhere if they feel their needs are not being met. The emphasis is no longer on God or Jesus Christ, but rather on “me, myself, and mine.”
     For many years in our world truth has vanished—leaving it to each person to do as he pleases. As David F. Wells has said, “The bottom line for the modernized world is that there is no truth; the bottom line for the Christian consciousness is precisely the opposite.”
     James Orr, over a century ago, stated that the New Testament “comes to men with definite positive teaching: it claims to be the truth; it bases religion on knowledge….  A religion on mere feeling is the vaguest, most unreliable, most unstable of all things.”
     In past years, when I had the privilege of standing in Hardeman Nichols’ pulpit, he always said to me, “Preach the Word.” It seems to me, especially now, that the great need of the hour is to “Preach the Word”—it remains the power of God to save.
     Or, to quote the inspired Jude, “Contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”

- John Gipson, longtime preacher for the Sixth and Izard Church of Christ, WindSong Church of Christ, in Little Rock, AR. He continues to serve that congregation as one of its elders. He may be contacted through the church's website: http://windsongchurch.org/

Pray for One Another
By Brian Mitchell


     I’m guessing that most of us believe in prayer but if really pressed on it would have to admit that we either don’t feel like we are very good at it, or that we don’t do enough of it. One survey revealed that the average church member spends about four minutes a day in prayer, while the average minister—those entrusted with sharing God’s Word with us—don’t do any better, averaging a mere seven minutes a day in prayer. If true, this is some extremely sad news!!! Especially since 4-7 minutes a day would not allow us much time to be Praying for One Another.
    So if this survey is actually true; why do we spend so little time in prayer, specifically prayer for one another? Richard Meyer gave three reasons for our lack of prayer for one another in his book “One Anothering.” First, he said that we don’t pray because we don’t know how to pray. Many times we feel like we don’t know where to begin and aren’t sure what to say. Just like anything else, there is a need to learn how to pray, it is not something that we know automatically. Second, he said that we don’t pray more because we don’t think prayer accomplishes much. I don’t’ think that many would admit to this and yet I am afraid many times that our actions concerning prayer say otherwise. If we really believed that prayer could move the hand of God and unleash the power of God we would certainly spend more than 4 minutes a day doing it.
    Finally, Meyer says that we don’t pray more because we have a faulty concept of God. Sometimes people—Christians included—picture God as a colossal vending machine, whose sole purpose is to give us what we want. Then we go to him, put in our quarter and out pops what we desire. The problem is that’s not the way it works and when we don’t get what we want, we become disappointed and angry and we kick the machine for swallowing our prayer. The right view of God is to see Him as our Heavenly Father, who hears all our requests but gives us only what is good for us, which is not always what we want.
    Regardless of why we don’t pray for one another as much as we should James exhorts us all to “pray for one another” (Jm.5:16). Why? Because the “fervent prayer of the righteous man avails much.” James wants us to know that in prayer for one another we are not just going through the motions—prayer is powerful and effective on the lips of God’s faithful. Prayer involves an intimate relationship where we share our struggles and needs with each other so that we can pray for each other. That, not coincidentally, is what fellowship is all about. When we pray for one another, we need to do so believing that God can move in His own marvelous ways and thus without holding back. As one man observed, “Certain things will not happen in another person’s life unless we pray for him.” As we work together for God, let us never for get to Pray for One Another.

- Brian Mitchell preaches for the Jackson Church of Christ in Jackson, MO. He may be contacted through the church's website: http://jacksonchurchofchrist.net


An Once of Prevention
By Gerald Cowan

    Moses told the people when they built their houses they should construct a battlement, a low-standing wall around the roof. This was to prevent anyone from falling off the roof and so “bringing blood upon the house” (Deut. 22:8). It seems that as long ago as the time of Moses there was a religious awareness of responsibility for eliminating hazards to human life.
    Cain first posed the question that people have been asking ever since: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen. 4:9). God’s answer is an emphatic YES! Whether we like it or not, we are responsible for other people. That means we must be aware of possible dangers and warn people ahead of time. It means we must see the possible consequences of the activities and way of life engaged in by others and try to correct them before it is too late. It means, furthermore, that each of us must determine the possible consequences of our own acts, both for ourselves and others, be aware of possible dangers, and take steps to prevent them from happening.
    You’ve heard that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” It is true, as far as it goes. It is better to build a fence around the cliff than to build a hospital below to care for those who fall off. It is far better to prohibit the sale and consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs than try to find help for the victims later. It is far better to teach and promote the sanctify of sex and marriage than to provide counseling for those who have dishonored their bodies, or to provide abortions for those wanting to dispose of the “unwanted product” of their sexual activity. It is better to teach children to be faithful to God than to try to find some way to reach them when they have grown up hardened and indifferent to God and His Christ, and His church. It is far better to prevent sin than to have to deal with the results of sin. You can apply the principle very well in many ways, for yourself and others. Some may doubt it, but nobody can disprove the validity of this principle or any of its parts.
    Of course, the danger in this, as in most other cliches, is that it misleads us. We get the idea that “an ounce of prevention” is enough, that no more is required. Not so! Instead we ought to think of it this way: if an ounce of prevention is worth so much, how much would a pound of prevention be worth? How many ounces, pounds, or tons of prevention are necessary to fulfill all our responsibilities, to ourselves and to others? The cost is worth it if it saves a life. It is more than worth it if it saves a soul – your own or some other’s.
    The truth is, we are responsible – to our neighbors, to our children and other family members, and to ourselves. We must try to stay aware of the dangers and probable consequences of our way of life, and then take all possible precautions to prevent evil things from happening.

- 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

Guaranteed Success from the Lord
By Edd Sterchi

    
When young Samuel was with Eli training to be the Lord’s servant, the famous incident of the Lord speaking to him occurred in 1 Samuel 3:1-18. Immediately after that, these words are in the holy text, “So Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.” (1 Sam 3:19). The meaning of the metaphor in the latter part of the verse is that the Lord made sure that all of Samuel’s prophecies were true and beneficial. None of them would be wasted as in a precious liquid spilling into the earth.
     In this passage, we can also see what led to Samuel’s success. First of all, we can see that he grew. Earlier in the book, it states that Samuel grew not only in stature, but also in favor with both men and God (1 Sam. 2:26). So he grew not only physically, but socially and spiritually. Secondly, we can see that he stuck with the Lord. The Lord was with him, because he was with the Lord and devotedly followed His ways. And as a result, Samuel was successful.
     It seems to me that we can make an analogy to us and being successful in our service to the Lord. To be successful, we too must grow and stay connected to the Lord. If we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord (2 Pet. 3:18) by studying the Bible and applying it to our lives, and if we remain in a faithful relationship with God no matter what (Rev. 2:10), He will see to it that nothing we do in His name will fall to the ground and be wasted (Psa. 1:1-3).
     Here’s the bottom line: effort and dedication combined with the Lord’s blessings brings guaranteed success.

 - Edd Sterchi preaches for the Broadway Church of Christ in Campbellsville, KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.broadwaychurchofchrist.net/

A Crack in the Wall
By David A. Sargent

     Have you ever felt trapp
ed in a bad situation and you couldn’t see a way out?
     Keith Wishum says…

     Imagine FIVE years locked up alone in a room!
     Motivational speaker Zig Ziglar tells the story of Brigadier General Robinson Riser’s confinement as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam. He was held captive for over seven years. Five of those years were in solitary confinement. Little food. Cold. Heat.
      Riser suffered many things, but perhaps the worst was the isolation. Five years with no conversation. No communication from home or friends. Silence. Five years staring at the same walls. At times, he stuffed his underwear in his mouth to deprive his captors the satisfaction of hearing him scream.
     One day, Riser made a simple, sanity-saving discovery. He lay down on the floor of his tiny cell and discovered a very small crack in the cinder block wall. By pressing his eye close to the crack, he could see outside.
     A leaf! He could see a leaf on the ground outside his cell! Not much to get excited about, you might say. But for a man locked inside for 5 years, it was a ray of hope – a glimpse of life beyond his tiny four walls. And someday, maybe someday soon, he could imagine being free again to step outside his prison to where there were leaves and sunshine. * 

     This world is often characterized by disappointment, disease, and death. But the worst condition is separation – separation from God. Our sin is what separates us from Him (Isaiah 59:1-2) and creates a "wall" between man and God.
     But God loves us so much that He gave His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins (John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). He paid the price for our redemption so that we can be set free from the bondage of sin (Ephesians 1:7) and the "wall" between man and God is destroyed.
     God will set free those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Him before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 2:38). He will continue to cleanse from sin those who continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7).
     Yet, even Christians are still "confined" by things in this world like disappointment, disease, and death. But if you look closely......, there is a crack in the wall.
     Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for our sins, He was buried, but on the third day, He rose again! Keith Wishum points to the power of this fact saying, "Your Father raised His Son from the grave to put a permanent crack in the wall so you could have a glimpse of the bright life that lies beyond. He wants you to be free. He offers you hope."
     Because of Jesus, we can have forgiveness of our sins and be reconciled to God, NOW! We also now have the HOPE of eternal life in heaven where Christians will live with God for an eternity where "God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away" (Revelation 21:4).
     It’s a terrible thing to be in bondage to sin. But God offers salvation AND eternal life through Jesus. There is a crack in the wall. Do you see it?
     Won’t YOU accept His offer on His terms?
     God will save those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Him before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).  The blood of Jesus will continue to cleanse those who continue to walk in the light of His word (1 John 1:7).
     Sinful man cries, “Help!”  God has answered by sending His Son Jesus to our rescue.
     Won’t YOU accept His offer of salvation and eternal 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: http://www.creekwoodcc.org

* Keith Wishum, "A Crack in the Wall," in A Word from Williams Road, provided by the Williams Road Church of Christ, Americus, GA.  See http://www.williamsroadcoc.org/


6 "Small" Things That Erode Marital Trust
By  Adam Faughn

     Trust is the taproot of marriage. A marriage that is thriving is one that is built upon godly commitment. While every husband and every wife will make mistakes, when those mistakes cause distrust to build, the marriage is slowly eroding.
     Sadly, there are some who think they can keep from doing the “big” stuff that would break marital trust (have an affair, for example), but they fail to see the “small” things that are slowly eroding the trust in their marriage. Many even do some of these things intentionally, just to have their “own life” on the side. (Which, by the way, goes against the very fabric of marriage.)
     What are some of these things? Here are 6 things that some may think are small, but that can be eroding the very taproot of your marital trust.
     1. Withholding Information. I wanted to lead with this because it may be the most common, and most difficult to break. Each person in a relationship is going to be privy to information that could (literally) be difficult for the spouse. Often, we withhold that information, but we let that temptation grow. It becomes easier and easier to withhold what we think are minor details. All along, though, we are eroding open and full communication, which a marriage simply must have to thrive.
     2. Pornography. An affair is trust breaking, but pornography is trust eroding. When (not if) a struggle with pornography is discovered, a spouse’s ability to trust will be thwarted. And it will not just be a struggle in the bedroom. The hidden life and covered tracks will be enough to show that communication has been broken at a deep level in the marriage.
     3. Separate Finances. While I do think each spouse should have some money he or she can just spend and enjoy, there is no way a marriage can be healthy is he has “his accounts and bills” and she has “her accounts and bills.” As Dave Ramsey often states, “When you get married, you change pronouns.” It is now our money and our bills. While you both may be honest, having separate accounts leaves the door open to distrust and a lack of communication about shared values and goals.
     4. Wandering Eyes. You may think, “Wait a minute. Didn’t he already talk about pornography?” I did, but what about when you are walking through the mall or downtown and your eyes take in the figure of every member of the opposite sex that walks by? Too many (and, let’s be honest, it’s usually us men) think there’s no harm in just looking, but a spouse will be harmed by wondering if you are doing more than just taking some “harmless” glance. And, by the way, don’t be surprised when your eyes wander toward magazines, computer screens, and maybe beyond.
     5. Private Online Presence. Does your spouse know your Facebook password? What about your Twitter handle (every Twitter account)? Does he or she have open access to the people you have been chatting with? If not, why not? We can get so caught up on our cyber-world that we close out our spouse. Even if we are doing nothing harmful, there is a lack of trust there that is not just perceived. It is real.
     6. “White” Lies. This is the most obvious, but still needs to be said. Often, to “protect” our spouse, we make up a little lie, a cover-up, a small fib. When the truth comes out, we just treat it almost as funny, and yank out the excuse that we were just trying to protect them. Instead, we harm them, because they begin to wonder what “bigger” truths we have hidden or just changed.
     Honest. Trusting. Open.
     Those words need to describe every aspect of the life of a husband and wife. It may force us to be a bit vulnerable before a fellow human being, but he or she is the person you made the choice to be vulnerable before, and to trust with your whole life.
     Don’t erode that…not even in a small way. Instead, build it up every day.

- Adam is the preacher for the 9th Avenue Church of Christ in Haleyville, Alabama. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://9thavenuecofc.com/

 

God’s Word on Baptism
Compiled By: Clifton Angel

     “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). “But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women” (Acts 8:12).
     And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch
said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing (Acts 8:36–39).
     “And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days” (Acts 10:48). “And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized” (Acts 18:8). “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3–4). “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:13). “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27). “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).

- Compiled by Clifton Angel. Clifton preaches for the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. He may be contacted through that congregation's website: http://www.coldwatercofc.com/


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