BulletinGold #172
May 2016  
Vol 16 #2 

May 2016                                      BG# 172                                      Vol. 16                                       Issue 02
BULLETINGold
Subscribe                     Website                     Submissions                      Editor: David Bragg
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In this issue ...
Racism Is Learned
By Steve Higginbotham
Liberty
By Joe Slater
Being Aware of Our Scars
By Jeff Arnette
Love Isn’t Always Easy
By Dawn Guillory
What Makes A Successful Gospel Meeting?
By R. W. McAlister
Ease the Pain of Those Who Mourn
By J. Randal Matheny
The Consequences of Sin
By Alan Smith
How Shall the Young Secure Their Hearts?
By David Bragg
When Silence Isn’t Golden
By Ron Adams
No Appeal
By Charlie Gamble
Dealing with Divorce
By Jeremiah James Tatum
The Standard Used
By Ron Thomas
How Great is God
By Gerald Cowan
Who is Your Neighbor?
By Jim Faughn
Who is a Christian?
By Ronald Bartanen
Self-Reliance is Faithless
By Joe Chesser

Racism Is Learned
by Steve Higginbotham

     Just last night, a friend of mine told me of an incident that occurred many years earlier with his young daughter. They lived in Minnesota at the time and consequently, were fans of the Minnesota Twins baseball team. One day, this man handed his daughter a baseball card and told her it was a Kirby Puckett card.  (Before proceeding any further, I need to explain to some of you who Kirby Puckett was. Kirby Puckett was an African American who played his entire baseball career for the Minnesota Twins). So back to the story... The card this father handed to his young daughter was a baseball card of a Caucasian baseball player.
     Of course, he expected his daughter to immediately say, "Dad, that's not Kirby Puckett," which she did. But this was the reason she offered, "This man has glasses and Kirby doesn't wear glasses."
     Amazing, isn't it? Children are "color-blind." The feature that stood out to this young girl was not the color of his skin but the fact that he wore eye-glasses.
     May God help us, his grown children, to be so "color-blind." There is no black and while in the Kingdom of God. There should be no race distinctions made between us because God only created one race of people, and we call that race, the "human race."
     "My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality...but if you show partiality, you commit sin" (James 2:1,9).

- 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.
Liberty
By Joe Slater

     Most Americans, including yours truly, put a lot of stock in freedom. The Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, the Statue of Liberty, and many others remind us of the grand heritage of freedom with which God has graced this nation.
     Christians, whether in America or elsewhere, enjoy unsurpassed liberty of a spiritual type. Even Christians who are not free in the political sense have freedom in Christ, “for he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s freedman” (1 Corinthians 7:22a).
     Jesus frees us from sin (John 8:32-36). He liberates us from its servitude, its guilt, and its penalty. Jesus paid the ransom price for our freedom when He suffered, bled, and died on the cross of Calvary. We receive the blessings of that atonement when we identify with His death, burial, and resurrection through our baptism (Romans 6).
     We are also free from the Law of Moses (Galatians 5:1). Whereas you and I have never been under the Law, some of Paul’s readers had grown up under it; they probably appreciated the freedom of the Gospel to a greater degree than we do. Still, there were false teachers back then who tried to subject Christians to the bondage of the Law; their spiritual descendants are with us today, and we must be on guard lest they “bring us into bondage” (Galatians 2:4).
     In Christ, we enjoy liberty from the uninspired traditions, opinions, and convictions of other people. Where God has not spoken, we are free to use our judgment. Paul’s warning, however is still valid: “But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak” (1 Corinthians 8:9). Even things that technically are not sinful may offend the consciences of weak brethren; in such cases, we must be willing to sacrifice our liberty for the sake of love.
     Another warning from Paul is also in order: “do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh” (Galatians 5:13). Liberty is not the freedom to do as you please, but rather to do as you ought. Those who abuse liberty as a license to do whatever they feel like doing are not really free at all. Peter tells us “they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage” (2 Peter 2:19).
     As we celebrate our nation’s freedom, let us be thankful not only for it, but for our spiritual freedom in Christ. And let us not “use liberty as a cloak for vice, but as servants of God” (1 Peter 2:16).

- 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
Being Aware of Our Scars
By Jeff Arnette

    We all have scars from our life and choices. I know that I am not telling you something that you don’t know but I hope to reinforce it for you and just maybe help you with them. Every one of us have experienced many different things in life. Some of us have experienced bullies, enemies, those who just didn’t like us, and hopefully we have also had close friends who stood with us. We have believed, studied hard, and changed our positions on issues we thought were settled numerous times. If you have been a Christian for very long you have also suffered through many people with good intentions who were just trying to help you but for whatever reason it went all wrong. Most likely you have had to be the one person who stood for the truth against those who wanted to change things.
    Just as importantly, we have experienced many great days, great friends, days where everything went exactly how we hoped it would. We have had the help and love of good friends and loved ones who worked hard to ensure our success.
    Every one of these events have created scars that affect the way we hear and experience things. Scars that affect the way we respond to people’s questions, misunderstanding, and their comments to our problems. You cannot change the past and you cannot remove those scars (even though we would like to at times). They are a part of you now. Those experiences, good and bad, have shaped you into the person you are. Nevertheless, you must be aware of your scars, being aware of what caused them or you will allow those scars to damage others.
    You see, as you move forward in life, those scars affect how you experience life. The same statement or situation might have a totally different intention than the one we heard. It wasn’t that we totally misunderstood but our scars have created wounds that affect how we experience it. To one person it might be the best thing they have heard but to the next it might be misconstrued to mean that someone wants to destroy what you have fought so hard to build. All of this means that we must adopt Jesus’ view of life and people.
    The New Testament has much to say about how we treat others, especially those we could consider enemies. It pays a lot of attention to being gentle and caring with each other, always thinking the best of each other. I encourage you to open your Bible and read each of these passages, praying that God will help you understand.
Matt. 5:21-26, 38-42, 43-48; 7:1-6, 12; Titus 3:1-11; James 3:13-18; 1 Peter 2:21-25; 1 Cor. 13:1-8.
    Carefully and prayerfully consider each of these passages and how they relate to your interactions with others. Jesus wants us to be different from the world, more like Him than them! Our scars must be addressed if we hope to truly hear others and treat them with the gentle, loving hands of Jesus. And remember that Jesus can help you heal, learning how to deal with the scars that affect your view of life.

- Jeff Arnette preaches for the Central Haywood church of Christ, Clyde, NC.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://centralhaywoodchurchofchrist.com
Love Isn’t Always Easy
By Dawn Guillory

Sometimes you just have to do
What you have to do;  Love isn’t always easy.
When it seems your loved one is fighting you;
Love isn’t always easy.

When your loved one is changing inside,
The changes may be for better,
But until the change comes, you hold on and sigh;
Love isn’t always easy.

Trying to live your own life,
While watching your loved one
Being cut constantly with an emotional knife;
Love isn’t always easy.

As your loved one’s health slips away,
You assist as much as you can,
But pray for a better day;
Love isn’t always easy.

Sometimes it takes much more --
All your hopes, dreams and money
To balance out what will never be funny;
Love isn’t always easy.

When your loved one makes the wrong choice
And you are left to help --
Having had no voice; Still love anyway.
Love isn’t always easy!

- via Magnolia Messenger, a publication of the South Huntington St. Church of Christ in Kosciusko, MS; Volume 35 Number 2; April - June 2013; p 21.
What Makes A Successful Gospel Meeting?
By R. W. McAlister

    It is not uncommon today to see churches have special meetings for a wide variety of things such as self-improvement seminars, financial security, and how to raise money for the church. However, not once have I received a phone call or played back a message from someone hoping to edify the brethren with the word of God. The fact is, none of these specialists specialize in spiritual things. They present a materialistic, worldly concept of the church and religion. The church is a spiritual house designed for spiritual purposes that are accomplished by preaching a spiritual Gospel. A meeting that preaches the word of God is a meeting that can save souls (Acts 11:10; I Cor. 1:18; Rom. 10:14-17).
    What about attendance? There is nothing more detrimental to the success of a Gospel Meeting than a lack of attendance by the local members (except a lack of preaching the Word). We must make it our ambition to be here every night of the meeting. Let me repeat that, we MUST make it our ambition to be here EVERY night of our meeting (Heb. 10:25; Matt. 6:33). So, bring your children. Both parent and child benefit from sound Gospel preaching. The elderly do as well, even though some are unable to drive after dark. So, if you need a ride, don’t let that stop you, just ask!
    This type of attendance shows that God is a priority in your life. Any visitors could see how important learning God’s word is to the local members, and how can we expect the visitors to come if we ourselves won’t make the effort?
    Furthermore, we need to encourage our friends, families, neighbors and coworkers to attend the meeting. Although we cannot “hog tie” them and make them come, we can invite them to come. Too many churches today do not have an evangelistic focus and let golden opportunities pass them by. Inviting someone to a meeting is easy.
    Honestly, what is the worst that could happen? They say, “no.” This is easier to contend with than standing before God on the last day and explaining to Him why you never mentioned Christ to anyone. If you want visitors to come, you have to invite them. We also need to encourage those who do make the effort to be here. Actually, this needs to be done every time we assemble. Encourage the young mother that struggles with her children, encourage the elderly that make it out despite their health, encourage the husband or wife who must leave his or her spouse at home because they’re not interested in God or spiritual matters. Encourage the worker who loses sleep to be at services. Encourage the visitor to stick around so that we can get to know them. Encourage the visitor to come again.
    Obedience to the Gospel also makes for a successful meeting. Although we all would love to see 3 or 4 people come forward each night of a meeting, the success of a Gospel Meeting should not be judged by such numbers.
    If one person came forward, it would be a success. We should not look at Acts 2 as the only example of someone obeying the gospel. The story of Paul’s conversion should teach us much. Ananias saved one person that day.
    Nothing is ever said of those whom Paul traveled with to Damascus. Did Ananias get upset because only one obeyed? Furthermore, Paul’s one conversion resulted in the baptism of thousands.
    I think we often get discouraged because we rarely see anyone come forward. What we must remember though is that it isn’t always visible when someone responds to the invitation. Perhaps someone with a secret sin is encouraged to repent in the privacy of their own thoughts. Would that make the Gospel Meeting any less of a success?
    Finally, we must never forget to include God in any work which we do. We must remember that unless the Lord adds them to the church, a new convert can never be in Christ (Acts 2:47; I Cor. 3:6). Let us take the time to pray for the meeting. Let us pray that the meeting will reach a lost soul.
    Let us pray that the meeting will open doors of opportunity.
    Let us pray that we will make the most of those opportunities, and finally, let us do our part to help this meeting be a success.

 - R. W. McAlister preaches for the Anna Church of Christ in Anna, IL.He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.annachurchofchrist.com/
Ease the Pain of Those Who Mourn
 By J. Randal Matheny

 O God of all comfort, ease the pain of those
   who mourn,
 Give focus to him who lies between two paths,
   confused and torn;
 Give time, another day, for change, to him
   who hesitates,
 Fulfill deferred hopes and distant dreams of the one
   who waits;
 Give bread and drink to empty stomachs, clothe
   the naked boy,
 Give homes to homeless men, infuse the broken heart
   with joy;
 Hold up the hands of the weary, put strength
   and courage in trembling knees,
 Secure the lonely traveler, protect the sailors
   on stormy seas;
 All this and more, O Lord, we ask, of you, the Father
   who cares,
 And make us more the family
   who with the needy shares.

- J. Randal Matheny edits and writes UPLift, an inspirational ezine. He
may be contacted here: <http://randalmathenycom/>. When reprinting this
material, please include the following:
Copyright (c) 2016 J. Randal Matheny
All rights reserved. You may forward the
email to friends as is. You may not alter
it in any way or remove any text or
attributions.

The Consequences of Sin
By Alan Smith

    The story is told of a man who tried to steal gasoline from a motor home. Attaching a siphoning hose to the vehicle, he started to work; but police found him shortly afterward writhing in agony in the street. It seems he had attached the hose, not to the gasoline tank, but to the motor home's sewage tank! The owner declined to press charges; he was too busy laughing.
    Facing the consequences of our sin, though, is no laughing matter. Colossians 2:25 says, "He who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done" (NASV). And we have to face those consequences even if we seem to  "get away" with what we have done. 
    Two guys who were not known for being overly smart were driving a delivery truck down a road when they came to a tunnel. The sign said "Warning: Maximum Height 10 feet zero inches", so they got out and measured their truck. Unfortunately, the truck was just over 12 feet high. They didn't know what to do, when finally one of them looked both directions and said, "I don't see any police, let's go for it!"
    As ridiculous as that sounds, there are many folks who take the same approach to sin. "If nobody sees us, then it's OK to go ahead and do it. We can get away with it!" But just as surely as driving a 12-foot high truck through a 10-foot clearance will result in bad stuff happening (even if no one is watching), so will involvement in sin result in negative consequences, even if no one is watching (of course, we know that God is always watching!)
    Moses warned the tribes of Israel who wanted to remain on the east side of the Jordan River: "If you arm yourselves...and all your armed men cross over the Jordan....and the land is subdued....then afterward you may return...and this land shall be your possession before the Lord. But if you do not do so, then take note, you have sinned against the Lord; and be sure your sin will find you out." (Numbers 32:20-23)
    The words of Moses serve as a needed reminder to all those who think that they can violate the law of God without consequence.
    Have a great day!

 - Alan Smith, author of the popular "Thought For Today," and minister for the Fayetteville Church of Christ in Fayetteville, NC, may be contacted at alansmith.servant@gmail.com
How Shall the Young Secure Their Hearts?
By David Bragg
 
    Isaac Watts was young once. He knew the travails of living in a hostile world. Born in 1674, the first of nine children, his father was a religious dissenter whose views more than once landed him in jail. Barred from the best schools in England because of his family's faith, at a young age he distinguished himself as a scholar (mastering Latin, Greek, French, and Hebrew before the age of thirteen) and a poet. Isaac developed the habit of constantly speaking in rhyme. When upbraided by his frustrated father, Isaac replied, “O father, do some pity take / And I will no more verses make.” When he kept complaining about the poor quality of hymns being sung in worship, his father challenged him to either stop complaining or write something better. That evening as the congregation met for worship Watts presented them with a new composition. Each Sunday for the next two years he came to worship with a brand new hymn.
    He knew the heartbreak of rejected love. Among the many letters of admirers was the praise of an adoring fan named, oddly enough, Elizabeth Singer. At their first meeting Isaac was immediately smitten. Elizabeth not so much. Watts was short (under five feet), with a large head, hooked nose and poor complexion. When Isaac proposed, Elizabeth turned him down because of his appearance. To his credit, the two remained friends for years.
    Isaac Watts survived the trials of growing up. And 1719 the hymn "How Shall the Young Secure Their Hearts" made its public debut. Based on the 119th Psalm, his words have brought reassurance to parents and youth for generations. The song's continued relevance is a reflection of both Isaac Watts brilliance as the "Father of English Hymnody" and the message of the scripture upon which it is based.

- David Bragg works with 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/  
When Silence Isn’t Golden
By Ron Adams

Author's Note: (This happened during my high school years, but I am including it because it made a lasting impression.)

    After winning the long jump competition in a high school track meet, the results were printed in the local newspaper. The next day at school some students, having read the results, were amazed at the distance I had jumped. They said the reported distance was a new school record, breaking the old one by almost two feet.
    However, their praise was somewhat bittersweet. True, I broke the record, but the paper made a mistake in the distance I jumped. Here’s where my silence wasn’t golden.
    The praise and adulation was such a heady experience (a seldom one at that), I chose not to mention that the report was in error. All day long the praise kept coming but my silence only made me feel worse.
    At days end it was apparent I had made the wrong decision in keeping silent. One must be truthful, even if it means the loss of praise or having to suffer hurt and shame. Not correcting what is wrong, harms the one who keeps silent. Silence never alters facts.
    The truth did come out later and the embarrassment was even harder to endure.
    The truth may hurt, but a lie is agony.

- F.Y.C. is a monthly publication by Ron Adams. Bible references are from the NASB except where another translation is referenced. Back issues are archived at http://ra10ar.com Be thoughtful and kind. All rights reserved. © 2014
No Appeal
By Charlie Gamble

    But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does. James 1:25 (NKJV)
So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. James 2:12 (NKJV)
    When I was involved in a jail ministry I noticed that some of the inmates would study the law books intently. They were looking for grounds upon which to appeal their conviction. There was always a chance that they might find something helpful. As I read of the final judgment in the Bible, I see no such opportunity for an appeal. The judgment is FINAL.
   James has made it very clear to us about the standard of final judgment. We will be held accountable to the Word of God (law of liberty). There will be no consideration given to our earthly wealth, fame or power. Jesus made the word standard clear in John 12:47-48 (NKJV) “And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.  He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him--the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.”
    Why not appeal to Him now before it is too late to do so? A group of people once asked the question, “What shall we do?” The answer was clear. You will find it in Acts 2:30. Your decision about those words will have an impact upon your final judgment.
 
- Charlie Gamble preaches for the Brunswick Church of Christ in Southport, NC. He may be contacted at cgamble64@gmail.com
Dealing with Divorce
By Jeremiah James Tatum

 I am not an expert on this topic. I am not experienced personally with this circumstance. I only have two things that can help me understand how to deal with divorce. I have the Bible. I have many friends both Christian and non-Christian who I have counseled through the divorce process.
     I am writing about this today because it is highly relevant in our society. Anything that advances in our society also finds its way into the church. This article is not going to address the rights and wrongs of divorce. At the proper time classes and sermons will be able to deal with God’s principles concerning marriage and how to obey them. Instead I would like to bring to your mind some important concepts concerning how every person can try to understand and properly associate with those who have been devastated by divorce. Hopefully this will help us all show the love of Christ for those in this situation.
     First of all, nobody gets married to get divorced. To my knowledge, I have never met a couple who intended from the get-go for their marriage to eventually be dissolved. But divorce does happen. God never gave marriage to mankind so we could break the marriage covenant. Sin allows for divorce to become a reality. Understand that those who are or have been divorced never wanted it to happen in the first place.
     Secondly, people who are divorced feel the stigma that is often attached. This is hard to discuss. Should there be a stigma? Have you been a perfect marriage partner? Let me help you – the answer is no. But marriage is a commitment and divorce is a conscious decision to break the commitment. Thus the stigma. At some point somebody didn’t want to be married enough to keep their promise. Sometimes, it is merely a Biblical response to the concession allowed by Christ. Other times, a divorce takes place with no Biblical reason or support. Understand that whatever the reason, the divorced feel the stigma. It is a weight for them. They are going to need some help to carry that load.
     Thirdly, with divorce there is grief. The grief process is similar to but different than experiencing the death of a loved one. The steps of grieving are the same but the reasons to grieve are different. The long-term effects of the loss are also different. We need to understand that people who have dealt with divorce are going to need to grieve. We should have as much if not more concern and care for them as we do a person who has lost their closest friend or family member.
     Finally, there is life after divorce. Some people will have the right to remarry, and some will not. But either way, a second chance to make the best life possible still awaits. We all need forgiveness, mercy, grace, and unconditional love. Every day is a new day and the mercies of God are new every morning. His compassions fail not. God loves us more than we could ever know or imagine. When things do not turn out well for us, God’s parental love for our best interests remains. Regardless of the circumstances, a true child of God will have compassion on any person who has gone through a divorce. If the person is in sin, we should worry about their soul and the changes that need to be made. If the person is living faithfully, we must weep with them that weep until the season of weeping is over. Our willingness to care for people who have experienced divorce should never be related to their level of guilt.
     It is my prayer that, as a Christian, God will give me the ability to help those who have experienced divorce. It is my prayer that His church will always reach out and express love to every person in every circumstance. This is what love does.
       “The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: ‘Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.’”  - Jeremiah 31:3

- Jeremiah James Tatum preaches for Willow Avenue Church of Christ, Cookeville, TN.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.willowcofc.net/
The Standard Used
By Ron Thomas

    There are many times when a person will forthrightly declare toward the actions of another that something done is wrong. Thinking about such judgments, it is surely possible that one might be able to declare rather clearly and with certainty that what was done was (or is) wrong. Yet, when this is done, exactly what standard is used to judge it so?
    In Genesis 20, the Lord intercepted the actions of the king of Gerar (in the land of the Philistines), making use of a phrase that helps us to see the proper standard to be used in making judgments. “Then God said to him in the dream, ‘Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me. Therefore I did not let you touch her’” (20:6, ESV).
    Often times, however, someone will rendered a judgment against another wherein no sin actually was committed, but a judgment of wrong was still applied.  Thus, the question that is always warranted: “By whose standard are you judging me? Is it the Lord’s, or you own?” This is an important question, and not one to be summarily dismissed.
    When someone judges your actions to be wrong, be sure to inquire by what standard of measurement they used to judge what was done wrong? If it is the Lord’s standard, and it is obviously the case they are right in making this judgment, then make corrections. On the other hand, if it is their own standard of judgment, then politely and respectfully reason with them concerning the matter in question. 
    When it comes right down to it, one’s personal judgment is of little to no consequence in comparison to the Lord’s. Whatever good judgment one may have needs to be measured against the Lord’s standard—how much more so with one who has no good judgment?

 - Ron Thomas serves as preacher and an elder for the Highway Church of Christ, Sullivan, IL  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.highwaycofc.com

How Great is God
By Gerald Cowan

Look at the world. How did it come?
It could not just have happened
Or been here eternally.
God made the world, made ev’rything,
Then put all things in their place
Where they must stay by His decree.

When God made man He made him for
Dominion over creatures
In the earth and sky and sea.
He gave to man His spirit and
Promised fellowship to all
Who, through Christ, from sin are made free.

God gave His Son as sacrifice
For those whose lives, though sin-scarred,
Come to Him to be made free.
He grants imputed righteousness
To all who will obey Him
And maintain their integrity.

God’s Holy Spirit then is giv’n
To dwell within that person
Who has chosen His to be.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Stay within the faithful one,
Unhidden light that all can see.  

How great is God! How great His Son!
How great His Holy Spirit
Who now lives and moves in me.
Since that first day I gave to Him
The life I owe to Jesus
He keeps it for eternity.

- 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
Who is Your Neighbor?
By Jim Faughn

    I saw the red lights flashing. I saw somebody removed from the house on a stretcher. By the time I got there, the ambulance was gone. I did learn that the lady who lived there had fallen and injured herself. I told the lady who gave me that information to please let me know how I could help. I gave her my business card and encouraged her to keep me informed. Then, I was off to perform one of my “official duties.” I was to speak at a funeral service for a lady I had never met.
    As I spoke at that service, I was haunted by the red lights. Days later, as I write these words, they still haunt me. You see, there is only one house between our house and the house where the ambulance made its stop. Only one house separates me from a neighbor who could have used some help that day --- and maybe other days. Only one house separates me from a neighbor whose name I did not even know!
    Modern technology has, in many ways, made the world so much smaller. In much less than the time it has already taken me to write these words, I can go online and communicate with a friend of mine who preaches in Australia or a young preacher in India I met when he was a small boy. I can use some of the tools available to me to share my thoughts with anybody who cares to read them. Type; click; they’re out there. Maybe it all began with that man on television in the sweater. You know the one. With a warm smile, he sang, “Won’t you be my neighbor?”
    Maybe that’s where we got the idea that we don’t have to be too concerned with real people in our real neighborhoods. I’d never before thought of any connection between Mr. Rogers and “virtual reality,” but now I’m beginning to wonder.
    The red lights taught me something. They taught me that, along with my “official duties” and my opportunities to communicate widely, I don’t need to lose the human touch. I don’t need to wrap myself in my own little cocoon. I don’t need to be isolated and insulated from real people who are, in a very real sense, my neighbors.
    A lawyer, who was trying to put Jesus to the test, asked our Lord, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke10:29) His question, like his entire exchange with Jesus, was designed to “…put [Jesus] to the test…”. (v. 25) In a sense, I was “put to the test” and I flunked it. I’m taking steps to make sure that will never happen again. I want to know my neighbors and to be a neighbor. Who is your neighbor? Do you know? Do you care? Do they know you care?

 - Jim Faughn serves as an elder and preacher for the Central Church of Christ in Paducah KY.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.centralchurchofchrist.org
Who is a Christian?
By Ronald Bartanen
 
   The story is told of two men who had been shipwrecked and were able to take refuge on an island. As they went about the island, considering their circumstances, they heard voices. Fearing that they may have been hearing cannibals, they crept closer, and found a group of men drinking, cursing and gambling. “Thank God, they’re Christians!” they exclaimed. To them, anyone who didn’t eat other men was a Christian.
   The term “Christian” has taken a very broad meaning in today’s society. The media a couple years ago even tagged a terrorist in Norway a “Christian” though he claimed no relationship to Christ. To many, it has come to mean anyone who is not Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, atheist, etc. must be a Christian. This is certainly broader than the New Testament conception. The most important definition, however, is not to be determined by popular opinion, but by the Bible. How society uses the term is inconsequential; how the Lord would regard it is of supreme importance.
   Acts 11:26 informs us that “the disciples were called Christians….” Jesus had commissioned the apostles to “make disciples…baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:18-19). Peter, addressing those who had purified their souls in obeying the truth (1 Pet. 1:23), admonished them, “If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name” (1 Pet. 4:16, TEV). The disciples of Christ were those who responded by faith to Him in repentance and baptism, thus committing their lives to Him. (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38) They were those who had been buried with Christ in the waters of baptism, and raised from the waters to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4).
   Living in what is sometimes referred to as a “Christian nation” does not make one a Christian any more than living in a chicken house would make one a chicken.  Nor would even “joining a church”, in itself, make one a Christian. Following Jesus does. Are you a Christian—by the Bible’s definition?

 - Ronald Bartanen preaches for Arthur Church of Christ, Arthur, IL.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.arthurchurchofchrist.com

Self-Reliance is Faithless
By Joe Chesser
 
     No one would have mistaken the ancient Babylonian soldiers for gentle-men.  They were ruthless.  They were vicious.  They were resilient.  Have you ever seen a video where a crocodile attacks its prey?  If so you get the picture of how the Babylonian army was. There was no Geneva Convention.  There were no humane rules of engagement. There was only a ravenous thirst for victory.  God described them in Habakkuk 1 as “ruthless and impetuous,” “feared and dreaded,” and “a law to themselves and promote their own honor.” The chapter ends by describing their pride in their own destructive power as men “whose own strength is their god.”
     I don’t think God was complimenting the Babylonian army. Instead, we can learn from Habakkuk that all who are a god to themselves, all who rely on their own strength will eventually face the wrath and vengeance of God!  Self-reliance is not something God appreciates or blesses. What God does appreciate and bless is when “the righteous will live by his faith” (Hab. 2.4).
     Early in the history of the Israelite nation the Midianite army (another very powerful army) was threatening them.  God chose Gideon to lead the battle against the Midianites, but didn’t want self-reliance to infect Gideon’s army (Judges 7.2).  So, God instructed Gideon to tell everyone who was fearful of the looming battle to go home.  22,000 of the 32,000 headed home!  After narrowing the remaining 10,000 down to a mere 300, Gideon’s army was ready to confront their powerful enemy.  300 against an army described “as thick as locusts” (Judges 7.12). Why did God reduce Gideon’s army from 32,000 to 300? The answer is to prevent Israel from boasting about how by their own strength they saved Israel (Judges 7.2).
     It’s pretty clear from these, and many other passages, that God is not looking for people filled with self-reliance.  Instead, God is looking for people filled with faith and trust in Him and His power.  God knows it’s easy for us to put our confidence in ourselves and what we can do with our numbers, our money, our plans and our strengths. Though we are nothing like the Babylonians or the Midianites, we are still sometimes tempted to trust in the strength of our budgets, our experience, our talents, our knowledge, organizational skills, our goals, etc.
     My point is not that we do nothing and let God do it all.  No, but we need to put all of our trust and reliance in what God chooses to do through us.  “The righteous will live by faith.”  Self- reliance is faithless!  Read Psalm 28.7-9.

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