BulletinGold #173
June 2016  
Vol 16 #3 

June 2016                                      BG# 173                                      Vol. 16                                       Issue 03
BULLETINGold
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In this issue ...
At Your Funeral
By Larry Pasley
Independence Day By Ron Thomas
Stepping Away From the Crowd By Joe Chesser
Afraid to Speak Up
By Alan Smith
Read the Word By Robert E. Guinn
The Name Christian
By Joe Slater
My Feelings are Hurt – I Quit! By R. W. McAlister
Heaven By Steve Higginbotham
I’m Not Good Enough By Donna Richmond Wittlif
Maintaining the Connection
By Lance Cordle
A Little Child Shall Lead Them By David A. Sargent
Will God Really Punish?
By Charlie Gamble
Misunderstood Freedom
By Charlton Rhinehart
Creating a Pure Heart
By Jeff Arnette
Daily Challenge - Read Your Bible By Brian Mitchell
Fear Runs Rampant in Our Race
By J. Randal Matheny

At Your Funeral
By by Larry Pasley

     Three old friends are sitting around and one of them brings up a question: “When you are in your casket, and friends and family are mourning over you, what would you like to hear them say about you?”
     The first guy immediately responds, “I would like to hear them say that I was one of the great doctors of my time, and a great family man.”
     The second guy says, “I would like to hear that I was a wonderful husband and school teacher who made a huge difference in the children of tomorrow.”
     The last guy thinks a minute and replies, “I guess I’d like to hear them say, ‘Look, he’s moving!”
     Many are very reluctant to leave this life and want to hold on to it at all costs. Do we realize what heaven is really like? No one who really understands the beauty and wonders of heaven would ever be reluctant to leave this earth and go there.
Heaven is a spiritual place but God describes it to us in physical terms since we can’t really understand spiritual beauty.
  • Revelation 21:4 "And 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 21:18-21 "The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass. 19 The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all kinds of precious stones: the first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth sardonyx, the sixth sardius, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls: each individual gate was of one pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass."
It is far better for us to depart this life and be with the Lord.
  • Philippians 1:21-23 "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better."
  • 2 Corinthians 5:5-8 "Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. 6 So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.
Satan wants to keep us in bondage by our fear of death.
  • Hebrews 2:14-15 "Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage."
May we always remember that beautiful, wonderful, heavenly home that is waiting for us when we leave this life and this world.

- Larry Pasley serves as a minister with the Jackson Street Church of Christ in Alexandria, LA. He may be contacted through the congregation's website.
Independence Day
By Ron Thomas

    Independence Day is a period of time when we do not have to go to work. We can, rather, spend an enjoyable time doing what we like. Independence Day, of course, is our country’s recognition of the founding fathers declaring their independence from Great Britain in 1776. It was a declaration by people in this “new-world,” though not recognized by England. It was not until the end of the Revolutionary War in 1781 that Great Britain gave up the fight to retain her subject people on this continent.
    Two hundred and forty years ago some well-educated (and not so well educated) men set in order a document that has stood the test of time. The Declaration of Independence (and the Constitution of the United States of America) stand as monuments to man’s ability to establish a government by the people and for the people—all in liberty. Unfortunately, though, we live in a country now that seems to give little consideration to those two great monuments of man.
    For a moment this holiday weekend give thoughtful consideration to what those people, who lived so many years ago, did to give you and me freedom today. They sacrificed their sacred honor to establish a government that now stands as a leader in this world of government’s by man. 
    This form of liberty that we embrace pales, however, in comparison with a liberty that is greater than this world.  Paul wrote to the Romans: “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself with the mind serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin” (7:24-25, EMTV). This is a sacred honor I stand up for, and am willing to die for. What about you?

- 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.
Stepping Away From the Crowd
By Joe Chesser
 
    Most of us know pretty well the story of Peter walking on water (Matthew 14:22-33). It was an incredible demonstration of faith. Can you imagine actually climbing out of the boat and walking toward Jesus? I mean, the odds were stacked heavily against him. The time was somewhere between 3 and 6 AM, the wind was howling and causing the waves to crash around the boat, they were exhausted from struggling all night to cross the lake, and the disciples were terrified at seeing what they thought was a “ghost” (remember it was just before dawn). Yet, at Jesus’ invitation Peter had the courage and faith to do the irrational – he stepped out of the boat and walked on the water toward Him.
    Usually when we think about this story we key in on two things:
        1) if we keep our eyes on Jesus we can do amazing things, and
        2) the minute we take our eyes off of Jesus we begin to sink.
Great lessons, but there’s something else in this story worth noticing – the other disciples were still in the boat.
    I can’t help but wonder what they were thinking when Peter started to climb out of the boat. Did they encourage him or try to stop him? Did they marvel at his faith or question his sanity? Perhaps they were stunned and speechless. Were they praising God or looking for a life jacket? Were they tempted to get out of the boat, too? There’s a lot we don’t know.
    However, there are two things we do know. We know they didn’t get out of the boat, and we know that Peter did. Only Peter had the courage and faith to step away from his peers (the crowd) and head toward Jesus simply because Jesus said, “Come.” Of the group, only Peter walked on water.
    I think that’s also what Jesus is asking us to do: “Step away from the crowd, walk on water and come to me.” He’s asking us to step away from the crowded road and walk the narrow path to life (Matthew 7:13-14). He’s asking us to turn away from the unthankful majority and give Him praise even if no one else does (Luke 17:11-19). He’s asking us to leave what’s comfortable and carry His cross (Luke 14:25-27). He’s asking us to stop walking by sight and live by faith (2 Corinthians. 5:7). He’s asking us to give up our trust in money and material things, and seek Him first (Matthew 6:24-33). He’s asking us to quit making excuses and get out of the boat!! He’s asking us to step away from the crowds like Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses and David did (Hebrews 11).
    If you had been in the boat with Peter, what would you have done?

- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website.

Afraid to Speak Up
By Alan Smith

    Farmer Joe decided his injuries from the accident were serious enough to take the trucking company to court.
    In court, the trucking company's fancy lawyer was questioning farmer Joe. "Didn't you say at the scene of the accident, 'I'm fine'?", asked the lawyer.
    Farmer Joe responded, "Well, I'll tell you what happened.  I had just loaded my favorite mule Bessie into the......."
    "I didn't ask for any details," the lawyer interrupted, "just answer the question.  Did you not say at the scene of the accident, 'I'm fine!'?"
    Farmer Joe said, "Well, I had just got Bessie into the trailer and I was driving down the road..."
    The lawyer interrupted again and said, "Judge, I am trying to establish the fact that, at the scene of the accident, this man told the highway patrolman on the scene that he was just fine.  Now several weeks after the accident he is trying to sue my client."  I believe he is a fraud.  Please tell him to simply answer the question."
    By this time the judge was fairly interested in Farmer Joe's answer and said to the lawyer, "I'd like to hear what he has to say about his favorite mule Bessie."
    Joe thanked the judge and proceeded, "Well as I was saying, I had just loaded Bessie, my favorite mule, into the trailer and was driving her down the highway when this huge semi-truck and trailer ran the stop sign and smacked my truck right in the side.  I was thrown into one ditch and Bessie was thrown into the other.  I was hurting real bad and didn't want to move. However, I could hear ole Bessie moaning and groaning.  I knew she was in terrible shape just by her groans.
    Shortly after the accident, a highway patrolman came on the scene.  He could hear Bessie moaning and groaning, so he went over to her.  After he looked at her, he took out his gun and shot her between the eyes.
    Then the patrolman came across the road with his gun in his hand and looked at me.  He said, "Your mule was in such bad shape I had to shoot her.  How are you feeling?"
    There are times in our lives when we are hesitant to say something out of fear.  Not fear of being "shot", but fear of being "shot down", fear of being ridiculed, fear of being embarrassed.  As a result, given the opportunity to take a stand for Christ, we choose silence instead.  It seems "safe" considering the circumstances.
    May God help us to replace our fear of men with the fear of God.
    "And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness' sake, you are blessed. 'And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.'  But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear." (I Peter 3:13-15)
    So........how are you feeling?  :-)
     Have a great day!

- Alan Smith, author of the popular "Thought For Today," and minister for the Cruciform Church of Christ in Spring Lake, North Carolina, may be contacted at alansmith.servant@gmail.com or through the congregation's website.
Read the Word
By Robert E. Guinn
 
    Few things could be considered more important than encouraging one another to read and study the Scriptures on a regular basis. Some of us may have the annual ritual of reading through the book in a year, or we may have made a resolution to do so this year. The Bible highlights the importance of this by saying:
  • “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you,” (Psalm 119:19).
  • “I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation,” (Psalm 119:99).
  • “Devote yourself to the… reading of Scripture…immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress.  Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching.  Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers,” (1 Timothy 4:13-16).
  • “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable,” (2 Timothy 3:16).
    Sometimes keeping these goals, however, can be very difficult. Perhaps we become discouraged believing that we are the only ones doing it. Maybe setting a “regular” time of day to read is nearly impossible due to our chaotic schedules.  We may even find ourselves so involved in the “Lord’s work” and / or congregational events that we find ourselves with spiritual cups that are on the verge of being empty. 
    When Jesus was with Mary and Martha, Martha was “distracted with much serving,” (Luke 10:40).  We know that serving is not a bad thing (John13), but the difference between Mary and Martha is that Mary took the appropriate time to sit at the feet of our Lord receiving a “good portion, which will not be taken from her,” (Luke 10:42). We too must take appropriate time to sit at the feet of Jesus and listen.
    Why do we read in the Bible “my cup overflows” when someone is in the middle of “the valley of the shadow of death,” (Psalm 23)? God was the source of their spiritual strength and stamina. The source of our faith and strength is the word of God (Romans 10:17). This year, let us stockpile God’s word in our hearts and minds. Let us strengthen our faith together!

- Robert Guinn preaches for the Central Church of Christ in Paducah KY.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website.
The Name Christian
By Joe Slater

    How many times do you suppose the New Testament contains the word “Christian”? Thousands of times? Hundreds? Dozens? Actually, the word appears only three times! But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use it. Let’s look at the three passages containing the word “Christian.”
    “And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch” (Acts 11:26). The question arises: Who called them that? Some think Jesus’ enemies coined the name as a mocking insult. However, the wording of the passage shows that none other than God Himself gave them that name.
    This peculiar word for “called” is used only nine times in the entire New Testament; invariably, it connotes that God is doing the calling. For example, Noah was “divinely warned” to build the ark (Hebrews 11:7). The wise men were “divinely warned” not to go back to Herod (Matthew 2:12). Cornelius was “divinely instructed” to send for Peter (Acts 10:22). Just so, the disciples of Jesus were divinely named Christians.
    Since God gave that name, why wear any other? How disgraceful, to put the name of some religious leader or some peculiar doctrine in front of the name Christian! Can you feature Paul or Peter saying, “I’m a ______-Christian”? (Fill in the blank with a name based on a doctrine or famous leader).
    “You almost persuade me to become a Christian” (Acts 26:28). So said King Agrippa upon hearing the gospel from Paul. Christianity is the fulfillment of what Moses and the prophets predicted (Acts 26:22, 23), and Agrippa believed the prophets (v. 27). As far as we know, however, the king never obeyed the gospel. How tragic, that one so near being persuaded could not bring himself to turn from his wickedness, embrace the Lord’s gracious offer of salvation, and wear the name Christian!
    Our last passage reads: “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter” (1 Peter 4:16; some translations read “in this name”). We give no glory to God when we suffer the just penalties for wrong-doing; but when we suffer for being Christians, we honor Him, suffering for righteousness’ sake (Matthew 5:10-12).
    It is becoming less and less popular to be a Christian. Will we ever be called upon to suffer violent persecution as the early Christians did? Only God knows. But whether our suffering is small or great, let us endure it graciously, with a Christ-like spirit. May we wear the name Christian happily, and may we live in such a way as to bring no shame upon it!
 
- Joe Slater serves as minister of the Church of Christ in Justin, TX. He may be contacted through the congregation's website.
My Feelings are Hurt – I Quit!
By R. W. McAlister

    We’ve seen it time and time again. A Christian (or sometimes a non-Christian) who is usually found in attendance at worship or some church activity stops coming – no longer attends worship and won’t be found at the clean-up day or potluck. Sometimes, it’s sudden, but more often, the decline in attendance is gradual. A Wednesday night service is missed, then Sunday night, church outings, until the person no longer is seen anywhere with the Lord’s people when they gather.
    While there are numerous reasons for why this may occur, one commonly voiced reason is “hurt feelings” over one thing or another. For example: “I missed two Sundays in a row and nobody called to check on me.” “I had surgery and nobody came to see me or even sent a card.” “You know my loved one is ill and you didn’t put his name on the prayer list.” “The preacher doesn’t care about; he only has time for ‘important’ members.” “The Bible teacher disagreed with my remark.” In this person’s mind, the church is the offender and is filled with hypocrites who have hurt him and don’t really care about him – or her. That’s a questionable excuse we often hear.
    I’m not defending hypocrisy. Of course, hypocrites must repent in order to be saved (Matthew 23:28; I Timothy 4:2; James 3:17). Jesus said that sinners will be appointed “…his portion with the hypocrites: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:51). To use hypocrites as an excuse for abandoning God is foolish. The presence of one or one hundred hypocrites has nothing to do with my relationship with God, unless I allow it! Let me ask: do we come to the assembly to judge our brethren (Matthew 7:1-2), or to worship our God (John 4:24)? Which is worse, to continue to worship and work faithfully with other imperfect saints, trying to get stronger, or to drop out and let the devil have our souls?
    How do we win back those who quit over hurt feelings? If our initial approach is critical (We shake our finger and scream, “You’re going to hell for quitting!), we shouldn’t be surprised if they get hostile. We might do better to gently remind them that it wasn’t God who hurt their feelings. It makes no sense to take it out on Him when He has only blessed and helped us. Losing one’s soul (the end result of quitting the church) is a high price to pay because we don’t like a church member (Ephesians 4:32) – or because we think they don’t like us. When tempted to give up over hurt feelings, we might ask ourselves four questions:
  •   Did anyone spit on me? They did on Jesus (Mt. 26:67).
  •   Did anyone beat me on the back? They did Him (Mk. 15:15).
  •   Did anyone force a crown of thorns down upon my head? They did His (Mt. 27:29).
  •   Did anyone hang me on a cross? They did Jesus (Mk. 15:25).
    They did all these things to Him and more. Yet He never lost focus on honoring His Father’s will. May we never lose focus over something much more trivial.

- R. W. McAlister preaches for the Anna Church of Christ in Anna, IL.He may be contacted through the congregation's website.
Heaven
By Steve Higginbotham

    Occasionally, someone will ask me how I come up with ideas for all the articles I write. Well, it's not hard when you're surrounded by people who are spiritually minded. Just this week, a friend and brother, Lance Champion made an observation that has really resonated with me and I hope it will you too.
     Lance said, "For those who are Christians, earth will be the closest they'll ever get to Hell; and for those who are not Christians, earth will be the closest they'll ever get to Heaven."
     I find that statement to be profound; pregnant with hope as well as sadness. 
     I have a vivid memory of riding in the car with my dad when I was a boy. We were riding through an area where the houses were dilapidated and children were running around barefoot and barely clothed. I remember sitting at a traffic light, watching the children, and telling my dad how sad I felt for those kids and the conditions in which they lived. I'll never forget my dad's response. He said, "Unless someone teaches them about Jesus, this is the best it will ever get for them."
     I hate to think that this world is the very best some will ever experience. It lights a fire under me to be more zealous in sharing the gospel. However, at the same time, I take great comfort in the fact that because I am a child of God, this world, with all its heartaches and hardships will be the worst I'll ever experience!
     Thanks for the reminder, Lance!

  - Steve Higginbotham preaches for the Karns Church of Christ in Knoxville, TN. He may be contacted through the congregation's website. Copyright © 2016 MercEmail
I’m Not Good Enough
By Donna Richmond Wittlif

    We receive a brotherhood paper that usually lists the accomplishments and great deeds performed by Christians. I love to read these, but they often leave me with the feeling that I have not done enough wonderful things for God and my fellow man. In other words, I'm just not good enough.
    This way of thinking contains several fallacies. First, scripture tells us that “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). No one is good enough. If we are working to earn our salvation, we are working for the wrong reason. That attitude negates God's saving grace through Jesus Christ our Lord.
    Second, I believe that if we let God work through us, He puts us where He needs us. We may not become a famous doctor, lawyer, teacher, or great leader, but our Father needs those who will humbly do what needs done where they are. God will use our talents, whether they be taking care of our family, encouraging others, or just giving a thirsty soul a glass of cold water. God does not give everyone the same talents, and He wants us to serve Him where we are.
    Third, God does want us to grow, but He doesn't expect us to do it by ourselves. God told Paul, “My power is made perfect in weakness” (II Corinthians 12:9). We are weak, but it is God's power, not ours, that strengthens us.
    Fourth, we should know that our self-doubts and discouragement are Satan's weapons against us. Satan knows that if we get down on ourselves, we will lose our focus on God and Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. When we focus on God and Jesus, we are always good enough.

- Donna Richmond Wittlif, the founder and first editor of BulletinGold, lives in Denver, CO. Donna is also a writer of fiction. Her novels, World Eternal: Promises and World Eternal: Proselytes, are available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other book outlets. Her third book, World Eternal: Perils, should be out soon. For more information visit her website.
Maintaining the Connection
By Lance Cordle

    Summertime is almost here—and with it the tendency for families to drift from closeness within the church because of family travel and activities. Here are a few suggestions to help maintain that connection. I will use the term “home church” for convenience and lack of a better one.
• Resolve that you will be present at assemblies when you are out of town. It is so easy to “take a vacation from the Lord.” The easiest thing to do is to do nothing.
• Tell someone your plans—preferably one of the preachers or elders. It will not be announced. This will help the elders in the shepherding of the flock. It could also help you by having someone check on your house, etc. if needed.
• Make sure you read the bulletin for the week you will be gone. You will want to know about events and illnesses. You might want to take it with you so you can pray about matters while you are gone.
• Plan to attend worship at or near the place (s) you are going to be. This has been made so much easier with the advent of the internet. You can set things up before you go or you can line it up by smartphone, laptop or tablet as you are traveling.
• Pick up a bulletin from the church you visit. This will help you have a connection as a brother or sister in Christ from a distance. You can also bring to a preacher or elder at your home church. It can serve as a humorous “get back in the door ticket,” or as a source of ideas for future programs or other biblically approved ways of doing things as a congregation.
• Think about your contribution. I generally recommend that Christians leave their contribution with their home congregation. After all, bills and other obligations continue even though you may be gone for a week or two. If you are attending a smaller, struggling church, you might consider giving all or part of your weekly contribution there.
• Pray for your brothers and sisters back home.
• When you return, join in the worship and work with renewed vigor and enthusiasm!
- Lance Cordle preaches the Calvert City Church of Christ in Calvert City, KY.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website.
A Little Child Shall Lead Them
By David A. Sargent

    Stuart Cash describes Rivers Clark as “a four year old girl full of life, energy and love for Jesus.” For most of her life, Rivers has come with her grandparents, Bob and Jacquie Barringer, to church services at the Pleasant Valley Church of Christ in Little Rock, Arkansas. Now, another member of Rivers’ family is worshipping with them. Stuart Cash tells us how it developed…
    A little over a year ago, Rivers began asking her ‘Da Da’, Ron Clark, if he would read her a Bible story before bedtime every night. Even though he himself wasn’t going to church or following Jesus at the time, he still agreed. Night after night of reading Bible stories to her, he began to think about his life – about things like peace, joy, happiness, and of course, purpose.
    After a few weeks, Rivers asked her ‘Da Da’ if he would come to church with her. Even though he didn’t really want to, he once again said he would just because she wanted him to. When he first started bringing Rivers to Pleasant Valley, he would take her to class and then sit in the back of the auditorium, doing his best to avoid any conversations. Truth is, he felt guilty for even being in church. He was under the misconception that in order to attend a church, you have to have your life in order; you couldn’t have a past; you had to have all of the answers. Since he knew that he didn’t, he felt guilty even being there. But week after week, he started to notice that others there were also struggling with temptations. They didn’t have it all together or have all the answers. They, too, had a past, just like he.
    Slowly he started to talk with people, build relationships, attend classes, and study the Scriptures with one of the ministers on staff. One Wednesday night in the 4-year-old-class, Rivers asked the teacher the most beautiful question anyone has ever heard, “Are you going to baptize my DaDa?” A year after Ron started coming to church with his daughter, he made the decision to put Christ on in baptism for the forgiveness of his sins. He realized that his life was in need of a Savior. He finally found the purpose for which he’d always been searching. *
    Stuart Cash also wrote: “Just like Ron, we all have a story. We all have a past. We all have things in our lives of which we aren’t proud.” But that is the very reason for which Jesus came: to save us from our sins (Luke 19:10)!
    God loves us so much that He gave His One and Only Son to die on the cross for our sins (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2). On the cross, Jesus paid the price for our sins so that we can be forgiven and receive the gift of eternal life (Ephesians 1:7; Romans 6:23).
    God will save those who put their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of 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).
    Aren’t you happy for Rivers’ dad, Ron, for his decision to be baptized into Christ? Aren’t you also thankful for little Rivers who loved her Daddy so much that she wanted him to know about Jesus?
    “A little child shall lead them…” (Isaiah 11:6).
    Won’t YOU also become a Christian?

- 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.

* “Child Leads Father to Christ” by Stuart Cash, Involvement Minister, Pleasant Valley Church of Christ, April 13, 2016, in The Good News, a monthly report from Oklahoma Christian University.
Will God Really Punish?
By Charlie Gamble

    Sometimes when discussing error with others I am confronted with the question: Do you think God will really punish someone because of that?
    I have decided to interview some people from the Bible about that but I am having trouble reaching them. Here are the topics along with the last known location of those who were in error:
  • Lying: (Acts 5:1-11) Ananias and Sapphira
  • Disobedience: (Lev 10:1-2) Nadab and Abihu
  • Arrogance: (Acts 12:21-23) Herod
  • Worshipping a false god: (I Kings 18:21-40) Prophets of Baal
    Actually, I don’t need to interview them. I just need to believe this: For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. Romans 15:4 (NKJV)

- Charlie Gamble preaches for the Brunswick Church of Christ in Southport, NC. He may be contacted at cgamble64@gmail.com

Misunderstood Freedom
By Charlton Rhinehart

    The Fourth of July or Independence Day is a time that we in America celebrate and remember our freedom as a nation. Like most national holidays, we often ignore their significance, but nevertheless, it is basic knowledge that America is “the land of the free.” Do you remember when you were young what you thought when adults emphasized how grateful we should be to be “free”? I remember especially in the first, second and third grade how often the teachers would point out that America is where we are free, whether it was in music class or literature, we were reminded often. But how did I and my peers of great wisdom respond? – “If we are free, then why do we have to be at school?” Or maybe we would extend it to the dreaded homework, – “I am a free American, I don’t have to do this homework!” Clearly we were missing the point of what it meant to be free.
    In the New Testament we also see this same term “freedom,” used to describe Christians. Many scriptures talk about it; take 2 Corinthians 3:17 for example: “Now the Lord is Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” You might think also of passages like “the law of liberty” as James describes the New Covenant (Jas 1:25, 2:12). It is apparent that we who are in Christ are free or at liberty in some way, but just like our ignorance of America’s freedom we failed to understand in our youth, so also many fail to understand the freedom that we have in Christ. To make matters worse, not only is it the people’s gossip that causes us to misunderstand this freedom in Christ, but also the majority of preachers and bible teachers also contribute, saying things like “we don’t have to be worried about sin because Christ has set us free.” While a statement like this is not completely false, (we are free from the sins we have repented from), it also happens to be intentionally deceiving, giving the impression that sin is no big deal.
    So what is our “freedom in Christ” that the scriptures tell us of so often? And what isn’t it? Our freedom in Christ comes down to two major things, we are free from the complexity of the Old Law (Old Testament), and we are free from the wages of our past sins, which is death (Rom 6:23). The Old Law was very difficult to follow, a heavy burden on those who lived under it, and just as the Hebrew writer says, “…He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.” Heb 8:6-7. In Christ that Old Law is completely done away, something that today’s denominations do not understand (Gal 3:25, Rom 7:6, Heb 8:13). The second point, our freedom from our past sins once we put on Christ is something we all know. We all know that Christ died for our sins. Less known however is how we put on Christ, a passage that describes both points, Romans 6:3 says, “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been been baptized into Christ Jesus have been Baptized into His death?” and verse 6 says, “knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin”. When we are buried with Christ in baptism, God at that point removes our past sins as we repent and are baptized for forgiveness, dying to our sinful self and rising to walk in the newness of life.
    So what isn’t our freedom in Christ? Freedom in Christ is not freedom from law all together, just as we still have to go to school and do our homework in our free country, we also have a Christian law we must live by in our freedom of Christ. That law is not the Old Law but it is the new law, the law of Christ (1 Cor 9:21, Gal 6:2), the law of the Spirit (Rom 8:2), the perfect law (Jas 1:25) which is the new covenant. That means we cannot choose our favorite apostle and ignore the writings of the rest, but we are to live by all the New Testament’s teachings. Likewise this means that we are not free to let down our guard against sin just because at one point in our life we were placed in the grace of Christ. We can fall from grace, only “if we walk in the light as He is in the light,” will we be continually cleansed by His blood (1 John 1:7). Jesus told us this so plainly in John 8:31-32, saying; “…If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of mine; and you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” How often have were heard the latter portion of that passage quoted? Promising us that we can be free, yet how uncommon it is that we point out what Christ really said, that this freedom comes if and only if we abide in His word? Paul in Galatians gives us a warning so similar concerning our freedom. “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh…” (Gal 5:13, cf. 1 Pet 2:16, 1 Cor 8:9). Ask yourself, how have you been looking at God’s freedom he has given you? Just like as Americans and even more so as Christians, we have a great freedom to be thankful for and a heavy price that was paid for it. We must not forget the sacrifices that have been made. But we also need to ask our self a simple question. Are we making our freedom in Christ into something that it is not?                  

- via the weekly bulletin of the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. Clifton Angel preaches for the congregation and he may be contacted through that congregation's website. Please also visit Charlton Rhinehart's blog, The bloodBoughtchurch.
Creating a Pure Heart
By Jeff Arnette
 
    Have you ever struggled with sin in your life? If you are like the rest of us, everyone who lives and breathes, then I know you have. How many times have you struggled to stop and repent of a sin only to find yourself back there again? It can be the most heartbreaking, discouraging place you could find yourself and yet we find ourselves there more often than we would like to admit. I completely understand why Paul in heartbreak asked the question, "Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Rom. 7:24).
    By the way, I want to share something with all those Christians who are always looking up to someone else and thinking I will never be able to be as good as them. That person you are looking up too still has sins that they are struggling to overcome. They are not perfect nor can they be. If we could be good enough then we wouldn’t need Jesus to die for us. When it comes to sin we are all in the same boat. We are all sinners in need of a Savior who can accomplish what we cannot (Rom. 3:23; Isa. 64:6).
    David was a man who knew the sting and heartbreak of being overcome by sin. David had committed adultery with Bathsheba, gotten her pregnant, and killed her husband in an attempt to cover it up. Lust got control of David and led him down a path that was almost unstoppable. If God had not reached out to David through Nathan, who knows what would have become of him. In Psalm 51, we have David's prayer for forgiveness and I want you to reflect on a few points that I hope will help you see how to keep moving forward.
     First, I want you to notice the word "me" in Psalm 51. David appeals to God for His mercy and grace. He takes responsibility for his sins and he knows that he needs God's help to overcome them. If we will follow his example we can have the same results.
    Second, I want you to notice what David commits to do with his forgiveness. He promises to take his forgiveness and use it to convince others to return to God. He promises to teach, to sing, to praise, and most importantly to give God what he really wants. David knew that the key to having a pure and clean heart was to give it to God and let him deal with it.
    How can you keep going, keep living for Jesus when everything goes wrong? Give Him your life and your heart. I promise you He will not let you down.

Psalm 51:10–12
"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit."

- Jeff Arnette preaches for the Central Haywood church of Christ, Clyde, NC.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website.
Daily Challenge - Read Your Bible
By Brian Mitchell

    According to a 2014 survey, “The Bible in American Life,” conducted by the Center for the Study of Religion and American Culture, 50% of Americans read some form of scripture in the past year, and 48% of those read the Bible. (This in itself is a sad commentary because I didn’t know there was any other “form” of Scripture than the Bible). Continuing they said that 4 in 5 read it at least once a month, and only 9% of Americans say they read the Bible daily.” According to a 2012 Gallup poll, “77% of Americans identified with some form of the Christian faith.” So 77% of Americans claim to be part of or associated with the Christian Church but ONLY 9% of them read the Scriptures daily. Now let me ask you a question; how many of us actually read our Bible every day?
    According to the Psalmist, the Word of God “is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps.119:105). It is that which brings strength, fruitfulness and prosperity to our lives—Ps.1:3. The question is: how can the Bible do any of this for our lives if we spend little to no time immersed in the reading and studying of the Bible?
    There is no better use of our time than time spent in the Word of God. It is with this in mind that I want to extend the following challenge to all in this congregation today. I want to challenge you to spend some time every day in the Word of God. Whether it’s 10 minutes or an hour a day, no use of your time throughout the day will bring more benefit to your life than the time spent in the Word of God. In the remainder of this article I simply want to encourage you to accept this challenge by sharing some quotes from history affirming the importance and value of daily Bible reading. I hope they will inspire you as they do me.
  • “I am sorry for men who do not read the Bible every day. I wonder why they deprive themselves of the strength and pleasure” (Woodrow Wilson).
  • “The Bible is a book in comparison with which all others are of minor importance, and which in all my perplexities and distresses has never failed to give me light and strength” (Robert E. Lee).
  • “The more profoundly we study this wonderful book [the Bible], and the more closely we observe its divine precepts, the better citizens we will become and the higher will be our destiny as a nation” (William McKinley).
  • “Education is useless without the Bible” (Daniel Webster).
  • “It is necessary for the welfare of the nation that men’s lives be based on the principles of the Bible. No man, educated or uneducated, can afford to be ignorant of the Bible.” “Almost every man who has by his lifework added to the sum of human achievement . . . has based his life-work largely upon the teachings of the Bible” (Theodore Roosevelt).
  • “Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people…so great is my veneration of the Bible that the earlier my children begin to read, the more confident will be my hope that they will prove useful citizens in their country and respectful members of society” (John Adams).
    For benefit in all areas of life, there simply is no substitute in our lives and the lives of our children for the daily reading of God’s Word. May God bless us and our families as we take up the challenge to spend more time in His Word!

- Brian Mitchell preaches for the Jackson Church of Christ in Jackson, MO.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website.

Fear Runs Rampant in Our Race
By J. Randal Matheny
 
Fear runs rampant in our race,
Under our nails, lining the face;
The hiding Adam, Sarah's laugh,
Moses with his wilderness staff,
Jacob fighting at Jabbock's ford,
Simon denying his dying Lord.
Today will fear reach out for me?
Will I stand, or will I flee?
 
---
What a question, is it not? What is your answer? Can we really know until the hour arrives? Does not the question drive us to prayer? Hang tight, and hang tough!

- 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
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