BulletinGold #177
October 2016  
Vol 177 #7 

October 2016                                      BG# 177                                      Vol. 16                                       Issue 07
Subscribe                     Website                     Submissions                      Editor: David Bragg
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In this issue ...
A Heartwarming Letter
By David A. Sargent
Behind Me
By H. L. Gradowith
The Future's Theirs
By J. Randal Matheny
"You Think You are the Only Ones Going to Heaven?"
By Jeff Arnette
By Larry Pasley
Role Models
By Ron Thomas
Ten Misplaced Desires?
By Steve Higginbotham
By Joe Slater
Go Christian!
By Donna Richmond Wittlif
“I Feel Fine!”
By Clifton Angel
The Need for Personal Study
By Robert E. Guinn
Paul's Politics
By David Bragg
The Great Eternal God
By Gerald Cowan
“…Up There Dancing With Jesus”
By A. C. Quinn
By Ron Bartanen
Blind to Our Sin
By Alan Smith

A Heartwarming Letter
By David A. Sargent

    He was known as “the Crocodile Hunter.” Stephen Robert “Steve” Irwin was an Australian wildlife expert, television personality, and conservationist. Irwin achieved worldwide fame from the television series The Crocodile Hunter, an internationally broadcast wildlife documentary series which he co-hosted with his wife, Terri. Together, the couple also owned and operated Australia Zoo, founded by Irwin's parents.
    Irwin died on September 4, 2006, after being pierced in the chest by a stingray barb while filming an underwater documentary film titled Ocean's Deadliest.
    Recently, Bob Irwin, the late Steve Irwin's father, revealed that his son penned a touching note to him and his wife Judy. Bob states that he recently discovered the heartwarming letter in an unopened envelope while doing research for his memoir, “The Last Crocodile Hunter: A Father and Son Legacy,” to be released in November, 2016.
    In the handwritten note, at the age of 32, Steve informed his parents how much they meant to him:

Dear Dad & Mum,

Probably one of the most unfortunate things in a “Bloke's Life” is that it takes over 30 years to realize how essential you have been to build my character, my ethics and, most importantly, my HAPPINESS.  At 32, I am finally starting to figure it out.

In good times and in bad, you were there.  Your strength and endurance to raise me will not go unrewarded.  My love for you is my strength!  For the rest of my life I will reflect on the unbelievably GREAT times we've shared and will continue to share.  You're my best friends!"

Steve Irwin closed the note by saying, "Thank you."

    There is another “letter” that reveals the great love of a Father and Son for YOU and ME... Here are some of the contents of that “letter”:
  • “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 NIV).
  • “This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10 NIV).
The heavenly Father and His Son Jesus expressed this great love for you and me, not because we were “loveable,” but because God created us and because we needed a Savior due to our sin. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God, because of His great love for us, sent Jesus to die on the cross to pay the price for our redemption from sin (Ephesians 1:7).
    God will save and give eternal life to those who will place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are 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).
    The Bible is much more than a love letter; it is God’s revelation to us that reveals God’s identity and reveals our origin, our purpose, and our destiny. Yet, the central message of the Book is that God loves us so much that He gave His Son to die for us so that we can be saved and receive the gift of eternal life.
    Won’t YOU read the “letter” and respond to God’s great love through your trusting obedience?

- 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.
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!

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

The Future's Theirs
By J. Randal Matheny

Don't waste your life with sour regret,
The future's theirs who soon forget
The squandered chances, time ill spent,
Who know the joy to truly repent.

Your sacred moment falls to you Now,
Your fallow ground to break and plow,
Tomorrow's joy, today's clean toil,
When tenfold crops rise from the soil.

- 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

"You Think You are the Only Ones Going to Heaven?"
By Jeff Arnette
    Have you ever had someone say that to you? You have spent time trying to express to them the difference between our church and others. You have spent time trying to help them understand what we believe and why, only to have them misunderstand and throw out that statement. I am sure that it happens more than any of us would like to admit. When this happens they walk away with an unfortunate misunderstanding of our church.
    This causes them to conclude that we are judgmental and think we are the only ones going to heaven. This is really a sad misunderstanding and yet, in some cases, it has proven to be true for some. Many members of the church do leave the impression that they are the only ones who truly get it and are the only ones who will make it to heaven. That is not true of all members of the church of Christ.
    We do, however, like the majority of those who consider themselves Christians, believe that only submission to Jesus will save a person. We believe that unless you submit your will and obey Him to the best of your ability, you will not be saved (Matt. 7:21-23; Luke 6:46-49). We preach and teach in almost every gathering of the church, "If you want to be saved then you must come to Jesus and obey Him."
    Submission to Jesus and His word has always been the thrust of the whole New Testament. In Luke 6:46-49, Jesus taught us that if we build the house our way it is built on shifting sands and will not last. When the difficulties of life come it will fail us. On the other hand if we build our house on the rock, the teachings of Jesus, then our lives will stand strong no matter what happens to us. Submission and obedience to Jesus is the only way to be saved from our sins. There is no other way. "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved”" (Acts 4:12).
    I don't think anyone could say better than what God the Father has already said. Once Jesus took His closest friends and went up on a mountain. There He was transfigured before them. He changed from His bodily form to His glorious spiritual form and the disciples were overwhelmed. Peter as he often does speaks first and asks if they should build three memorial's to commemorate the event. At that moment the Father speaks from heaven and says, “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him.” (Mark 9:7)
    This is all I ask of people today and all that we ask as a church. If you want to be saved from your sins and go to heaven; then you must come to Jesus and listen to Him.

 - Jeff Arnette preaches for the Central Haywood church of Christ, Clyde, NC.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website.
By Larry Pasley
    Flattery is saying positive things about people that you do not really believe, and it is condemned in the Bible.
    Flattery is a trap. Proverbs 29:5 asserts, "A man who flatters his neighbor Spreads a net for his feet."
    Flattery is used to gain advantage over someone. "These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage" (Jude 1:16).
    Flattery is deceptive. Paul wrote, "Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple" (Romans 16:17-18).
    Flattery brings ruin. "A lying tongue hates those who are crushed by it, And a flattering mouth works ruin" (Proverbs 26:28).
    It is important that we are truthful in our speech toward others. But we need to be kind in speaking that truth.
    Our words should be filled with grace. "Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one" (Colossians 4:6).
    Our words control our destiny. "But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned" (Matthew 12:36-37).
    Say what you mean and mean what you say but don’t be mean with what you say.

 - 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.
Role Models
By Ron Thomas

   “He who walks with wise men will be wise.  But the companion of fools will be destroyed” (Proverbs 13:20, NKJV).
   It has been said by some professional athletes that they desire not to be role models. When I hear this I marvel at the naiveté because each person is influential to some varying degree, and it can’t be anything but this way. Thus we can’t control whether or not we are influential, but we can control what others see and hear in us. The wise one gains wisdom from the wise, and the righteous one gains righteous wisdom from One who is the standard of righteousness (John 14:6). The fool, on the other hand, is also influential, but his influence not only destroys himself—it leads to the destruction of others who follow in his footsteps

- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH.   He may be contacted at etsop95@gmail.com

Ten Misplaced Desires?
By Steve Higginbotham

    Maybe you've heard the story about three old friends who were shipwrecked on a deserted island. After nearly a year of being castaways, a bottle floated up on the beach. One of the men opened it, and out popped a genie granting one wish to each of the three friends. Without any hesitation, the first friend said, "I wish I were back home in Knoxville." Poof! He was gone. The second friend immediately said, "I wish I were back home in Knoxville, too." Poof!  Immediately he was gone. The third man was more deliberate. He told the genie he wanted to think about it a bit longer to make sure he didn't waste his wish. After a full two months of isolation on the island, he said to the genie, "I've reached my decision. Over the past two months I've come to realize how much I miss my friends. It's been so lonely here without them, so I wish my two friends were back here with me." And poof! (Groan here).
    I believe we can all recognized the misplaced desire this man had. The desire for companionship with his friends was noble, but that desire was misplaced if it meant calling them back to the island. But now, before we laugh at this man we had better realize that sometimes, we too have misplaced desires; good and noble desires, but they can be misplaced due to context. Let me offer ten misplaced desires we sometimes have.
  • We want a Savior, but we don't want a Lord.
  • We want a crown, but we don't want a cross.
  • We want a harvest, but we don't want to sow any seed.
  • We want to go to Heaven, but we don't want to go to church.
  • We want to grow spiritually, but we don't want to feed on his word.
  • We want Hollywood to "clean up its act," but we don't want to stop watching.
  • We want the right to pray, even in school, but we don't want to pray.
  • We want the 10 Commandments posted, but we don't want to live by their moral principles.
  • We want to love God, but we don't want to abhor sin.
  • We want to die the death of the righteous, but we don't want to abandon the lifestyle of the sinner.
The man who wanted his friends to rejoin him on that deserted island was pretty short-sighted, but not nearly as short-sighted as those whose wants are identified above. 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. Copyright © 2016 MercEmail
By Joe Slater

    Suppose we changed our meeting time to 3 AM on Sundays. While we might not like it, many of us would be here despite the inconvenience. Now, relax! There are no plans to change the meeting time! It brings up the question, though: How willing are you to be inconvenienced in your service to God?
    Antonius Felix, governor of Judea, didn’t like what he was hearing as Paul was instructing him in the gospel. “Go away for now,” Felix said. “When I have a convenient time, I will call for you” (Acts 24:25). As far as the record goes, that convenient time never came. The governor wasn’t much interested in becoming a Christian anyway; mostly he was hoping Paul would pay a bribe.
    Unlike Felix, Christians are interested in hearing and doing the will of God. (Or we’re supposed to be, anyway.) Are you willing to be inconvenienced for the Lord? Let’s be specific: Are  you willing to make a visit instead of watching your favorite TV program? Or does that visit have to wait until you have “spare time”? Would you reschedule a vacation if it conflicted with a Gospel Meeting? Would you attend services rather than getting an early start on that business trip? In short, are  you willing to put God (not your convenience) first?
    The early Christians certainly did not practice a religion of convenience! How convenient was it to be beaten or imprisoned for proclaiming the gospel? Was walking all over the country to tell people about Jesus convenient? And if we can believe the historical records, the early Christians often met around sunrise on the first day of the week since that was the only time that the slaves could attend. No doubt it would have been more convenient for everyone, especially the slaves, just to stay home to get a little extra sleep.
    Two thousand years ago, Jesus left the splendor of Heaven to come to this earth, taking upon Himself a body of human flesh. What if He had said, “No, it just isn’t convenient for Me right now.” Think of the times Jesus spent all day teaching and healing, only to spend all night in prayer. Not exactly convenient, wouldn’t you say? And where would we be if, when His crucifixion was imminent, Jesus had backed out because it wasn’t convenient?
    There is nothing wrong with accommodating convenience where we can. But brethren, God has gone to a great deal of trouble for us! May it never be that we would insult Him by serving Him only when it is convenient. 

 - Joe Slater serves as minister of the Church of Christ in Justin, TX. He may be contacted through the congregation's website.
Go Christian!
By Donna Richmond Wittlif

    "I press on toward the goal unto the prize or the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:12).
    "Everywhere we go, people want to know, who we are, so we tell 'em. We are the Dragons, the mighty, mighty Dragons!" The high school gym bleachers break out in a wave of gold and blue banners, and the students roar their approval as our football team, led by the team captain, runs onto the gym floor. We are having a high school pep rally, and we are behind our team one hundred percent.
    Today I am a member of a different team with a heavenly calling. Our Captain sits in heavenly places, far above all rule, and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but in the world to come. All things are in subjection to Him.
    Our team's light shines before men so that they will see and glorify our Father. We want to glorify God because He has redeemed us. He has bought us and given us forgiveness of our sins through His blood according to the riches of His grace. He gives us every spiritual blessing and everything we need to do His will.
    Team members may fumble occasionally, but they will never lose if they keep their eyes on their Captain (Hebrews 12:1, 2). He gives us the strength to keep trying and to overcome all obstacles. He is always at our side, watching and guiding our steps. We have victory through His love.
    Our team will win. It is our Captain's promise, and He never lies. He said, "I go to prepare a place for you." It is an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and it doesn't fade away. Eye has not seen nor ear heard the things that await us. We have a winning team through Christ our Lord. It is something to  shout and cheer about.

- 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.
“I Feel Fine!”
By Clifton Angel

    There are some physical ailments that begin in secret. There are no immediate symptoms. Yet the illnesses, like some cancers, may be silently wreaking havoc on one’s body. Sometimes one who is seriously sick may proclaim, “I feel fine!” Sometimes such destruction has been caused that by the time it is detected, it is too late to correct the problem. Sometimes the problem can be mended but with great pain, surgeries, and treatments.
    Is it possible to suffer from the spiritual ailment of sin and be unaware of it? Today, sin occurs when one transgresses the commandments of the New Testament (1 John 3:4). Sin occurs “unknowingly” when a person is not allowing God’s Word to train his conscience. Jesus said that the scribes and Pharisees had developed their own “righteousness” (Matthew 5:20). In other words, what was right and wrong to them did not align with what was right and wrong to God. Following His statement in Matthew 5:20, Jesus went on to correct many of their false teachings and misconceptions. The former Saul, now known as the apostle Paul, had persecuted the Lord’s church. He even had some put to death. Yet, he had done it in “all good conscience” (Acts 23:1). Saul was doing what he thought was right. That did not make it right. What God says is right, is right. What God says is wrong, is wrong. Therefore, it should be our desire to train our consciences with God’s Word.
    The principle above is found multiple times in the Proverbs. “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25). “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts” (Proverbs 21:2). “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise” (Proverbs 12:15). And so, what are we to do? “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths” (Proverbs 3:5–6). If we want to be complete (spiritually healthy), we must examine ourselves by God’s definition for doing what is right (2 Timothy 3:16–17). For, if we continue saying spiritually, “I feel fine!” sin may be wreaking havoc on our consciences, progressing as it does (Psalm 1). Have you had your spiritual checkup lately?

 - Clifton Angel preaches for the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. He may be contacted through that congregation's website.
The Need for Personal Study
By Robert E. Guinn
    Why has attendance been greatly stressed among God’s people in the past? We cannot ignore that the attendance changes between different Bible classes and worship services on Sundays and Wednesday evenings. Are elders and spiritual leaders just being “nit-picky,” or is there a deeper issue that concerns our fellow Christians when they see our lack of participation?  
    We have approximately 168 hours in a week. If we attend ALL of the regular congregational worship services and studies, we have made a four hour investment in our spiritual development. That is roughly 2.4% of our week’s time that we dedicate to God. What about Christians that are a part of congregations that only meet once or twice a week? Then that percentage theoretically will go down. If we invest nothing else into our spiritual lives, these numbers look sad compared to the amount of time we spend on entertainment and other non-spiritual things.
    It seems that, even though attendance has been the measure of faithfulness in the past, congregational worship and study should be viewed as the mountain top of what we are consistently investing in our personal spiritual development. We know that faith is built upon our access to, meditation on, and devotion toward God’s word (Romans 10:17). The great salvation provided through Jesus Christ should provoke us to want an intimate relationship with the Creator, desiring to seek His ways over ours. As the Psalmist said: “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you,”  (Psalm 119:11, ESV).  
    Why is personal study so important? Faith is described in the New Testament as the starting point of spiritual development and growth (2 Peter 1:5-10). Faith is also the Christian shield that protects us against the flaming arrows of the enemy (Ephesians 6). What happens when that shield is splintered, shattered, and/or broken? It needs to be repaired. Like a plant needing maintenance and care, so our faith needs to be watered, tended, and matured. Consider these five reasons we need to develop and grow our personal study of God’s word:
      1. Personal study enables us to have a better understanding of spiritual things (Psalm 119:99).
        2. Personal study is connected to our salvation, and the salvation of others who witness our faith (1 Timothy 4:11-16).
        3. Personal study can help us better protect our minds and hearts (Philippians 4:6 -9).
        4. Personal study gives us experience to better handle God’s word (2 Timothy 2:15).
        5. Personal study better prepares us for fighting off temptation (Matt. 4;  Luke 4).   
    The bottom line, however, is that no one can do this for us. We are responsible for our own spiritual growth and development. Are you satisfied with your current spiritual investments? I know I am not always satisfied with mine. Let’s take and make personal study personal!
    “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time… Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is,” (Ephesians 5:15-17, ESV).

 - Robert Guinn preaches for the Central Church of Christ in Paducah KY.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website.
Paul's Politics
By David Bragg

    When it came to civil government, Paul's priority was to seek the best possible environment for sharing the gospel. He refused to allow the ill-will of officials to sidetrack his desire to preach Jesus.
    Paul's eyes focused on seeking the lost where ever and whenever he could. To make that easier he commanded Christians to submit to governing leaders and ordinances that did not violate their higher obligation to obey God (cf. Acts 4:19-20). They were also instructed to pay taxes (Rom. 13:6-7) and to pray for their often hostile leaders (1 Tim. 2:1-4). Then Paul encouraged them to be busy spreading the good news of Jesus with the world.
    As a Roman citizen Paul was not to be bound and publicly beaten. He asserted that right in Acts 22:24-29, which he used as an opening to address a Jewish audience. But he did not always use that privilege (cf. 2 Cor. 11:24-25). He chose not to demand his rights in Philippi, perhaps because to do so would require abandoning Silas (Acts 16:22-23).
     He also had the right to escape prejudices of local officials by appealing directly to Caesar's court. However, Paul did not assert that right very often. It was only when he found himself in a situation that could have easily brought his evangelistic efforts to a premature end that he asserted this privilege (Acts 25:11-12). God used this situation to fulfill His promise at Paul’s conversion, "to bear My name before ... kings" (Acts 9:15).
    Today we live in an untested political environment. But we are still ruled by the same goals that motivated Paul. Twenty-first century Christians must ask which political candidate and party will create a better, more tolerant atmosphere for carrying out the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20).

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

The Great Eternal God
By Gerald Cowan

        Before the hills appeared,
        Before the rivers and the seas,
        Before the clouds were formed,
        Before the stirring of the breeze;
        Before a man was born,
        Or any other living thing;
        Before the rain or snow first fell,
        Before the flowers of spring;
        Before the paths of earth
        By mortal men were trod –
        Before it all, from everlasting was
        The Great Eternal God.

        When everything on earth
        Decays and disappears,
        As darkness of the night
        Dissolves when daylight nears;
        When all the starry universe
        Burns up and fades away
        With nothing left to measure time,
        No sense of night or day;
        When challengers and skeptics all
        Lie dead beneath the sod –
        Through everlasting there will be
        The Great Eternal God.

- 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
“…Up There Dancing With Jesus”
--By A. C. Quinn

   The things people say are always amazing, sometimes surprising. A sweet young lady was speaking about loved ones and acquaintances who had recently passed away, and in the course of that conversation she said of them: “They are up there now dancing with Jesus.” While this statement was intended to be comforting and was, no doubt sincere, it was misguiding, to say the least of it.
   Time and circumstance did not permit an immediate response, but Jesus’ words to His disciples sheds a great deal of light on the question “Where are the dead?” He said: “In my Father’s house are many mansions:…I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2-3). The apostle Paul also addresses this issue: “For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven…and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so will we ever be with the Lord” (I Thess. 4:14-17). Nothing is said about dancing with Jesus.
   The apostle Paul tells us “…it is appointed to man once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Paul further states “…He (God) hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness…” (Acts 17:30). Jesus discusses the matter of judgment and resurrection this way: “…for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice and come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil , unto the resurrection of damnation… (John 5:28-29).
   The theory that one is ushered into heaven immediately following his death is a comforting thought; but it is contradictory to the fact that the resurrection and judgment stand between death and heaven—or hell.

 - A. C. Quinn preaches for the West Main Church of Christ in Wolfe City, Texas. He may be contacted at acuen30@gmail.com
By Ron Bartanen
    Jesus told three parables, as recorded in Luke 15, in which have been referred to as the “parables of the lost”: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son.
    The parable of the lost sheep seems to portray the many who have lost direction in their lives, and are as the sheep who, apart from the care of the shepherd, are prone to being devoured by predators, typifying those apart from Christ, in peril from the evil forces in our world that would destroy their souls. The apostle Peter warned of such when he wrote of Satan who, as “a roaring lion” goes about “seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).
    The parable of the lost coin illustrates those who have lost their purpose in life. The lost coin was not fulfilling its purpose while hidden on the dirt floor, illustrating wayward man who is not fulfilling his purpose, being apart from God and mired in his sins.
    The lost son parable appropriately describes those who have lost their identity as children of God. The “prodigal son” is lured by the enticements of the world to separate himself from his father, and departs to the “far country,” where he engages in “riotous living.” It is only when his life bottoms out, and he finds himself in the pigpen of life that he “came to himself,” resolving to return to his father.
    As the “good Shepherd” (John 10:11), Jesus came to “seek and save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10), and bring us into His fold, the church. His sheep are they who “hear His voice” and “follow Him” (John 10:3-4).
    The lost coin was recovered by the woman pictured as sweeping her floor, typifying the Spirit of God seeking us by the gospel of Christ, the “power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16). Our true purpose in life, which is to serve our God, is understood only when we are again in God’s hands.
    The lost son was lost until he saw the vanity of a prodigal (wasteful) life apart from his loving father. Though God is man’s Father by creation, we are alienated from Him by sin (Isaiah 59:2), and are thereby “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). However, through faith in, and obedience to, the gospel of Christ, we can, in repentance, and, being baptized, return to His favor (Romans 1:16; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Romans 6:3-4). As the prodigal son, we who were “dead” can now be “alive again,” and we who were “lost” can now be “found.” May those who are lost  be “in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live” (Hebrews 12:9).

 - Ronald Bartanen preaches for Arthur Church of Christ, Arthur, IL.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website.

Blind to Our Sin
By Alan Smith

    The following is a true story (though there are some questions about a few of the details). Back in 1893, there was a group of four sisters in Iowa. They called themselves the Cherry Sisters and made their stage debut in Cedar Rapids in a skit they wrote themselves. It was terrible. But, for three years, the Cherry Sisters performed to packed theaters throughout the Midwest. People came to see them to find out if they were as bad as they had heard! Their unbelievably atrocious acting enraged critics and provoked the audience to throw vegetables at the would-be actresses. Wisely, the sisters thought it best to travel with an iron screen which they would erect in front of the stage in self-defense.
    Amazingly, in 1896 the girls were offered a thousand dollars a week to perform on Broadway -- not because they were so good, but because they were so unbelievably bad. Seven years later, after the Cherry Sisters had earned what in that day was a respectable fortune of $200,000, they retired from the stage for the peaceful life back on the farm. Oddly enough, these successful Broadway "stars" remained convinced to the end that they were truly the most talented actresses ever to grace the American stage. They never had a clue as to how bad they truly were! They naively believed that the tossed vegetables were either unrestrained tributes to their talent or acts of jealousy by less talented people.
    How could they be so blind? I find it all too easy to understand. The truth is, like everyone else, I am blind to many of my shortcomings. I fail to recognize that I have a problem with impatience or lack of compassion or pride. Don't get me wrong -- I have no trouble seeing those faults (and many more as well!) in the lives of people around me. I can readily see how sinful everyone else is. But even when people "toss vegetables" at me, I still insist there's no problem with me.
    Jesus had something to say about this to the Pharisees (and of course it's easy for me to sin how sinful THEY were!):
    "Why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." (Matthew 7:3-4)
    God, please open my eyes to those things in my life which displease You and keep me from being close to You and others around me. In my times of blindness, help me to see. In Jesus' name, amen.
    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.
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