BulletinGold #179
December 2016  
Vol 179 #9 

December 2016                                      BG# 179                                      Vol. 16                                       Issue 09
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In this issue ...
                                 
Risks By Joe Chesser
                               

How to Lose Yourg People (In Three Words) By Jim Faughn

God Doesn’t Care…
By A. C. Quinn

When You're Ready to be Baptized
By J. Randal Matheny

Where Are The Men?
By Joe Slater

Did Jesus Exist Before His Birth to Mary?
By R. W. McAlister

His Name is Christian, But He Isn’t One
By Lance Cordle


Be Careful Who You Follow
By David Bragg

The Heart of Worship
By Jeff Arnette

Can I Come Too? By Alan Smith

Sinful Babies
By Clifton Angel

Asking to be Excused Does Not Bring Forgiveness
By Gerald Cowan

Marriages That Don’t Fail
By Ron Thomas

Roll Call of Ordinary Christians
By Ron Adams

Unwanted!
By Ron Bartanen

Saved to Serve
By Edd Sterchi

Risks
By Joe Chesser
 
“Great deeds are usually wrought at great risks.”
                                                          Herodotus (484-430 BC)
“I believe that one of life’s greatest risks is never daring to risk.”
                                                     Oprah Winfrey
 
    Are you a risk-taker, one who pushes the edges, or are you one who tries to keep it in the middle of the field? According to the quotes above, people have been talking about the challenges and benefits of taking risks for over 25 centuries. There have always been those who preferred to play it safe. And there have always been those who were willing to face the impossible odds head-on knowing that failure was more likely than success.
    To create man in His own image, God knew He was taking a risk. He could have created us to blindly obey without the capacity to reason and choose, but He didn’t. Failure was guaranteed. He knew all would sin. He knew most people would not follow Jesus (Matthew 7.13-14). But in order for Him to be loved like He loves (by choice, not force) He had to give us the ability to choose. He knew that only a few would choose to truly love Him, but He created us anyway. He chose to take the risk.
    On our part, choosing to love and obey God also requires risks. I’ve been trying to think of someone who walked with God without risk. Noah? Abraham? Joseph? Moses? Joshua? Rahab? Caleb? Gideon? Ruth? Samuel? David? Isaiah? Jeremiah? Amos? Jonah? Esther? Mary? John the Baptist? Peter? Paul? John? For every one of these people, to be obedient to God required them to step out from the crowd in faith and follow God. Noah built an ark; Abraham sacrificed his son; Moses confronted Pharaoh; Rahab turned against her own people; David and Caleb faced giants; Paul changed religions; Peter left his job; Joseph faced imprisonment; Elijah challenged 100s of priests of Baal; etc.
    Is it possible to be a Christian without taking risks? The answer is NO! The common thread running through all of these great men and women of faith was not the deeds they did, but the faith and willingness to die to themselves and to do whatever God required of them. Our risk is to turn loose of ourselves and give our lives 100% to Him (Luke 9:23-26), to live by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7), and to let God determine what that involves.
    Actually, the greater risk is to not be men and women of faith. "Be afraid of the One who can destroy both body and soul in hell" (Matthew 10.28).

- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website.
How to Lose Yourg People (In Three Words)
By Jim Faughn

    Have you not heard the following statement from families, educational systems, and churches all too often? “We are losing our young people.”
    Parents lose sleep and shed tears because of some of the things their children believe and do. School systems struggle to merely “keep order” in a classroom; much less help students prepare for the real world when they graduate (or quit). Church leaders go into panic mode when there seems to be fewer young people attending worship services and Bible classes as has been the case in former times.  
    Sadly, the “solution” proposed and practiced by many is actually a sure-fire way to totally lose the next generation (and generations to come). This “solution” can, as has been suggested in the title, be summed up in three words ---
Cater to them
    Instead of being parents and having guidelines and rules for your family, cater to your children. Make sure they are always happy. Make sure they have everything they could ever want. Make sure that they, instead of you, “call the shots.” If you follow this advice, you will be well on your way to losing your children --- and having more heartache than you can imagine.
    Instead of demanding a certain level of behavior and competence in the school system, cater to the students. Make learning exciting and fun. Before long, there will be no more learning; only excitement and fun. We may not only lose our children as far as making a contribution to society is concerned, we may lose the society in which we hoped they would compete.
    Instead of teaching our children God’s plan for marriage, the home, the church, worship, etc., cater to the least knowledgeable members of a congregation --- regardless of their age. Why should an old, dusty book matter as long as people are finding what they think they want out of life? Let’s teach that “the here and now” is really all that matters. Whatever comes after that (if anything) will take care of itself.
    The Bible has many examples of young people who stood for and practiced what was right; even when they had to stand alone or as a part of a very, very small group. They did this because of a deep faith in God. We will not run the risk of truly losing our young people to the world and/or to Satan if we help them to have a faith like them.
    You see; if our young people are old enough to understand God’s will and are not following it, they are already lost. It doesn’t matter if they are sitting in a church building or finding something “more exciting” to do. I love young people, old people, and everybody in between too much to not do what I can to keep that from happening.
    How about you?

- 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.

God Doesn’t Care…
By A. C. Quinn

    There is a line in an old movie which so reflects the attitudes of many people when it comes to the subject of religion. One of the characters in the movie is encouraging a friend to attend a different church. She did so with the encouraging words, “God doesn’t care which church you go to as long as you show up now and then.” There are a number of problems with this innocent sounding theory, of which two will be discussed.
    The first problem is that people have the idea that “God doesn’t care.” That is, God doesn’t care what individuals do religiously just as long as they are sincere in their endeavors. The first retort to this idea is the simple question: “If God doesn’t care, why did He give man a book of rules—yes, a book of do’s and don’ts”? Of course, that book is the Bible—God’s inspired word to man in which He directs man in the way the He wants him to go. Further, it does matter to God the church in which one worships. It was important enough that the blood of the Son of God was shed as the purchase price (Acts. 20:28, et. al.). It should be noted, too, that the purchase price was paid for one: There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all (Ephesians 4:4-6).
    The second problem with the thought that God doesn’t care is the idea that one can just “show up now and then.” This is actually what many people in the church do—show up now and then. To one who has a knowledge of the Scriptures, that is forsaking the assembling of the saints. The Christian is instructed not to forsake that assembling. Hebrews 10:25 so states: “…Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”  The first Christians followed these instructions from the beginning (Acts 2:42; 20:7). Still, folks seem to think, by their actions, that God doesn’t care whether or not they attend worship services regularly. One has to wonder what these folks would think if God chose to answer prayers just “now and then,” or if He chose to forgive just “now and then.”
    God does care! He is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9); but He does expect His servants to be faithful unto death in order to receive the crown or life (Revelation 2:10).

- A. C. Quinn preaches for the West Main Church of Christ in Wolfe City, Texas. He may be contacted at acuen30@gmail.com
When You're Ready to be Baptized
By J. Randal Matheny

    You're ready to be baptized when you know that only in Jesus Christ can your sins be forgiven and you be returned to the presence of God, Ep 1.7.
    You're ready to be baptized when you believe in Jesus as God in the flesh, the One appointed to die in our place, the Risen one who will come again, Jn 8.24; 2Tm 3.15.
    You're ready to be baptized when you decide to abandon the old life of sin and live a holy life by imitating the Lord Jesus, Lk 24.46-47; Ac 2.38.
    You're ready to be baptized when you are willing to publicly declare yourself to be one of Jesus' followers even in the face of death, Rm 10.10; Rv 2.10.
    You're ready to be baptized when you understand the reason for baptism, as burial into Christ's death, to have your sins washed away by his blood, Rm 6.1-4; Ac 22.16.
    You're ready to be baptized when you accept participating in the suffering of Christ in order that the gospel may be spread, 1Pt 2.9-12.
    You're ready to be baptized when you are committed to showing sincere and earnest love to your Christian family, 1Pt 1.22.

— ‹‹«»›› —

QUOTE: BELIEF = OBEDIENCE

“Paul saw that if a man accepted the Gospel it could be said of him that he ‘believed’—a word he uses to mean to accept baptism and become a Christian … because the Gospel demanded to be believed since it was God’s word, to accept it could also be called ‘obedience’.” —A.R.C. Leaney, Letters of Peter and Jude, 28. http://QuickBibleTruths.com

- 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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Where Are The Men?
By Joe Slater

    Truth is truth, no matter who says it. However, people’s willingness to give truth a fair hearing may depend on their estimation of the person speaking it. Someone said, “I can’t hear what you are saying because the way you are behaving is shouting so loudly!” We ought to be extremely careful to guard our reputation. “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches” (Proverbs 22:1).
    Even such a great man as Abraham could lose his influence with people. God wanted him to a blessing to the nations (Genesis 12:2). But when famine drove him to Egypt, Abraham deceived his hosts into thinking Sarai was merely his sister, not his wife. As a result, Pharaoh took Sarai into his harem, intending to make her one of his wives.
    When God plagued Pharaoh’s house, the king realized his error and confronted Abraham with these words: “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’? I might have taken her as my wife” (Genesis 12:18, 19). Sadly, instead of being a blessing, Abraham had brought trouble to the Egyptians. In doing so, he had ruined his influence. How much attention do you suppose Pharaoh would have paid to Abraham had he attempted to teach the king about the one true God?
    One of the harsh realities of life is that building a good reputation takes a long time, but you can destroy it in a single moment. God may forgive you, but that doesn’t mean your neighbors will (especially those who don’t know the Lord). One foolish act or word may destroy your influence with another person for decades – perhaps even for a lifetime!
    Abraham assumed that the Egyptians had such low morals that they would kill him to take away his beautiful Sarai. While they were pagans, they evidently respected marriage and were offended by deceit. They expected better behavior than they saw from Abraham. Likewise our society, though nominally “Christian,” is, in practical terms, pagan. Still, most folks have some idea of right and wrong, and they expect true Christians to behave uprightly. If we fail to do so, we ruin our reputation and thereby sacrifice our influence.
    Brethren, let us strive to show the proper example to our neighbors, that we may gain the moral authority to teach them the good news of Jesus Christ!

- Joe Slater serves as minister of the Church of Christ in Justin, TX. He may be contacted through the congregation's website.
Did Jesus Exist Before His Birth to Mary?
By R. W. McAlister
 
    In John 1:1, the Bible says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” There are two components to mortal man: spiritual, and physical. Jesus has always existed in spirit form and was therefore present even before He was born as a mortal child of the Virgin Mary.
    In John 1:1, the apostle John argues for the eternal existence of the Word. The verb “en” (translated “was” 3 times in Jn. 1:1) is an imperfect tense form which suggests the “continuous timeless existence” of the Second Person in the Godhead, Jesus Christ, but how do we know for sure that “the Word” in John 1:1 is Jesus Christ?
    The term “Word” implies communication. Jesus Christ is the revealer of truth to humanity (John 1:18; Heb. 1:1-2), and apart from Him, there is no access to the Father (John 14:6). This is contradictory to the philosophy of deism, which claims that although there may be a Creator out there in the universe somewhere, He has never communicated with humanity. Not so of our Lord.
    Notice also, the Word was “with” God. The preposition pros (“with”) literally means, “toward,” or “face to face with God,” and it reveals a distinction between the two Persons who, in the New Testament, are identified as Father and Son, yet both, parts of the Godhead.
    Then, the Word is identified as “God,” which simply means deity. Notice the progression of ideas in this short verse: in the first clause, we find eternal existence; in the second, a distinct personality, and in the third clause, we have divine personality – meaning: Jesus is declared to be of the same nature as God. He therefore possesses the nature of a divine being (Phil. 2:6) who has always existed.
    Further evidence that the Word is the pre-incarnate Christ is found just a few verses later in John 1:14: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
    Indeed, the Word was made flesh – Jesus came to earth as a man –so that He could die as a man and be a sinless sacrifice to cover the sins of mankind. Heb. 9:22 speaks of the need for a blood sacrifice in order to take away sin, “…without shedding of blood is no remission.”
    The Old Testament contains many references to the coming of the Messiah who would shed His blood for the sins of humanity. Isaiah spoke of Jesus as a “lamb” who would be “led to the slaughter” (Isa. 53:7). Zechariah foretold of a “fountain” that would be opened for “sin and uncleanness” (Zech. 13:1).
    Therefore, Jesus had to come to earth and be born as a human being (Matt. 1:25), live among us, and die as one of us (Luke 23:34-36). The Lord Jesus lived a sinless life and was thus a pure, perfect sacrifice. He was: “…in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15).
    He has existed in the same form as God for as long as God, but had to put off His divinity for a time in order to live and die as one of us. Phil. 2:7 says Jesus, “…made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:” Clearly, He existed before being born to Mary.  He lived and died among humanity. His blood was shed to take away the sins of the world (Jn. 1:29), and only those who are obedient to God’s Word enjoy the fruit of that great sacrifice. 
 
- R. W. McAlister preaches for the Anna Church of Christ in Anna, IL.He may be contacted through the congregation's website.
His Name is Christian, But He Isn’t One
By Lance Cordle

    Various and odd instances brought me into contact with a man whose first name is Christian. He had been through some trying times and needed help. In the process of things being done, I asked some of the usual background questions and in so doing received answers which seemed to indicate a possible openness to the gospel. He is from a large family and from a different section of the country than me. He is about a year older than me and has been retired for several years. He is conscientious and does a lot of volunteer work. He also enjoys traveling to various parts of the country. When asked about church background, he replied that he was not necessarily against any sort of church affiliation, he just had never had much interest in it.
    Since he was in transition, I did not have time to have a deep  conversation about Jesus. I did, however, provide him with some tracts and other materials to read. I have also corresponded with another preacher about someone contacting him with the gospel.
    My encounter with this man has caused me to do more thinking and pondering about people and their spiritual condition. Here is a man whose name is Christian, but he is not a Christian. How ironic! He has just quietly gone about his life for years, apparently without ever really seeing the need for Jesus in his life. As far as I know, he is not an open opponent of Jesus; he just does not have the interest. You and I might cry out, “Oh, but you really need Jesus to save you from your sins!” That is true, but until a person sees it for themselves, they will do nothing about it. We need to be open and attentive to such people.
    Another matter that comes to my mind is the condition of those who call themselves Christians, but whose actions in attaining that name do not match up with scripture. I know people may shrink back with unbelief at such an assertion, but we must consider such things. For example, would you just treat a man as a “Lion” (member of the local Lions Club), who called himself a “Lion” but never paid the dues and never attended the meetings? He just acted like one. Or, how about a woman who claimed to be an alumnus of the state university, but never attended there? People may indeed act in ways consistent with the message of Christ, but not be Christians.
    These things seem rather simple when broken down in illustrations like those above, but the emotionally-charged and heavily “personal” nature of modern-day religion make things so much more complicated. The fact of the matter is, evangelism can be difficult. It takes patience and a genuine concern for other people. In this, as in all things spiritual, may we remember the words of Paul: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Corinthians 3:6 ESV).

- Lance Cordle preaches the Calvert City Church of Christ in Calvert City, KY.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website.
Be Careful Who You Follow
By David Bragg

    Her voice is pleasant, but authoritative, as she leads countless people every day to their destinations. "Bear right." "Turn left." "Stay in the left lane." "Make a u-turn." Even when it goes against our better judgment, the temptation is always present to blindly follow her.
    Perhaps that is precisely what an Illinois man was thinking in 2015 as he and his wife were traveling through Indiana. Authorities admitted that the driver was so focused on his GPS device that he ignored barricades, orange barrels, cones, and large signs declaring that not only was the road closed but the bridge no longer existed (it was demolished in 2009). Still the 64-year-old driver took the ramp up and off what formerly was the Cline Bridge (cnet.com). While he survived the 37 foot plunge, his wife was not so fortunate.
    As we navigate life it is crucial for us to know who it is that we are following. In every generation much heartache and loss could have been avoided if only people had not blindly followed the crowd. Yet, people still suffer for the "everyone is doing it" mentality.
    The danger is prevalent even today. We are encouraged by the crowds to ignore the old-fashioned commands to high moral standards of Christianity. Yet the Bible admonishes us to stop and consider who it is that we are following and just where are we being led (1 Cor. 11:1Eph. 5:1-2; 1 Peter 2:21). God has warned us through the inspired writers of the New Testament that, when it comes to our spiritual journey, be careful who you follow.

- 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 Heart of Worship
By Jeff Arnette
 
    "God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”" (ESV, John 4:24)
    For years I have heard this passage used as justification for why we worship the way we do. We cite this verse and then talk about worshiping "in truth" with a focus on what we can or cannot do in worship to God and Christ.
    Does God care about your worship? Does he care what you do? Of course he does but that still misses a bigger point. We are so concerned about the form of worship and what is being done that we seem to miss the point of why we worship in the first place. To focus on the truth of worship (form and action) without the spirit of worship (motivation and heart) still fails as worship in God's eyes. Not only that but it fails as worship for us too. Too many times our worship services fail to impress upon us the greatness of what we are doing. It fails to impress upon our hearts the joy and excitement that should come as a result of being in the presence of God and worshiping him. The end result of worship that is missing the heart, the spirit of worship, is everyone walks away not feeling like they have worshiped God.
    I want you to notice what David said about what God really wants from us. "For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." Psalm 51:16-17 David reminds us that what God really wants is our hearts. If going through the motions of worship, if sacrifice and burnt offerings were all that God was concerned about that would be easy. God wants a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart. That is what God wants and he will not despise or reject that.
    This problem is spoken about often in the New Testament. The problem is that we are really good at following rules but not so good at giving our hearts to God. In Matthew 15:7-9, Jesus says that people are good at lip service but their hearts are still far from God. In other words we are good at going through the motions and still not connecting our hearts to our worship of God. When our hearts are far from God our worship is vain, pointless, and ultimately unsatisfying to everyone involved.
    So what should we do about this? How can we ensure that what we give God is our hearts and not just lip service? We must give him our entire heart and let that be the motivating force of all that we do. "And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good?"
Deuteronomy 10:12–13

- Jeff Arnette preaches for the Central Haywood church of Christ, Clyde, NC.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website.
Can I Come Too?
By Alan Smith

    Someone has compiled the following list of the all-time worst Country & Western song titles (These are actual songs):
  • Her Teeth Were Stained, But Her Heart Was Pure
  • I Liked You Better Before I Knew You So Well
  • I Still Miss You, Baby, But My Aim's Gettin' Better
  • I'm So Miserable Without You, It's Like Having You Here
  • If The Phone Don't Ring, Baby, You'll Know It's Me
  • How Can You Believe Me When I Say I Love You When You Know I've Been A Liar All My Life?
  • I Keep Forgettin' I Forgot About You
  • I Would Have Wrote You A Letter, But I Couldn't Spell Yuck
  • I Wouldn't Take Her To A Dawg Fight, Cause I'm Afraid She'd Win
  • If You Don't Leave Me Alone, I'll Go And Find Someone Else Who Will
  • My John Deere Was Breaking Your Field, While Your Dear John Was Breaking My Heart
  • Oh, I've Got Hair Oil On My Ears And My Glasses Are Slipping Down But Baby I Can See Through You
  • They May Put Me In Prison, But They Can't Stop My Face From Breakin' Out
  • You Can't Roller Skate In A Buffalo Herd
  • If My Nose Were Full of Nickels, I'd Blow It All On You
  • You're The Reason Our Kids Are So Ugly
  • How Can I Miss You If You Won't Go Away?
  • If You Leave Me, Can I Come Too?
     Those are some strange titles!  But the last one reminds me of a conversation Jesus had with his disciples the night before his crucifixion. In John 14-17, Jesus talked with his disciples about what to expect after his death.  Not surprisingly, the disciples had a hard time understanding. Jesus kept talking about "going away," but they didn't want to be separated.  Jesus tried to comfort them with these words:
     "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also." (John 14:3)
     It was hard for the apostles to let go of Jesus.  They couldn't imagine life without him.  But Jesus assured them that though his departure was necessary, he would be back to get his followers.  If he left them, they could one day come, too.  Their parting was a time a sorrow, but there were (and are) joyful times ahead (John 16:20)!  What a great thought for all of God's children!
     Jesus, can I come too?
    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.
Sinful Babies
By Clifton Angel

    Children are precious. They are so precious that Jesus references how that immediately after a mother gives birth to a child, “she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world” (John 16:21). Children truly are a gift from God (Psalm 127), and though I am yet to be a father, my heart is made merry by observing their simplicity, energy, and seeming innocency.
    With that said, none of the above proves that a child is sinless. If we reference a child’s preciousness and seeming innocency, we are only making an emotional appeal and not a Biblical one. On the other extreme, if we reference a child’s seeming disobedience, crying, and strain on the parents to try to prove that they sin, we are only making an emotional appeal and not a Biblical one. And yes, I have heard of some referring to a infant’s crying as evidence for that infant having sin. Maybe you are reading this, and you believe that. The question is, what does the Bible teach?
    Some say that a child has sin because it was passed down from his parents. Others say that a child has sin because it was passed down from Adam. But the Bible says this: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him” (Ezekiel 18:20). Sin is not transferable; it is one’s own transgression of God’s laws (1 John 3:4). Can a young child transgress God’s laws?
    Implied in the act of sinning is the mental ability to understand God’s laws. Implied in the Gospel plan of salvation is the mental ability to believe that one has sinned and that Jesus bore our sins on the cross, which faith comes from hearing God’s Word (Romans 10:17; Mark 16:16). Implied in the Gospel plan of salvation is the mental ability to repent—determining in one’s mind that he will abandon a life of sin and embrace the Savior (Acts 2:38); many adults do not understand this one, much less a child. Implied in the Gospel plan of salvation is the mental ability to submit oneself to immersion in water for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 22:16; Romans 6:3–4). Sprinkling an infant is not Biblical immersion, nor is it the infant’s decision.
    According to the Bible, the title for this article is an oxymoron—contradicting words used in conjunction. Infants are not born with sin, nor do they sin. “Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:2–3). When a person is converted, he is made pure—free from sin—just as a child (Acts 3:19). Have you been converted?

- Clifton Angel preaches for the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. He may be contacted through that congregation's website.
Asking to be Excused Does Not Bring Forgiveness
By Gerald Cowan

    A certain man planned a great dinner party and invited a number of people (Luke 14:16-33). Many evidently accepted the invitation and so he went ahead with the preparation. When things were ready he sent a servant to remind the guests of their obligation to come. But they began, one and all, to excuse themselves. One had a real estate deal he wanted to investigate. Another wanted to test some hew farm equipment. One couldn’t leave his wife, and apparently did not want to bring her along. And so it went. All offered apologies and were sorry for any inconvenience to the host, but ... “You know how it is. A fellow just can’t do all he wants to do when he wants to do it.” Well, you can imagine that the host was pretty well put out by the whole thing. So he said, “Those people had their chance and missed it. Someone else will enjoy what they have refused.” There is no indication that he gave any of them a second chance.
    What is the lesson?  Just this: If you are going to accept the Lord’s invitation, count the cost and do not say yes unless you mean to follow through. Do not think you can commit yourself now and back out later with some flimsy selfish excuse. Asking to be excused then does not mean you will be forgiven.

- 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

Marriages That Don’t Fail
By Ron Thomas

     In the July 27th (2014) edition of Parade Magazine there is an article on the happily married (“Happily Ever After”). The gist of the article is accentuating the positives in marriage to make it last until “death do us part.” Some 40 years ago, after some research on the topic, psychologist John Gottman identified, with 90% accuracy, four things that encourage (or move) marriages to end in divorce (p. 8). They are: criticism, defensiveness, contempt (rolling one’s eyes), and stonewalling (or, the silence treatment). That which contributes toward such behavior is stress. If you reflect for a moment you will easily recognize these things to be so.  
     What are some suggestions for a happy marriage then? Once again, there are four things identified. Offer some tenderness. Not always easy to do, and one may have to travel further than the other, but its usefulness is obvious. Second, soften conflict with humor.  Wisdom and experience helps one (or the other) to know when to make use of it. Third, support, but don’t smother. Especially when there are problems, or there is a problem; when the other knows his (her) spouse is there to help and support through the weakness (that is, helping to overcome), then the marriage is strengthened. Fourth, share the emotions of the other. When there is joy in one, share it. When there is sorrow, share it.
    As I reflect on these pieces of practical advice, I note the Lord said such things long ago, and He did so in fewer words than marital counselors make use of today. In Matthew 7:12 one reads: “In everything, treat others as you would want them to treat you, for this fulfills the law and the prophets” (NET). Later in His ministry, when asked about the greatest command, Jesus started first with love toward God, then love toward one’s neighbor (Matthew 22:34-40). If these were implemented in each and every marriage, under what conditions would that marriage (or any marriage) fail?

 - Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH.   He may be contacted at etsop95@gmail.com
Roll Call of Ordinary Christians
By Ron Adams

    Hebrews chapter 11 is often referred to as “The  Role  Call  of  the  Old  Testament  Faithful” and rightly  so. And there are other individuals that are often mentioned in the New Testament: the Apostles, Paul, Timothy,  Titus, Mark, Luke, Barnabas. But many other Christians were busy doing  what  they  could  where  they  were.  In Romans chapter 16, we are given the names of some.  I  prefer  to  call  this  the  “Roll  Call  of Ordinary  Christians”  –  true  foot  soldiers  of  the cross.
    Phoebe,  who  is  a  servant  of  the  church which is at Cenchrea . . . Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers  in Christ Jesus, who  for my life risked  their  own  necks  .  .  .  Epaenetus,  my beloved, who is the first convert to Christ from Asia . . . Mary, who has worked hard for you … Andronicus and Junias, my kinsmen and my fellow prisoners, who are outstanding among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me … Ampliatus,  my  beloved  in  the  Lord  … Urbanus,  our  fellow  worker  in  Christ  … Stachys my beloved . . . Apelles, the approved in Christ . . . the household of AristobulusHerodion, my kinsman . . . the household of Narcissus, who are in the Lord . . . Tryphaena and Tryphosa, workers in  the  Lord …  Persis the beloved, who has worked hard in the Lord . . . Rufus, a choice man in the Lord, also his mother and mine  .  .  . Asyncritus,  Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brethren with them . . . Philologus and Julia . . . Nereus and his sister . . . Olympas . . . and all the saints who are with them.
    Today, many Christians are busy doing what they can where they are. We may never know them  or  hear  what  they  have  done,  but  their work makes a difference. They don’t do it to be praised by men but by God. Thank God for the “foot soldiers” in each congregation – including this one.
    “Have you heard . . .?”

- 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. © 2016
Unwanted!
By Ronald Bartanen
 
    “Then the whole multitude of the country of the Gadarenes round about besought him to depart from them: for they were taken with great fear: and he went up into the ship, and returned back again” (Luke 8:37).
    Jesus Christ will not impose Himself upon anyone. He won’t stay where he’s unwanted. The Gadarenes were so upset with Jesus when He cast a legion of demons from a man and sent them into nearby hogs. To them, the hogs were of more value than the man, so they “besought him to depart from them.” In our world today there is an increasing animosity towards Jesus as He seemingly intrudes into men’s comfort-zones. Even the mention of His name in prayer is not considered appropriate in schools, the military, etc. His word is considered out-of-date and irrelevant. 
    Some would purposely exclude Him from their lives. These would tell us there should be no positive mention of Him in school or public activities. He is even being written out of school history books.
    Some would exclude Him in their choice of life-style. Evil so fills their hearts and lives, it is impossible for Christ to take up residence in them. He is excluded from their lives.
    Some would crowd Him out—not purposely, but simply by filling their lives with material things. Such find no time for Christ, Bible reading or church. Other things clamor for their attention.
    What about you? Would you be among those to send Him away? Or would you welcome Him into your life?

- Ronald Bartanen preaches for Arthur Church of Christ, Arthur, IL.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website.
Saved to Serve
By Edd Sterchi

    From a rather obscure person from a generally overlooked section of Scripture comes an important biblical principle.  After giving His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus healed a leper (Matt. 8:1-4) and a centurion’s servant (Matt. 8:5-13).  Then in verses 14 and 15 of Matthew chapter 8, we read, “Now when Jesus had come into Peter’s house, He saw his wife’s mother lying sick with a fever.  So He touched her hand, and the fever left her.  And she arose and served them.”  From the actions of Peter’s unnamed mother-in-law, we learn this principle: We are saved to serve.
    Burton Coffman in his commentary of Matthew says of this incident: “Peter’s mother-in-law attested the completeness of her healing by rising at once to minister to the Lord.  No blessing of any kind, physical or spiritual, is intended solely for the benefit of the recipient.  People are saved to save others.  Those who were healed were healed to serve others!”
    This principle is also clearly brought forth in Eph. 2:8-10: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  We are not saved to sit, we were saved to be active.  We are not saved to be served, we are saved to serve. Indeed, let us always remember that we were created anew in Christ so that we may show the love of Christ to others.   The world may never see Christ until they see Him living through our love and service.
    Has God blessed you?  Then bestow blessings upon others.  Has God helped you?  Then heap helpings upon others.  Has God delivered you?  Has God been good to you?  Then deliver goodness to others.  Jesus said that the second greatest commandment was closely tied to the first: to love your neighbor as you love yourself (Matt. 22:39).  Let’s all make better efforts at better serving in the name of Christ.
    “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.” (Heb. 6:10)
 
- Edd Sterchi preaches for the Broadway Church of Christ in Campbellsville, KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website.
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