BulletinGold #180
January 2017  
Vol 180 #1 

January 2017                                      BG# 180                                      Vol. 17                                       Issue 01
Subscribe                     Website                     Submissions                      Editor: David Bragg
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In this issue ...
Losing Our First Love
By David R. Ferguson

What Kind of Faith Do You Want?
By J. Randal Matheny

The Ironies of Calvary
By Edd Sterchi

Ready or Not ... 2017
By David Bragg

Ambition and Walking Worthy
By Jeff Arnette

Christ and Costs
By Ron Thomas

Try Harder
By Steve Higginbotham

The Word Among Us
By Ron Bartanen

Keys to Creative Living
By Ron Adams

Henry Lived and Died in a Box
By Gerald Cowan

Do Not Be Afraid
By David A. Sargent

Who Does He Think He Is?
By Joe Slater

Stop Complaining
By Brian Mitchell

The Attitude Factor
By Joe Chesser

Christian Communication (part 1)
By Robert Guinn

Christian Communication (part 2)
By Robert Guinn

Losing Our First Love
By David R. Ferguson

    As a small child growing up in rural central Illinois, one of my favorite memories was of those Sunday mornings when our family of seven children loaded up in our father's station wagon and he would drive us and our mother to visit one of our sister congregations in the area. Lower Ash Grove Church of Christ was one of those congregations we visited. While driving through the countryside enjoying the beautiful fall colors one recent afternoon, I found myself at the lane leading to Lower Ash Grove Cemetery. I pulled into the lane and I have to admit, I was quite saddened at the spectacle of the old abandoned church building which I saw greet me so forlornly as it stood under the shadows of the trees.
    I know the church isn't the building. The Bible makes it quite clear that the church is comprised of the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:23; Colossians 1:24), which is made up of individuals who are immersed, obedient believers (Acts 2:38) whom God adds to His church (Acts 2:47). But I was saddened, nonetheless, by seeing this abandoned building where a once vibrant congregation of the Lord's people used to assemble.
    I wish I could say that what has happened with the Lower Ash Grove Church of Christ is the exception for those congregations we used to attend, but unfortunately, it has become the rule. Even the congregation we attended as members when I was a small child long ago abandoned "the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints" (Jude 1:3 [NAS]), and has gone the way of apostasy.
    I wish I knew why this happened here in central Illinois, but maybe the answer is found in what Jesus says to the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:3-5 [NAS]: "I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place - unless you repent."
    Maybe the reason so many of those congregations from my youth are now gone is because they got so caught up in "marking" those whom they felt were false teachers that they lost their first love, like Ephesus, and never repented.
    It is true we need to keep the church pure, but as Jesus pointed out to the church at Ephesus, it becomes dangerous if that becomes our primary goal. When our focus is on the deeds of evil men, rather than on our first love, we tend to forget to evangelize the lost around us, which is what our first love, Jesus Christ, demands.
    If I had but one wish, I think it would be to be able to go back in time to the 1960s and 1970s and show these photos of what has become of those once thriving congregations in central Illinois to those brothers and sisters in Christ. Maybe then they would have repented of their ways, and returned again to their first love. But since that isn't going to happen, I pray tp God that I will not become so focused on the evil men of today that I, too, forget my first love to the point that the Lord will have to remove His lampstand yet again.
 - David R. Ferguson preaches for the Lakeland Church of Christ in Mattoon, IL.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website.
What Kind of Faith Do You Want?
By J. Randal Matheny

     One of the world's largest businesses tailors its offerings to people's desires and needs. Do you want a big business that can become a career and pay you more now than you could ever make where you are? They've got the plan for you. Or is your ambition level lower, your enthusiasm small, so that you want to just supplement your income with a bit of extra? They've also got a plan for you. Both plans are good.
     The Way of Jesus Christ does not tailor its plan to the ambition or desire of the disciple. God has but one plan. We do not opt for different levels, types, or models of faith. There is but "one faith" Eph 4.3.
     God shows us what that one faith is (and is not) and how we can acquire and nourish it.
     Faith is not secret, as the gospel of John shows us. Faith declares itself. Faith cannot keep quiet, but is always confessing and professing the Lord, 2 Cor 4.13; Gal 1.23.
     Faith is not ignorant. Faith and knowledge go together, 2 Peter 3.13. In fact, the Bible speaks of "the faith" as that body of truths that must be accepted and proclaimed, 1 Tim 4.1; Jd 3. To be saved, faith must believe certain truths, Heb 11.6.
     Faith is not inactive. Rather, it cannot be still, Acts 14.22. It must be moving, up and about, serving, seeking, speaking a good word for the Master. Faith needs action, but action that expresses the essence of its nature.
     Faith is not stationary. It moves always forward toward its goal. It seeks maturity, growth, progress for self and for others, Phil 1.25; Tt 1.1. And for the body of Christ. Faith has a goal: the salvation of souls, 1 Pet 1.9.
     Faith is not solitary. It seeks company, Phil 1.27. It is not heartless, but loving and ever seeks to express that love. Paul spoke of "the faith you share with us" Phile 6. We hold it in common, Jd 3.
     Just as there are gospels that are no gospel at all, Gal 1.6-9, there are also faiths that are no faith. But there is only one saving faith, Jas 2.14.
     You can opt for any number of faiths. But only one will get you into the presence of God and into the eternal abode where the faithful will live forever.

- 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

The Ironies of Calvary
By Edd Sterchi

Man of sorrows, Prince of Peace,
Son of Joy, Man of griefs,
Wounded healer, Rejected King,
Earth’s disdain, Salvation’s wing.
Friend of sinners, Friendless One,
Men charge sin to the Holy Son,
Innocent, yet judged with guilt,
Had no home, but mansions built.
The irony Christ was and gave,
Buried, yet o’ercame the grave,
The irony Christ makes in you,
Buried in Him, you’ll rise anew.

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

Ready or Not ... 2017
By David Bragg

    Can you believe another year is in the books? Time marches relentlessly onward without asking for either our consent or approval. 2016 isn’t even cold yet and 2017 is already relentlessly marching forward. Nothing you and I can do will ever get that time back. With each passing day we creep closer towards time's end. But, as always, with Jesus there is good news.
    2017 will bring with it days of defeat and success.
    2017 will bring with it both sadness and great joy.
    2017 will bring days of suffering balanced with days of healing.
    2017 will bring with it days of loss and others of enrichment.
    For some 2017 will bring with it a day of finality.
    But there will not be a single day in 2017 that you will have to encounter alone! We have One who can lift us up from defeat, comfort us in sadness and sustain us through suffering. There is One who can truly place momentary loss into eternal perspective. And not to be forgotten, we have each other, charged with the duty of sharing in life's highs and lows (Romans 12:12-15) and with bearing “one another’s burdens" (Galatians 6:2).
    While we are powerless to keep time from sifting through our lives like sand through our fingers, we can do something about how we spend it. While much time will fall wasted at the feet of humanity, as a follower of Christ you can use your time to God's glory and time will ultimately deposit you in His timeless glory.

 - 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.
Ambition and Walking Worthy
By Jeff Arnette

     When it comes to goals and setting goals, Christians should only be setting worthy goals. We are too important to God and too much has been paid for us to waste our time on trivial, worldly goals. I am reminded of what scripture says at this point. Ephesians 4:1, Colossians 1:10, and 1 Thessalonians 2:12 tells us to walk in a manner worthy of our Lord, of our calling, and of God.
     As Christians we have a responsibility to walk worthy of the great cost paid for our salvation. If I am going to be successful in walking worthy of my Lord and live up to His expectations I must have a strong ambition.
     What exactly is ambition? Ambition is, “A powerful personal drive towards achieving goals which are regarded as being of importance to the individual. Ambition is viewed negatively when these goals are selfish or evil, and positively when they are directed towards building up the church or furthering the kingdom of God” (Manser, Martin H. Dictionary of Bible Themes. London: 2009).
     Now let’s clarify here. Selfish ambition is clearly condemned in scripture (Philippians 2:3), but striving to live for Jesus and put the kingdom first is not. In fact, Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:31-33 that we must not get caught up in seeking selfish things, but He then tells us clearly to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness above all things.
     My point is this: If we are going to be successful as Christians then we have to want it badly. We must strive, we must be ambitious, and we must put the kingdom ahead of all other things. Only then will we set goals that are worthy of being Christians. Carefully consider this last passage about the desire to win (ambition) as Christians.
1 Corinthians 9:24–27 - "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified."

 - Jeff Arnette preaches for the Central Haywood church of Christ, Clyde, NC.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website
Christ and Costs
By Ron Thomas

    It is a tragic thing to see that people who want to be Christian refuse to see embrace what the Lord said with regard to costs. The Lord is not interested in one’s money, or possessions; He is interested in the person. Has that individual, however, taken the same interest in the Lord? In Luke 14:25-27, the Lord is rather plain spoken about what is required of one who wants to enjoy the blessings of heaven. Each person must take up the cross of Jesus. This is NOT some vague notion of being a good person; no, it is hardly that.
    Think about what it means to take up the cross of Jesus by thinking about what Jesus Himself did while He walked on this earth. Are you prepared to do that?
    He was, first, committed to the Father’s will (John 17:4). This is a comprehensive plan for one’s life. That means that all other commitments are secondary and, in fact, there is no commitment like one’s commitment to the Father’s will. Second, this cost was an embracing of not only “what,” but the “why.” To become a Christian is to become a “what” (if you will); you have a new name. The “why” component gets to the depth of one’s knowledge, love and trust. When Abraham was declared righteous by God (Genesis 15:6), it was not because of a mere surface belief. It was a commitment to Him who held Abraham's very breath in the palms of His hands. Abraham well understood what he was doing, where is was being led (or going), and why he went that way. This is why he is called the “father of the faithful.” Third, it is not only a life-change for the one who has a clear understanding of the “why,” it is also a perspective on what is important in life.
    If one’s desire and emotion is planted firmly in things of this world, then the Lord will not be the fruit produced in life. If one desires to plant two seeds in order to get the best of both worlds, then salvation is lost –and this applies especially to Christians!

- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website.
Try Harder
By Steve Higginbotham
   I’m convinced that many of us may not resist the temptation to sin as we should.  It’s not that we want to sin, for we don’t. It’s just that when temptation crosses our path, we don’t fight it as though we were in a life or death struggle. We may resist, but the resistance is only token.
   Not long ago, a friend of mine gave a lecture in which he raised the question, “What if every time we sinned, an ugly scar appeared upon our face? How much harder would we resist sin? Good question. None of us would like to have our faces scarred. Scars to our faces would be embarrassing, affecting our relationships and our behavior. I’m sure we would tenaciously fight the temptation of sin if succumbing meant a big scar on our faces.
   You see where I’m going, right? Why should we fight harder to preserve our temporal flesh than we would to preserve our eternal soul? The fact that we can’t see the scars sin leaves upon us doesn’t mean they’re not there. Friends, resist the temptation to sin, using not just a token resistance before you succumb, but a persistence that reflects a life and death struggle.

 - Steve Higginbotham preaches for the Karns Church of Christ in Knoxville, TN. He may be contacted through the congregation's website. Copyright © 2016 MercEmail
The Word Among Us
By Ron Bartanen
    The apostle John began his gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God ... and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1, 14).
    The Bible, the inspired written word of God tells us of the personal living Word of God coming and dwelling among us.  Jesus didn’t come into the world simply to deliver some message—prophets frequently had done that throughout the Old Testament period.  The world was in need of someone greater than a prophet—one who would reveal to us the fullness of the glory of God, embodying totally His “grace and truth.”  Jesus came as the living Word of God, “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), in Whom dwells “the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (2:9). 
    God, the Father, has not only “spoken to us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:1) with oral and written messages, but also His Son is the message.  He personally is “the Truth” (John 14:6).  He is personally God’s greatest message to an alien world, conveying the love of God and offering hope to man.  It is one thing to read God’s message (which is good), but it is another thing to be led by that word to see, by faith, that message embodied in a Person—Jesus Christ.
    In Jesus we are able to see not only God above us, but also, as John declared, God “among us.”  Or, as it was prophesied in Isaiah 7:14, and quoted in Matthew 1:23, “A virgin shall conceive and bare a son, and they shall call his name Emanuel, that is, God with us.”  He came among us, bearing our griefs and carrying our sorrows (Isaiah 53:3).  He, too, had to struggle with the same temptations to which we are heir , in that “He was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).  In our darkest hours we can take comfort in the words of one of my favorite hymns: in answering the question, “Does Jesus Care?” the reply is:
           “Oh yes, He cares, I know He cares;
           His heart is touched with my grief. 
           When the days are weary, The long nights dreary,
           I know my Savior cares.”
    Have you put your trust in the Word among us?

 - Ronald Bartanen preaches for Arthur Church of Christ, Arthur, IL.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website.
Keys to Creative Living
By Ron Adams

    Do something to solve your problems. Accept and meet your obligations. Adjust to the necessary. Plan ahead, set realistic goals. Welcome new experiences, test new ideas. Use your God-given talents. Think, investigate and decide for yourself. Put your best into everything you do. Share your joys and sorrows with others. Reach out and help others. –Selected
     Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men; knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. Colossians 3:23-24
     Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Romans 12:15-16

- 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
Henry Lived and Died in a Box
By Gerald Cowan

    Henry suffered an affliction that left him permanently disfigured. His misfortune was obvious to everyone, and he was very sensitive about it. But being a kind and considerate person himself he quite naturally expected that others would be too. But people are not all alike. Some are curious. Others are thoughtless, and proud. Some are squeamish. And some can be extremely cruel, often deliberately and intentionally so.
    Time passed. Henry was embarrassed by the curious and offended by the thoughtless and careless. He was humiliated by those who let their squeamishness show. He was often angered by the proud and deeply wounded by the cruel. To escape he withdrew from association with most people and hid himself at home.
    More time passed. Henry had managed to build himself a sturdy box in which to live. He seldom came out of it and it was very difficult for anybody else to penetrate and enter. The floor of his box was made of sensitivity (it has a striking similarity to self-pity – although no one ever pointed that out to him). One of the walls was made of a very hard substance – shame. The second wall was a very hard, durable, self-replicating material – anger.   Wounded pride – a nearly impervious substance – made up the third wall. The remaining wall was a combination of fear, mistrust, and insecurity and of course it was the weakest part of the whole structure. The ceiling was made of a dense opaque material called self-justification, and almost no light passed through it into the man’s life. There was neither door nor window, and any cracks that appeared were quickly filled up with a very effective putty of bitterness and resentment.
    Henry never realized that hiding from what he was did not change what he was. He never understood that in order to be accepted for what he was he must also be willing to accept other people for what they are. He never found the faith or the courage to leave his box, his planned place of safety, his self-imposed prison. The box he built to isolate him and insulate him from the world of people was so effective that even God was not allowed to enter. So Henry’s box became Henry’s coffin.
    Everybody, whether he knows it or not, is building himself a box. What kind of box are you building for yourself?  Is there room in it for others, or only for yourself? Would anybody want to enter your box? Is there room in it for God? Is He welcome there? Would He want to enter it and be with you there? If your box is not fit for you or others or God, make sure you have a proper exit, a way out, lest it become your coffin.

 - 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
Do Not Be Afraid
By David A. Sargent

    One summer night during a severe thunderstorm, a mother was tucking her small son into bed.  She was about to turn the light off when he asked in a trembling voice, “Mommy, will you stay with me all night?”
    Smiling, the mother gave him a warm, reassuring hug and said tenderly, “I can't, Dear.  I have to sleep in Daddy's room.”
    A long silence followed.  At last it was broken by a shaky voice saying, “The big sissy!” *
    Of what are you afraid?  Truth be told, we’re all “sissies” about something.
    Yet, the most often repeated command in Scripture is “Do not be afraid,” or “Do not fear.”
  • “So don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” – Matthew 10:31
  • “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” – Matthew 8:26
  • “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have.  For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’  So we may boldly say: ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear.  What can man do to me?’” – Hebrews 13:5-6
    God doesn’t want us to live our lives in fear.
    A man, as he was walking on the street, saw a black cat crossing over the road.  He thought to himself that he was going to have a bad luck on that day.  Worried, he asked his friend what would be his fate because of the black cat that had crossed his path in the morning.  His friend replied, "That will depend on whether you are a rat or not." *
    Know who you are in Christ and you will not fear.
    In Christ, you are: a child of God (Galatians 3:26-27), an heir of God and a joint heir with Christ (Romans 8:16-17), saved by the Savior (Matthew 1:21), redeemed by the Rescuer (Ephesians 1:7), justified by the Justifier (Romans 3:23-26), and forgiven by the Great Forgiver (1 John 1:7-9).
    To be found “in Christ,” in whom are found all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3), you must place your faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from your sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).  Then, as you continue to walk in the light of His Word, the blood of Jesus will continue to cleanse you from sin (1 John 1:7).
    In Christ, there is salvation, security, strength, and hope.  There is no reason to fear.
    Won’t YOU trust and obey Christ so that you may be found in Him?

- David A. Sargent, minister for the Church of Christ at Creekwood in Mobile, Alabama, is also the editor of an electronic devotional entitled "Living Water."  To learn more about this excellent resource contact David via their website: http://www.creekwoodcc.org

* From sermon illustrations at www.bible.org

Who Does He Think He Is?
By Joe Slater

    “The paradox of the pulpit is that its occupant is a sinner whose chief right to be there is his perpetual sense that he has no right to be there, and is there only by grace and always under the spotlight of divine judgment.” 
    Scottish preacher A. C. Craig spoke those words back in 1953 in one lecture of a series entitled “Preaching in a Scientific Age.” His lectures were printed in a book by the same title the next year. 
    While we could find much about which to disagree with this preacher from the Church of Scotland, the above-quoted statement is right on target. Christians are redeemed sinners, and that most assuredly includes the preacher. The great apostle Paul considered himself the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). Any preacher who supposes that he is “better” than his audience, or that his own personal goodness somehow entitles him to speak the oracles of God, ought to sit down and be quiet!
    What right do I have to preach? That question nags at me. Just who do I think I am? Actually, I know all too well who and what I am – a flawed, broken creature who upholds a divine standard that I did not set, and that I fail to meet. As Craig said, I have a perpetual sense that I have no right to be doing what I’m doing.
    By God’s grace, I have the opportunity to preach Christ. Since we have established that I do not merit this privilege in any way, and since it is, indeed, a privilege, the only alternative is that it is by grace (unmerited favor).
    As usual, however, privilege comes with responsibility. Craig correctly observed that the preacher is “always under a spotlight of divine judgment.”  Paul
told Timothy to take heed to himself and to his teaching, for in doing so he would save both himself and those who heard him (1 Timothy 4:16). A faithful preacher must preach only the truth and all of the truth. Paul emphasized that he had declared the “whole counsel of God,” and was therefore innocent of the blood of all men (Acts 20:26, 27).

 - Joe Slater serves as minister of the Church of Christ in Justin, TX. He may be contacted through the congregation's website.
Stop Complaining
By Brian Mitchell

    The story is told of a circus owner walking into a restaurant and seeing everyone crowded around a table. On the table was an upside down pot that had a duck tap dancing on top of it. The circus owner was so impressed that he offered to buy the duck from its owner and after some negotiations he agreed to pay $10,000 for the duck and the pot. 
Three days later the circus owner returned to the restaurant in anger demanding his money be returned. He told the restaurant owner that his duck was a rip off because he had put him on that pot before an audience and he had not danced one bit. It was then that the duck’s former owner asked him if he had remembered to light the candle under the pot.
    While that may be one reason someone would put a lighted candle under a pot; that is not really what candles are for. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that candles are meant to be used to provide light to all who are in the house. That is what a light source is for, to provide illumination in the dark.
    In like manner, our lives as Christians were intended not to be hidden under a pot, but rather to shine before all men so that they may see clearly the way to our heavenly Father. We are supposed to be a positive influence on all those around us—Mt.5:13-16. The problem is that at times we spend too much time complaining and grumbling about life’s circumstances that our lives are anything but a shining light to those around us.
    In an appropriate text for this time of year, the Apostle Paul exhorts us “to do ALL things without complaining/grumbling and disputing.” (Ph.2:14). It is the complaining part that I want to focus on today. Paul says to “do all things without complaining” so that we might become blameless and without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse world. And to “do all things without complaining” so that our lives might serve as a shining light to those living in darkness.
    Jesus said, “We are the salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.” Thus, all of us whether we realize it or not, have a degree of influence in the lives of others. We are all being watched by others who see what we do and hear what we say, especially if they know we are professing Christians. The question then is not are we influencing others; it is how are we influencing others? How is the way I live life, specifically when it comes to how I deal with less than pleasant circumstances, affecting those around me?
    What Paul says in essence is that our light or influence is enhanced or diminished by the way we deal with life’s circumstances. How do you react to daily life and living? Life has its share of difficulties and hardships for all men; do we grumble, complain and look to find fault? Or do we, as Paul elsewhere exhorts, “rejoice always”, “giving thanks in all things”—Ph.4:4, 1 Thess.5:18. The manner in which we influence others depend upon how we answer this question.
    What does it say to an unbelieving world when Christians are no better at handling the challenges of life without complaining than they are? It says that our relationship with God through His Son doesn’t really have the positive effect in our lives that we claim it does. So regardless of what life throws at you “do all things without complaining” and you just might be the light that leads some lost soul out of the darkness.

 - Brian Mitchell preaches for the Jackson Church of Christ in Jackson, MO.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website.
The Attitude Factor
By Joe Chesser
     This is the time of year when the wind chill factor is important.  Most of the time wind chills are merely a nuisance. We have to hold our coats tighter.  We put scarves around our faces.  We dart more quickly into and out of cars and houses and stores.  But there are times, especially in the northern states, when knowing the wind chill factor can be a matter of survival.  The cold and the wind can be deadly.
     In the summertime it’s just the opposite.  We welcome the effects of the wind blowing in the summer heat.  Without even a gentle breeze, the summer heat, especially in the southern states, can be stifling. How pleasant it is when you are hot and sweaty from working outside in the summer to feel the coolness on your skin that a gentle breeze brings.
     In both of these cases, what the wind does is to take what is naturally present, the temperature, and turn it into something either helpful or harmful.  The temperatures don’t change; just the way the temperatures feel changes.  In the winter, the temperature feels worse; in the summer the temperature feels better.
     Our attitudes work in a very similar way on the natural circumstances surrounding us.  Our attitudes can make any situation feel better or feel worse. The circumstances may be unchangeable, but the way we view them or react to them is entirely dependent on us.  A good attitude “blowing” on bad circumstances can make them much better, while a bad attitude “blowing” on the same set of circumstances can make them seem much worse.
      “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Prov. 17:22).  We all know how much our attitudes affect our physical health. In a much greater way, our attitudes affect our spiritual health.  In fact, our attitudes affect everything in our lives.  How much more pleasant would driving be without road rage?  How much happier would our homes be if there were no griping and complaining? How much more Christ-like would our churches be if we didn’t take every opportunity to be offended?  How much better could we handle disasters and setbacks if we had the attitude of Christ?
    Jesus came to earth to make it possible for our sins to be forgiven.  He also came to show us how to live transformed lives.  He didn’t come to make the world a better place to live, but to help us live better in the world around us.  A part of His plan included changing our attitudes for the better.
     Here are some scriptures that can help you have a better attitude: Rom. 12:2; Phil.1:27-28; 2:3-5, 14; 4:4, 6-7, 8-9, 13; Col. 3:17, 23; Hab. 3:17-18. God bless you in 2014.

 - Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website.
Christian Communication (part 1)
By Robert Guinn

    Whether it is verbal or nonverbal, we are constantly communicating something to someone. It could be the blissful sigh one takes after drinking their first sip of coffee in the morning or the eyes that refuse to look someone in the eye while they are talking. Numerous surveys, studies, and observers have noted that one of the most common issues in relationships is the use of proper communication.
    Knowing that our communication reveals our inward selves (Mark 7:14 -23), Christians need to ask themselves what godly communication looks like. The Bible reveals that:  
1. Our communication should be a reflection of the inward conversion of our hearts to no longer be self-serving (Romans 12:1-2). 
2. Our communication should be constructive in nature (Ephesians 4:29).
3. Our communication should be consistent (James 3).
4. Our communication should be thoughtful, not reactive (James 1:19).
5. Our communication should be tailored to the occasion (Colossians 4:5-6).  
    Certainly these five guidelines are beneficial and, if implemented properly, can help transform our communication. We can talk about these five or other scriptural teachings, like speaking the "truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15), and even recognize their importance. The truth is, however, that we may not know exactly how to put this list into action.
    What does this type communication look like? There are three areas of communication that require the consideration of Christians while communicating to others.
    Culture has a major significance in how someone communicates and interprets what others communicate to them. We cannot ignore the fact that, in the United States, we are trying to communicate with a culture that is "unchurched."
    Gary Chapman authored a book titled The Five Love Languages. These languages include:  words of affirmation, gifts, physical touch, acts of service, and quality time. Chapman explains that these are five of the main ways that people communicate love, affection, and appreciation to others. One's Love Language helps determine their receptiveness to someone else’s communications of appreciation, hatred, or comfort. This helps explain why one kind of communication might hurt someone else more than it does another.
    The third thing Christians need to consider when communicating to others is Generational Differences. Each generation has unique beneficial qualities, yet what might be considered an insult or "fightin' words" for one generation may not be the same for someone of another generation.
    Effectively communicating with others is not an easy task.

- Robert Guinn preaches for the Central Church of Christ in Paducah KY.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website.
Christian Communication (part 2)
By Robert Guinn

    Culture plays a major role in how someone communicates to others and interprets communication of others. For example, in the United States if someone says they are “under the weather,” we know that they are sick or ill.  I have been told, however, that in Australia that same phrase indicates that someone has a hangover or is feeling the affects of intoxication.  There is an obvious difference in communication within cultures.
    The Bible tells us to, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person,” (Colossians 4:6). This teaches us the importance of being flexible in our methods of communication. If we truthfully desire to reach people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, then our communication needs to adapt to the culture of those we are trying to reach. 
    Our national culture, for better or worse, is changing. We can no longer ignore the fact that the culture of the United States is switching to what historians and observers refer to as a Post-Christian culture. This means that the culture is becoming more and more “unchurched.” The trend seems to be that fewer people are actually being raised in a religious atmosphere. The average American’s knowledge base of the Bible appears to be decreasing. How should this alter our communication? We cannot assume that everyone we talk to believes in an Eternal Creator of the Universe (i.e. God), a Divinely inspired, inerrant written document of God’s word (i.e. the Bible), or that they believe in a crucified and risen Savior of the world (i.e. Jesus Christ). We may not be able to teach them about Jesus the first time we talk to them. An example of this is found in Acts 17 when Paul addresses the Athenians on Mars Hill. 
    Language varies from culture to culture. Aside from the obvious differences that exist when common languages differ, different cultures exist among those speaking the same language. Whether it is how something is said or a difference in vocabulary, each culture has its “fightin’ words” and its expressions of love and comfort. The cultures might vary due to geographic location, level of education, occupation, or socioeconomic status. How should this change our communication? The Bible teaches us that our communication should be constructive in nature (Ephesians 4:29). We should never seek to talk DOWN to or talk AT someone, but to communicate WITH them. It is not about proving our point or superiority. Rather, communicating the eternal love, mercy, grace, and justice of our Lord. 
    Relationships greatly impact our culture’s perspective. Living in an experience driven culture, the desire for deep meaningful relationships has been cultivated. How should this impact our communication? Attention needs to be given to non-verbal communication. Our culture is looking at the outward conviction of those professing their faith. They want to see that we actually have the personal relationship with God that we are advertising. Since there is such a stress on relationships, not only does our culture desire a sincere Heavenly relationship, but we also want to see the love among God’s people (John 13:34- 35).
    Paul, as God’s spokesman, altered his communication as fit best the culture of those he was teaching (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). He understood the need to adapt to the culture of others in order to reach them with the Gospel. May we, as God’s people, be willing to seek the best way of communicating to others, considering the importance of culture.    

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