BulletinGold #183
April 2017  
Vol 17 #4 

April 2017                                      BG# 183                                      Vol. 17                                       Issue 04
BULLETINGold
Subscribe                     Website                     Submissions                      Editor: David Bragg
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In this issue ...
                                 
A Growing Seed By  Robert E. Guinn
                               

The Importance of a Wall By Bill Brandstatter

Dear Abby and Baptism By Ron Thomas

Who Will Be Saved? By Rob Albright

Our Purpose By Lance Cordle

From Death He Arose By J. Randal Matheny

Two Essentials for Giving By Joe Chesser

Only You Can Decide By David Bragg

"I Don't Consider Myself Unfaithful" By Neal Pollard

You’re In God’s Army Now! By Joe Slater

How Important is the Church to You? By Edd Sterchi

When 'We All' Get to Heaven By R. W. McAlister

Who is Your God? By Ronald Bartanen

Learning to Serve Like Jesus By Brian MItchell

Changing The World One Person at a Time By Gerald Cowan

A Life-Saving Encounter
By David A. Sargent

A Growing Seed
By  Robert E. Guinn
 
    Sometimes all it takes is an encouraging word or comment. It does not take a grand show or a spectacle to inspire others. Planting a simple encouraging thought in someone’s heart can impact his or her soul for years to come.
    Seventeen years ago a young man delivered his first public devotional in front of 200-300 campers and staff. The previous year at camp, having witnessed another boy in his cabin do the same, caused this eleven-year-old to think, “If he can do that, I can too.” He sheepishly spoke with his counselor and volunteered to lead the devotional in front of the entire camp. Later the camp director told him, “I’ll have to tell your preacher to let you preach now.” Taken back by the compliment, all  the boy could focus on was the statement, “You  preach now.” Without realizing it, the camp director became this young man’s first of many mentors who would guide him in being a minister of the Gospel.
    “You then, my child, be strengthened in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also,” (2 Timothy 2:2).
    Jesus described the word of God as a seed that is planted into the hearts of men (Luke 8:4-15). His lesson focuses mainly on the condition of men’s hearts in receiving God’s word (path, rocky, thorns, and good). We must also notice that someone is scattering and planting that seed. One of God’s primary instruments for producing converted and convicted hearts is His faithful servants. As we read in the New Testament: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth,” (1 Corinthians 3:6). Here Paul revealed that all Christians have a role in encouraging faith and growth in souls. In other words, God has called His children to mentor to the next generation of the faithful (Titus 2).
    Mentoring can be a one-time occurrence or an on-going process. Either way, the Bible encourages Christians to harness  every opportunity to inspire one another in service to the Lord (Hebrews 10:19-25). From a simple encouraging word to a Bible study, God can use each moment to grow His people both physically and spiritually.
    The word of God is the ever-growing seed that waits to take root in our minds and hearts. It is also ready to be planted in  the hearts of others. As Jesus said,  “The harvest is plentiful, the laborers are few; therefore pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send out laborers into his harvest,” (Matthew 9:37-38).
    Let us not only pray, but let our prayers have feet, hands, and mouths. Faith does not happen by accident. Faith grows  and develops with a purpose. Someone is sent with a simple message, and that message grows in the heart and soul of the  hearer (Romans 10:10-17). Let us now go and grow. “You  preach now.”
 
- Robert Guinn preaches for the Central Church of Christ in Paducah KY.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.centralchurchofchrist.org
The Importance of a Wall
By Bill Brandstatter

    The wall surrounding the Mexico/U.S. border is back in the news. Part of this wall has already been built. President Trump has authorized the finishing of it. It has created some joy among some. Others are upset about it. Walls divide. They also protect. There are some walls in the Bible that are significant.
     The walls of Jericho. The writer of Hebrews records, “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days” (NKJV). We can read more about this in Joshua chapter seven. The wall coming down was a way of showing the power of God. God can do the impossible. The idea of circling the walls and shouting was not good militarily. It didn’t make sense. But with God all things are possible. When the people did just as God commanded in a way He commanded the results came as God promised. The same is true today.
     The walls of Jerusalem. These walls are well known throughout the Old and New Testaments. In the book of Nehemiah, we read of the effort and accomplishment of rebuilding the wall (Neh. 4:6).
     This wall were significant for protection and assurance for the Jews. This wall was a significant part of their heritage and hope.
     The third wall is different from the first two. Paul mentions this wall in his letter to the Ephesians. There he writes, “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation.”(Eph. 2:14). What is this wall?  He goes on to state, “Having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace”(Eph. 2:15). The wall was the “law of commandments.” That is the Law of Moses which included the 10 commandments.  It was a wall that separated the Jew from the Gentiles. No longer is that the case.
     The final wall is in heaven. The heavenly realm is described as streets of gold and walls of jasper. This of course is a figurative description of heaven. Heaven is not a physical place with a physical wall. In Rev. 21:18 we read, “The construction of its wall was of jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass.” What a beautiful picture John paints in heaven. Yet heaven is even more beautiful than what is described in the book of Revelation. I want to go there .Don’t you? Whatever it takes, let’s do it so we can be there one day.

– Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://marionchurchofchrist.com/

Dear Abby and Baptism
By Ron Thomas

     I read in a “Dear Abby” letter (1.3.2017) of a woman who desired to have her niece’s son baptized, but without the consent of the parents. Evidently, the parents are not religious, and the family heritage is to have each new-born baptized some short time after birth (the child is 1-year old). Abby replied that such an action without the consent of the parents is unwise. This is obvious on its own, but it brings up another point that needs some consideration.
     Exactly how should one look at God’s command to be baptized? That it is a command of God makes it essential to be pleasing to God, but as it was indicated in the inquiry of Abby, is it the one act/command/ceremony that assures one’s entrance into heaven? The way some people look at the word and command of baptism, those same ones are convinced of such. They regard it as God’s “stamp” of approval before entrance is made; some Christians look at it the same way.
     Baptism, as a command of God to be obeyed, is for one who believes, understands what he (she) believes, is willing to repent (change his way of thinking), and put his hand to the plow, having the ground already plowed for him by Jesus following that path. Baptism is for one who has decided to not look behind, but long for the new life promised. This person has made a conscience choice to leave behind the ways of the world (Luke 9:62).
     I am afraid many have not done this. A great many have been baptized, but the life lived after that baptism is a reflection, not of God, but of this world (and the god of this world; 2 Corinthians 4:4). Therefore, many people who were baptized really did nothing more than get wet, and this includes children. In submitting to the Lord’s authority, one is submitting to the Lord’s way of living and thinking. This way of living is completely different than what the world presents. In fact, the Lord said those who love Him will not love the world or the things in the world (cf. 1 John 2:15-17).
     Baptism is not for one who does not understand that which I wrote above. Through the years, I have seen children baptized without understanding this. I am afraid many of these same children, now turned adults, are just as lost as if they had not been baptized; their “lostness” is the result of a life of unfaithfulness to the Lord, which brings to mind a question: did they understand what they said they did?
     No doubt, many (if not all) who were baptized because of a genuine belief and desire to obey God – but was there (is there) a proper understanding about what this entailed? Some have doubted and, consequently, for many, a “rebaptism” soon followed. Along this line, it is worth notice in the New Testament, Acts especially, those baptized are men and women. There is a reason for this.
     Baptism is a point of entry, but in that entry, it is simply the culmination, the completion of a process of the heart’s desire to please God. In that point of entry, there is a releasing (sins forgiven). Nothing in baptism (in and of itself) will release one’s sins from “clinging” to the one immersed in water, who is brought up from the plunging in water. Unless it is coupled with faith and a penitent heart, in submission to the Lord’s authority, baptism is an empty ritual; it has no value.

- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH.   He may be contacted through the congregation's website. http://sunrushchurchofchrist.com/

Who Will Be Saved?
By Rob Albright

    Many in the world reason this way: "Since God is love (1 John 4:8) and He does not want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9), then it naturally follows that all will be saved eternally and no one will be lost."
    That thinking has been around for a long, long time and it sure sounds good, but there is one major problem with that thinking. The idea that all will be saved eternally is not true! God's Word is true (John 17:17) and the Bible does not teach all will be saved.
    While it is true that God is love and that He does not want anyone to be lost eternally, it is equally true what is stated in the last part of 2 Peter 3:9. God wants all to come to repentance. Not everyone is willing to repent (change).
    The gospel is available and is to be preached to the entire world, but not everyone will accept the gospel. Not everyone will come to believe in Jesus, repent of sins, and be baptized into Christ (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 238; Romans 6:3-5) therefor, not all will be saved. When one comes to the point of baptism, their sins are washed away (Acts 22:16) and they begin a new life in the right relationship with Jesus (2 Cor. 5:17-21). The result of being "in Christ" is not to have sin laid to our charge and a host of other spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3)
    God certainly wants all to be saved, but the Bible does not teach all will comply with God's will and be saved.

- Rob Albright serves as one of the ministers at the Northwest Church of Christ in Greensboro, NC. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.nwchurchofchrist.com/
Our Purpose
By Lance Cordle

     An interesting phenomenon is occurring across North America this winter. Individuals and groups are making some things to help those who are cold and in need. The things are scarves and they are turning up in unusual places—wrapped around trees, fire hydrants, light poles, hanging on fences, etc. On a fire hydrant, a note inside the scarf read: “I AM NOT LOST! If you need this to stay warm, then please take it. It is yours. Be warm, and do something to help someone else today if you can.” (Good Samaritans leave scarves out for the homeless in Canadian, U.S. cities, Yahoo News, January 5, 2017)
     Another scarf, wrapped around a parking meter contained a note that said, “I’m not lost. If you are cold, I’m yours. I was made for you to take.” (Ibid.) “Made for you to take”—the scarves “knew” their purpose and were in the process of fulfilling that purpose. From around the country, it is reported that the scarves are gone within hours of being put out.
     The Lord Jesus knew His purpose while He was on this earth and went about doing it. He said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost”  (Luke 19:10 ESV). He also said to God, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work you gave me to do” (John 17:4). The writer of Hebrews summarized  the mission of Jesus by quoting Psalm 40:6-8, part of which says, “Behold I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book” (Hebrews 10:7).
     Those  who follow God also have a clearly stated purpose. In the Old Testament, the statement is made: “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). In the New Testament, Paul says, “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him” (2 Corinthians 5:9). With so many people looking for meaning to their life, why not help them see the purpose God has for all of us and help them fulfill it?

- Lance Cordle preaches the Calvert City Church of Christ in Calvert City, KY.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.calvertchurchofchrist.com
From Death He Arose
By J. Randal Matheny

From darkest grave, from death he arose,
As sacrifice for sin he gave
His life, and blood to save flowed freely.
I know I'll rise and never die
Again because my God and Lord
Was first to be raised, before me.
I love the way the Lord has opened.

- 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) 2017 J. Randal Matheny
All rights reserved. You may forward the
email to friends as is. You may not alter
it in any way or remove any text or
attributions.
Two Essentials for Giving
By Joe Chesser
 
     When it came time for the Israelites to construct the tabernacle, God told Moses to tell the Israelites to make an offering to God (Exodus 25.2). Keep in mind that the Israelites had just been freed from slavery in Egypt and were in the wilderness on their way to the promised land.  No one was working to earn money. No jobs. No farmers. No businesses. All they had was what they could carry out of Egypt when they hurriedly escaped in the middle of the night. Yet, when Moses issued the call for an offering, gifts and supplies poured in. Their actions teach us two essentials about the kind of giving God wants from us.
     The first is a willing heart. Giving supplies for the construction of the tabernacle was not mandatory. As Moses was told by God, “You are to receive the offering for me from each man whose heart prompts him to give” (Ex. 25.2). And so “everyone who was willing and whose heart moved him came and brought an offering to the Lord.” All “the men and women who were willing brought to the Lord freewill offerings for all the work the Lord through Moses had commanded them to do” (Ex. 35.21, 29). Yes, giving was commanded by God, but the Bible states that the offerings were given by those who were willing, by those whose hearts moved them to give. That principle remains to this day. God wants our giving to be from a heart willingly moved to give, not one compelled to give. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9.7). When our hearts are first given to the Lord our gifts will be freely given (2 Cor. 8.3-5). The first essential for giving is a willing heart.
     The other essential for giving is the supply God makes available to us. The night the Israelites were freed, the Lord made the Egyptians favorably disposed to give them whatever they asked for … articles of gold and silver, and clothing. The Israelites plundered Egypt by God’s hand (Ex. 12.35-36). So, when it was time to build the tabernacle, the Israelites had the things needed: gold, silver, bronze, colored yarn, fine linen, ram skins, spices, precious stones, etc. (Ex. 25.3-7). Out of a willing heart they gave to God from what God had first given to them. That principle remains to this day. We are to give from the prosperity God gives us (1 Cor. 16.2). Just as God enabled Israel with the plunder from Egypt, God enables us with whatever we need to do his work (2 Cor. 9.8). “You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion” (2 Cor. 9.11). The 2nd essential for giving is the supply from God.
     God will always do His part, so the rest is up to our willingness to give.
 
- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com
Only You Can Decide
By David Bragg

    She called it a "merciless bed." The German woman created the device as a foolproof method of getting a person out of bed in time for class. No more repeatedly hitting the snooze button, after the alarm clock rings the bed will begin to slowly lift and if, after five minutes, the sleeper doesn't put their feet on the ground by their own volition the bed will dump them on the floor against their will (news.excite.com).
    If you still need help getting up, you might be interested in trying "The Carpet Alarm Clock." Created by Sofie Collin & Gustav Lanberg, the sleeper sets their alarm clock as usual. However, it will be the carpet (which actually is more like a throw rug), not the clock, that will sound the alarm in the morning. There is no "snooze" feature, the alarm sounding from the carpet will not go off until they physically get up and stand on the carpet (bitrebels.com).
    We live in a high-tech world with devices and trinkets to make our lives easier. Then there are others, like these two inventions, that make for us the difficult choices we are unwilling to make for ourselves. But there is no device or product that will make life's most important choices for us: to love and serve God.
    It is easy to love Jesus as one’s Savior. He took all the abuse from Caiaphas and Pontius Pilate. It was His tears that were shed in Gethsemane. He did all the bleeding and dying. He became the sole, universal sacrifice by taking our sins upon His own shoulders. He did all this to save us!
    The more difficult challenge is to daily allow Jesus to be our Lord. That demands obedience and spiritual growth on a permanent, ongoing daily basis. And it is a choice only you can make. And you make it every day.

- 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: http://www.nwchurchofchrist.com/ or his blog: http://davidbragg.blogspot.com/
"I Don't Consider Myself Unfaithful"
By Neal Pollard

    An intelligent, independent young American man in his mid-20s showed up at the Siem Reap church building for mid-week services. He not only grew up in the church, but he even attended a "Christian" high school and one of our brotherhood universities. He is doing field research for an advanced degree in cultural anthropology, which brought him to Cambodia. He is a decent, inquisitive person seemingly intent on bringing positive change to this world, but upon leaving his home state after graduating college he ceased association with the church. When asked about his religious life, he said, "I don't consider myself unfaithful, but I'm not attending the church right now. I guess you could say I'm taking a break."
    Rather than being a "what's wrong with young people is..." or "what's wrong with the church is..." article, I want to think in terms of what faithfulness or unfaithfulness is. Is it something we can gauge, and, if so, how? Can we claim faithfulness but fail to demonstrate it?
    The Bible speaks of the faithfulness of God, for example. How do we know He is faithful? Moses suggests we conclude such based on His work, ways, and attributes (Deut. 32:4). The Psalmist points to His word and work (Psa. 33:4). Faithfulness involved His working wonders and deliberately planning (Isa. 25:1).
    In the same way, the Bible identifies faithfulness as something tangible and measurable, as visible as justice and mercy (Mat. 23:23), as demonstrable as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). The very word refers to loyalty and trustworthiness (Utley, np). In Galatians 5:22, it "describes the believer's new relationship with people, especially believers" (ibid.). In this list, it is more than trust or belief. The other eight words indicate ethical qualities, so this should be interpreted as such, too. In other words, being faithful is seen by how we live and what we do. Can we be faithful to Christ and His church when we do not attach ourselves to a local congregation, provoking others to love and good works as a manner of habit (Heb. 10:24-25). If we are not seeking to build up one another (1 Th. 5:11) or cause the growth of the body (Eph. 4:16), how is that not unfaithful? Twice in the gospels, Jesus tells parables concerning faithfully accomplishing our Christian responsibilities (Mat. 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27). There could be no judgment and accountability without there being concrete ways to measure and determine faithfulness.
    We do not get to define it for ourselves. The Lord has already revealed what He considers faithfulness and unfaithfulness. Ceasing to work for and worship Him, failing to encourage the spiritual family, and abstaining from such service as soul-winning and moral distinctiveness are tangible indicators that we have ceased from faithfulness. Let us so live that in the end we can hear our Lord exclaim, "Well done, good and faithful servant" (Mat. 25:21, 23).

- Neal Pollard preaches for the Bear Valley church of Christ in Denver, CO. He also publishes an e-mail newsletter, Daily Bread. You can visit their website at http://www.bearvalleycofc.com/
You’re In God’s Army Now!
By Joe Slater

    War in Gaza. War in the Ukraine. War in Iraq. War in Libya. There is no shortage of wars!
    Christianity has never been advanced at the point of the sword. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal” (2 Corinthians 10:4). But yes, Christians are engaged in warfare, though it is of a spiritual nature. Do we take this war seriously?
    Our goal is not to “go along and get along,” but to destroy Satan’s strongholds and capture as many people as we can for Jesus. Meanwhile, we strive not to become casualties ourselves. As soldiers of Christ, we put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6).
    We have a cause that is worth fighting for. Paul called it “the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12). This is not some petty squabble. Absolute evil is pitted against total righteousness. There is no such thing as neutrality; either you are with Jesus all the way, or you are against Him, even if you don’t intend to be (Luke 11:23).
    Once you have enlisted in God’s army, there is no honorable discharge or retirement. You are a soldier for life unless you defect. As he faced imminent death, Paul looked back over his life and said he had fought the good fight (2 Timothy 4:7). Semper Fidelis – Always Faithful. That motto would fit Paul, and we ought to serve so that it fits us. Such service may involve enduring “hardship as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:3). It certainly will mean putting Jesus and His church first and foremost in our lives, rather than being preoccupied with mundane matters. “No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please Him who enlisted him as a soldier” (2 Timothy 2:4).
    One last thing about this army: It’s all volunteer! Becoming a Christian is something you do of your own free will. You “obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered” (Romans 6:17). God doesn’t force anyone to serve Him; you are free to “choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15). May we all make the right choice, and may we be always faithful!

- Joe Slater serves as minister of the Church of Christ in Justin, TX. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://justinchurchofchrist.com
How Important is the Church to You?
By Edd Sterchi

    In Acts 20, near the end of his third missionary campaign, Paul found himself in a hurry to get to Jerusalem.  He wanted to arrive there by Pentecost (Acts 20:16) which a careful study of his timeline reveals that it was just a little over a month away.  The bottom line is he really needed to get a move-on to get there in time as he had 500 or more miles yet to travel.
    In spite of all of this, he took the time to stay at Troas for a week (Acts 20:6).  Why would he do this, as we know he was in a hurry on such an urgent mission?  We get our likely answer in Acts 20:7, “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight.”  Paul wanted to meet with the church at Troas and he knew his brethren would be assembled on the next Lord’s day.  It is very obvious that the church was very important to Paul.
    How important is the church to you?  Is it so important that you, like Paul, develop your weekly schedule around its meeting times and activities no matter how busy you are?  Jesus answers the question for us when He said, “But seek first the kingdom of God...” (Matt. 6:33).  Is the church first in your life?                                                                                      -

- Edd Sterchi preaches for the Broadway Church of Christ in Campbellsville, KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.broadwaychurchofchrist.net/
When 'We All' Get to Heaven
By R.W. McAlister

    I like the song we sometimes sing, "When We All Get To Heaven," but I think we need to question the truth of those lyrics. Many of us who sing that song understand "we all" to mean "the saved" (which is correct), and in fact, some song leaders will tell the audience, before beginning the song, to change "When we all get to Heaven" to "When the saved get to Heaven." Why? Because the Bible draws a clear line between the saved and the lost.
    The truth is, God wants everyone to be saved. In I Tim. 2:3-4, the Bible says in reference to, “…God our Saviour;” that He would “have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” And in II Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
    Now, just because God wants everyone to be saved, does that mean that He will save everyone, in spite of how they live their lives? To answer this question, we need to understand something about the nature of God. Listen to the words of Paul in II Thessalonians 1:7-9: “…the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, 8In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:  9Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.”
    It is absolutely imperative that we live our lives every day with a correct understanding of both the love of God and the wrath of God. The same God Who speaks of the possibility of an eternal Heavenly home is the same God Who will provide an eternal place of conscious pain called Hell (Rev. 21:8). Consider the Bible’s assessment of the dual nature of God, warning Christians in Rome of the danger of losing their salvation: “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.” (Romans 11:22). People today go blindly ahead, out of harmony with God’s written Word, comforting themselves with a false view of God’s love.
    Did you know that God cannot save everybody? “But I thought God can do anything!” Not true! The Bible certainly represents God as omnipotent—all-powerful (Romans 1:20; Ephesians 1:19), but we misunderstand the power of God if we think He is somehow going to gloss over people’s rejection of His words and save everyone in their sins. God simply cannot do that and still be a just God! God is powerless to save people who do not want to be saved. He cannot save people who refuse to take advantage of the remedy for sin that He has provided through the death of His Son.
    Look also at the words of Jesus in Matt. 7:21-23. Our Lord Himself says: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” So many are doing things they believe God will approve of in service to Him, but they’re things He hasn’t commanded, and He will say to them on the Day of Judgment, “Depart from me, I never knew you.” Who then will be saved? “…he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” The Bible teaches that it’s God’s will that man: hear the word preached (Rom. 10:17), believe it – believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Heb. 11:6), repent of past sins (Acts 17:30), confess Jesus as Lord (Mt. 10:32), be baptized – immersed for the remission of sins (I Peter 3:20-21), and live a faithful life unto death (Rev. 2:10). That’s the Gospel message. Those who respond in obedience to it will be saved, but those who “obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ… shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord...” Dear Soul, will you be saved or lost?
 
- R. W. McAlister preaches for the Anna Church of Christ in Anna, IL.He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.annachurchofchrist.com/

Who is Your God?
By Ronald Bartanen
 
    Everyone has some concept of some god. God, to some, is one who would advocate a violent death to innocent men, women and children just because they believe in a different god. To others, he is so accepting that he would tolerate all sins to the point that all would be saved. To still others, he will judge all men strictly on the basis of law, with little or no mercy or grace. Others would imagine there to be no personal god, but would look upon creation itself as god, fashioning itself through a process of millions of years of evolution. Such would consider themselves to be answerable to no personal god that they would face in judgment. Then there are those who may claim a faith in the God revealed in the Bible, but he is not recognizable by biblical standards. I read of one church that advertised itself as teaching “the modern view of God,” as if that were a plus. Such would seem to believe that Christians should be able to revise God, remaking Him to suit every generation. In reality, regardless of what may be our claim, we are all worshipers of the god, true or false, which we have within our minds. Jesus spoke of those whose hearts clung to material wealth as serving Mammon, the god of wealth (Matthew 6:24). The apostle Paul wrote of the danger of covetousness, the overpowering love of, and desire for, material things, as “idolatry” (Colossians 3:5), the worship of a false god.
    Who is your God? The apostle Paul wrote, “Though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many) but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him, and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him”  (1 Corinthians 8:5). Only the Bible gives us the correct view of God. All others are false gods, formed in our minds. The Bible presents God as the one Supreme Being, Creator of heaven and earth, “and all that in them is” (Exodus 20:11). He is the living God, holy, almighty, all-wise, all-powerful, and always present. Truly, “God is love” (1 John 4:16), but He is equally just (Isaiah 5:21). He is “the Judge of all” (Hebrews 12:23), but also the Savior of all who come to Him through Jesus Christ, as Paul declared in Titus 3:4-6, “After that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost: which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior.”

- Ronald Bartanen preaches for Arthur Church of Christ, Arthur, IL.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.arthurchurchofchrist.com
Learning to Serve Like Jesus
By Brian MItchell
 
     The following are the words of a beautiful song from our song book entitled “Heart of a Servant.” It reads, “Give me the heart of a servant, tender and faithful and true. Fill me with love, then use me, o Lord, so that the world can see you.” As you think about yourself, especially in light of your relationship with God through His Son; who are you? How would you describe yourself? 
     What descriptive terms for the children of God are you most comfortable with? Do you think of yourself as a disciple, a saint, or a Christian? What about the term Servant? One day a woman was interviewing a prospective butler and asked him, “Are you trained to serve guests?” The prospective butler replied “Yes, ma’am, I have been trained to serve guests both ways.” The woman looked puzzled and asked, “What do you mean, both ways?” The prospective butler replied, “I’ve been trained to serve them so they’ll come again, or so they’ll stay away. You just have to let me know which way you desire for each guest.”
     Would you say that you have been trained to serve? Serving others, if we are being honest, is not something that comes naturally to most people. The truth is that we live in a very self-centered and selfish “Me-First” society. Thus, living a life of service is something that must be sought after and cultivated. But serving others, in following the example of Jesus Christ, is exactly what we have been called to do. 
     But what does it really mean to be a servant? What images immediately come to your mind? Do you think of the slaves of Egypt building the pyramids or the African slaves brought to the United States in the early days of our country? If these are the images that immediately come to mind, then the idea of being a servant of God is not likely to be very appealing to you. And it is for this reason that servanthood represents a path of life that most are unwilling to travel. 
     What we must always keep in mind is the fact that one of God’s major objectives for the followers of His Son is that they become like His Son in all ways. Paul puts it this way, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom.8:28-29). God’s desire is that we be conformed to the image of His Son, that we be like Him.
     Obviously, there are many things about Jesus that we should want to imitate: His walk with God, His knowledge of Scripture, His prayer life and His purity. But what about Jesus’ example of service? I believe that this is one of the most important ways that God wants us to conform to the likeness of Jesus. Look at how Jesus characterized His own life and purpose: “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). 
    Another song in our hymnal, called the Servant Song, says: “Lord, make me a servant, Lord, make me like you; for you are a servant, make me one too.” Jesus came to serve, not be served and if this was true of the Master then certainly it must be true of the follower.

- Brian Mitchell preaches for the Jackson Church of Christ in Jackson, MO.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.jacksonchurchofchrist.net
Changing The World One Person at a Time
By Gerald Cowan

    The ancient city-state of Sparta was one of the most formidable military powers of its day. There’s a story about a Spartan king who boasted about the walls of Sparta to another king, claiming that his city was invincible because its protective walls couldn’t be breached. When that other king visited Sparta and looked carefully at the city, to his great surprise there were no walls at all. When he asked, “Where are the walls you’ve been boasting about?” the king of Sparta proudly pointed to his soldiers and said, “These are the walls of Sparta, every man a brick.” To him each soldier was a living brick in a protective wall. But the effectiveness and impregnability of the wall depended on each and every member brick in it, not only some or a few but all of them.  Even one defector, one renegade, one careless person, one person derelict or deficient in watchfulness and response to the enemy could precipitate a breach in the wall that could lead to the fall of the city. Could this aspect of Sparta be a metaphor of the church? Is Sparta’s living wall like the living wall of the church?
    The Bible says that Christians are “living stones… being built into a spiritual house” (1 Peter 2:5).  Just as Sparta had no walls, but depended upon its soldiers, so the strength of the church of Jesus Christ is not in “church buildings,” not even in the universal church itself, but in the people who are followers of Christ.  Yes I know – I don’t need to be reminded – the real strength of the church is the Lord himself, a mighty tower of refuge from the enemy (Psalm 61:1), a tower to which the righteous can run and be safe (Prov. 18:10). But those living stones in the tower of the Lord are the functioning parts, the members who do the works of the Lord. They are armed to defend each other from the common spiritual enemies. It is necessary that all the member stones be faithful. One person derelict in duty can precipitate such a breach in that wall of living stones that the building itself may seem to in danger of falling to the enemy.
    Most of us have no doubt felt at times the tremendous pressure we are under collectively to defend the church of the Lord against the myriad enemies and forces of evil that would bring it down.  We may resist and refuse to acknowledge the importance of the individual, trusting instead the collective strength of the members and the overarching work of God. Many tremble at the thought that success depends upon the individual, not the collective. When called upon to defend the church we may feel confident in our strength and resources – good for us! But when trying to recapture, rebuild, and secure any parts that have fallen we may feel it is a hopeless task. How can we as Christians build again what has fallen down?  There is an answer in the example and leadership of Nehemiah when he set out to rebuild the broken-down wall of Jerusalem, the presumptive city of God. He simply asked each family to rebuild its own part of the wall, its own back yard, so to speak. Obviously that would involve any and all members of the family. No family and no person was able to rebuild the whole wall, but each family could manage to rebuild its own part and in that way the collective could manage the whole task. It was not to be the work of one or a few, but the work of all.   
    You have probably said, or at least thought, that you cannot change the world. You’re right. Can you change the politics of the nation or the world? No. Can you change the religious beliefs and practices of the world? No. The same holds true in spiritual and religious matters for the church. Can you change any other person? Do not be to quick to say no to this question. If you say no here you will probably not try to change anyone or anything. Before we come back to this question let’s ask another.
    Can you change yourself? Can you change your thoughts, attitudes, and actions? Of course you can! It may not be a drastic total radical remaking but only a gradual process, changing things one at a time or a little at a time. Make radical changes when you can. Do not lose heart because radical reformation and transformation are not possible for you but be patient in doing the things that take time and incremental growth. Patience – even patience with yourself while you are progressing – is a virtue.  What brings about a change in you? You may not be able to change the way others relate to you or react toward you. But you can change your own character as well as your actions. Here’s how you do it. By enlightenment. By increased knowledge. By improved understanding and insight. By following the example and successes of others. By accepting the efforts of others to change or convert you. It isn’t what others do but what you do in response to it that brings about the change in you. When others whom we appreciate and trust change it affects us too. Sometimes people change but fail to tell or show it to others so, though others may guess, they do not really know if or how and to what extent a change has been made. It would be helpful if they told us how and why they have changed and if they think it is important for us to follow them.
    Now I’ve just given you a key to repairing, rebuilding, and securing your part of the wall or the church. Change yourself to conform to the will of God, tell others how and why you have made the change, exhort and encourage others to make the same change or to show approval of your change by emulating it. The whole edifice and all those in it will be corrected where necessary, strengthened and inspired to build themselves up for God and set a pattern for others to follow in building for God.
    Just remember how it starts. Change things one brick, one stone, one person, or one factor at a time – a little at a time – starting with yourself. You will be impressed and amazed at the eventual results.

- Gerald Cowan, a longtime preacher and missionary, is retired from full-time pulpit preaching. He is available for Gospel Meetings and he may be contacted at Geraldcowan1931@aol.com

A Life-Saving Encounter
By David A. Sargent

    “A weekend traffic stop in Kennebunk turns into a life-saving encounter,” said WMTW-TV News 8 (Portland, Maine) anchor, Tracy Sabol.
    84-year-old Gavin “Scotty” Falconer and his wife were driving to get some ice cream when they were stopped for speeding in a 25 MPH speed limit zone by Officer Matthew Harrington.  As Officer Harrington was writing a warning, Falconer slumped over his steering wheel lifeless – with no breathing and no pulse.  Shortly after handing over his license and registration, Falconer suffered an apparent heart attack.
    Officer Harrington sprung into action.  From what his wife told him, Falconer relayed what happened: “He came running back, saw me there, yanked me out of the car, ripped my beautiful pink shirt (but that’s alright; it was old anyway), and, I guess, I was gone -- no pulse, nothing.  And he started giving me CPR.”  A second officer arrived on the scene with a defibrillator.  It is believed that CPR and a shock from the defibrillator brought Falconer back to life.
    When he was interviewed in the hospital by WMTW news reporter Paul Merrill, Falconer had not seen Officer Harrington but was looking forward to meeting him under different circumstances.  “The first thing I would say to him is, ‘Thank you.’” *
    It may be that being stopped for a speeding infraction saved Falconer’s life.
    No one likes receiving a traffic ticket because none of us likes to be told that we’ve done something wrong.  But, just as in Falconer’s case, being told to stop when we’re committing an infraction may save our lives!
    ALL of us have made many infractions against God!  “For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23); that’s what earn by these “infractions” (sins).  Being stopped and told to repent (turn from) our sins – and we heed the warning -- is the best thing that could happen to us!
    The Good News (the Gospel) is that even though we have committed many infractions, God loves us so much that He gave His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10).
    God will forgive those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Him before men (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).
    He will continue to cleanse those who continue to follow Him by “walking in the light”
of His Word (1 John 1:7).
    We need to hear the bad news (we have sinned and sin leads to eternal destruction, Matthew 7:13-14), so that we can hear, understand, appreciate, and accept the GOOD NEWS: Jesus came to save us from our sins!
    And when we accept God’s offer of salvation and eternal life through Jesus, the first thing we’ll want to say is, “Thank You!”
    Won’t YOU turn from sin and accept God’s offer on His terms?

- 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
* Information gleaned from The Huffington Post (
www.huffingtonpost.com) and www.WMTW.com
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