BulletinGold #185
June 2017  
Vol 17 #6 

June 2017                                      BG# 185                                      Vol. 17                                       Issue 06
BULLETINGold
Subscribe                     Website                     Submissions                      Editor: David Bragg
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In this issue ...
                                 
Out of the Ashes By David A. Sargent
                               

The Stuff of Life By J. Randal Matheny

The Origin of Father's Day By David Bragg

Have You Been to Jesus? By Ron Thomas

A Father’s Greatest Responsibility By Joe Chesser

Hating Hate By Ron Adams 

Where Have All the Fathers Gone? By Ron Bartanen

Your Father Called By Joe Slater

The Value of Dad By Jeff Arnette

A Father’s Work By Brian Mitchell

Fathers, We Thank You By Robert Guinn

No Excuse! By Ed Wittlif

The Church That Jesus Saw By Bill Brandstatter

Perplexing Mysteries That Plague the Church By Gerald Cowan

Making a Difference By Alan Smith

Friends and Family By R. W. McAlister

Out of the Ashes
By David A. Sargent

     Debris and lots of ashes. That was all that was left after heavy equipment demolished the remains of the home of Tony and Juanita Taylor in Luther, Oklahoma, after it was destroyed by a fire in December of 2016. The greatest loss was the life of Tony, Juanita’s 48-year-old husband.
     In March 2017, a group of teens and chaperones from the Hartsville Pike Church of Christ in Gallatin, Tennessee, spent their spring break serving the community of Luther. One of the projects was to help clean up Juanita Taylor's property.
     At least 2 loaded dumpsters of debris had been hauled away, but the group kept sifting through the debris to find any remaining valuable items for Juanita.
     12-year-old Libby Rominger was digging through a pile of cookbooks that were mostly intact, when she spotted a plastic baggie in good condition with something in it. “We were told ahead of time there might be money in the house but no one had been able to find it,” said Libby. She couldn’t believe it when she spotted the baggie and what appeared to be a stack of cash inside.
     The youth group also uncovered a Bible in good condition. The Bible and the baggie filled with money – approximately $4,500 – were presented to a grateful and tearful Juanita.
     Out of the ashes, treasures were found. One treasure that will help pay the bills left after a devastating fire and the loss of a dear loved one; another treasure that serves as the guide to an eternal home.
     Jesus told a brief parable to remind us of what is truly valuable: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matthew 13:44).
     The Greatest Treasure of all is to know Christ as our King and to be in His Kingdom! For in Christ’s kingdom, we have great spiritual and eternal blessings (Ephesians 1:3). “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:7). “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11).
     God will save and add to His kingdom those who place their faith and trust in Christ (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). He will continue to cleanse from sin those who continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7).
     Out of the ashes, true treasures can be found. Out of the grave, Jesus came bursting forth to reign from heaven over His eternal kingdom – the kingdom to which He desires to add YOU, if you will only submit to His rule today.
    Won’t YOU?

- 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 “Out of the Ashes” in The Luther Register (
www.lutherregister.news), March 20, 2017, and the March 2017 issue of The Christian Chronicle of Oklahoma Christian University (see http://www.christianchronicle.org).

The Stuff of Life
By J. Randal Matheny

Time is not the stuff of life — but love!
Without it time is but a living hell;
For love we strive; in love we thrive and move,
And when we find it know we're living well.

- 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.

The Origin of Father's Day
By David Bragg

    In 1911 Anna Jarvis achieved her dream of a national day honoring Mothers. But decades would pass before fathers would be so honored. The state of Washington was the first to have a Father’s Day, thanks to Sonora Dodd whose own father, Civil War veteran and widower William Jackson Smart, reared six children as a single-parent (history.com). While Dodd pushed for June 5, 1910, her father's birthday, she was content when Gov. M. E. Hay designated July 19, 1910 as the first Father's Day (history.com).
    This spawned national efforts to establish a Father's Day with advocates like William Jennings Bryan and presidents Wilson, Coolidge and Lyndon Johnson. However, an all-male Congress was hesitant, fearing that if they passed such a resolution it would appear to be self-serving. So Father's Day had no official, national observations until 1971 when President Richard Nixon appointed the third Sunday of each June as Father's Day. On that day, at the age of 90, Sonora Smart Dodd along with the entire nation observed the very first national day honoring dads.
    While having annual days to honor mothers and fathers is nice, it is of far greater importance for children to honor their parents on a daily basis (Exo. 20:12; Eph. 6:2). And it was on the shoulders of parents that God would place the even greater obligation to live lives worthy of honor before their children. Godly parents will daily teach their children by word and example to love and obey God.

- 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/
Have You Been to Jesus?
By Ron Thomas

    In Acts 4, we read of the account of two men standing before the religious leaders of the day, an occasion that was not taken lightly by any that were involved when such a thing like this occurred. The religious leaders not only had moral force, but they could apply a heavy dose of peer pressure, even criminal indictment when the situation demanded it. Acts 4, from their perspective, was such an occasion. 
    There was some murmuring going on amongst the people, and when they learned about it, those in charge arrested those guilty of causing this disturbance (that is, Peter and John). The disturbance was only in relation to the healing of a man lame since his birth, but the troubling aspect of this disturbance was in direct relation to Jesus, God’s anointed (chosen) one, one who was actually rejected by many of the Jewish people. Rejected as he was, they killed an innocent man. 
    Still fresh on their minds, the man Jesus and that which He taught, they resolved: “This has to stop!” 
    After having been arrested, the Lord’s servants were standing before those in judicial authority, being called to give an account of what they did and why. Peter and John stood tall. They gave a direct answer, and then a pertinent application for them (those in authority and the whole community): the authority by which they operated was the same authority they rejected and killed. One day they were going to stand before Him and be judged. This was impressive and insulting to those making inquiry (Acts 4:13). 
    “And they recognized they had been with Jesus.” 
    Do people recognize this about you? Do they recognize this by the clothes you wear, the words you use, the entertainment you enjoy?  
    Or is it, they hear that you “go to church,” but they see the clothes you wear, the music you listen to, the form of entertainment you enjoy, the books you read, and then conclude you are a better talker than a doer?  
    I suppose the first point to consider is this: what does it mean to be with Jesus? It means to be “blood bought,” that is, to be a Christian. One who loves the Lord does not love the Lord in name, but in life. The Christian will meet with the saints “when the doors are open.” The one who loves the Lord will spend regular occasions during the day in prayer. The one who has been with Jesus will hear from Him daily as the Scriptures are read in devotion and study. 
    The one who is with Jesus will ALWAYS think to himself “what would Jesus do?” The quaint saying has a powerful message. 
    Have you been to Jesus?

- Ron Thomas preacher for the Sunrush Church of Christ, Chillicothe, OH. He may be contacted through the congregation's website http://sunrushchurchofchrist.com
A Father’s Greatest Responsibility
By Joe Chesser
 
    A man can be a great leader and at the same time be a lousy father. A man can be an outstanding prophet, priest, or king, and still be a failure as a parent. It’s such a common problem that there are jokes floating around about preachers’ kids and elders’ kids. To me, that’s tragic. But, even more significant, God thinks it’s tragic, too.
    Eli was a priest serving the Lord at Shiloh. As faithful as he was in performing his duties to God and the people, his performance as a parent was awful. It was said of his two sons that they were wicked and that “they had no regard for the Lord” (1 Sam. 2:12). They had the nerve to take the fat portions of the sacrifices that belonged to God and keep them for themselves. Eli didn’t stop them, even though “the sin of the young men was very great in the Lord’s sight, for they were treating the Lord’s offering with contempt” (1 Sam. 2:17). Eli neglected his greatest responsibility – to correct his sons and teach them to be obedient to the Lord and to himself. Finally, the Lord sent a man of God to Eli with a prophecy of his accountability: “Why do you honor your sons more than me ... ?” (1 Sam. 2:29). Eli was faithful in performing the duties of a priest, but was unfaithful is his greatest responsibility – teaching his children to be faithful to God.
    Unfortunately, Eli’s example was not unique. Samuel, the prophet who grew up under the mentorship of Eli, turned out the same way. He was personally faithful as a servant of the Lord, anointing both Saul and David as kings, but his sons were very wicked. In fact, it was because his sons were so corrupt that Israel sought to have king (1Sam. 8).
    Even David, the best king Israel ever had, would not have won “Father of the Year.” In 1 Kings 1:6 it says of David regarding his rebellious son Adonijah, “His father had never interfered with him by asking ‘Why do you behave as you do?’” As a result, Adonijah set himself up as king over Israel when he thought David was too old to do anything about it.
    The New Testament teaches that a part of the qualifications of  a man who is to be appointed as an Elders of the church is that he must have proven that he can “manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect” (1 Tim. 3:4). In a similar way, deacons are also to be able to manage their families well (1 Tim. 3:12). It is the responsibility of fathers to teach and train their children in the ways of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).
    In this brief study it is clear what God views as one of the greatest responsibilities of fatherhood – to teach and train their children in the ways of God and to expect obedience and respect. Children are not obedient and respectful because they are commanded to be, but because a loving and caring father has consistently trained them in God’s ways and demonstrated that kind of life before them day after day.
    What greater privilege and responsibility does a father have?

- Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com
Hating Hate
By Ron Adams

Hate defined:
To feel hostility or animosity toward. To detest.
A feeling of utter hostility and disgust.

  Today, some detest, abhor, and loathe anyone who hates. [Note: "detest, abhor, and loathe" are synonymous with "hate."] Love is said to be antagonistic to hate. However, assaults on innocent children, inhuman treatment of others, bilking the elderly, along with other heinous crimes give rise to feelings of hate. There is everything right and nothing wrong hating such things. Hate is a God-given and God-sanctioned emotion.

GOD LOVES
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
John 3:16

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)."
Ephesians 2:4-5

GOD HATES
"There are six things which the Lord hates,
Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him:
Haughty eyes,
A lying tongue,
Hands that shed innocent blood,
A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that run rapidly to evil,
A false witness who utters lies,
One who spreads strife among brothers."
Proverbs 6:16-19

God also hates ...
Abominable acts (Deu.12:31);
Divorce (Mal.2:16);
Homosexuality (Lev.18:22);
Vain idols (Psa.31:6);
Sacred pillars erected to worship other gods. (Deu.16:22).

EMULATE GOD
"The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way, and the perverted mouth, I hate."
Proverbs 8:13

Hate evil, love good.
Psalms 97:10, Amos 5:15

- 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. © 2017
Where Have All the Fathers Gone?
By Ron Bartanen
 
     Where have all the fathers gone? Unless you have been out of the country the last few years you will probably agree with me when I say that the traditional and biblical standard for the “nuclear family” is being attacked. As defined by the Merriam Webster’s Deluxe Dictionary,  such a family is described as “a family group that consists of father, mother and children.” You will have to search a long time to any more find family-shows on TV such as “Father Knows Best,” the “Donna Reed Show,” or—our favorite—“The Beaver,” except on stations that specialize in re-runs of productions of the ‘40s and ‘50s. Small-children’s text books now refrain from depicting such families because such are unfamiliar to many children, especially to those with no father present. The single-parent household is becoming ever more common and acceptable.
    As Biblical standards are being cast aside, the blessing of two parents in the rearing of children is becoming rarer and rarer. Children are routinely being born into the world to young women who consent to sexual relationships without the security of “holy matrimony.” Divorce statistics continue to mount, leaving mothers to raise children alone, or with little input by the fathers. Feminists maintain that a father is no longer needed, other than to be a sperm-donor, enabling them the freedom to have children without the further need for a male. Lesbian couples are trying to convince us that two women can raise children as effectively as a man and a woman together can. Statistics show that in 1960, 5 percent of America’s children were without two parents—a mother and a father. Twenty years later the number had risen to 18 percent; and by 2000, to 33 percent. That number now stands at 41 percent. While public welfare is a need in a humane society, some women admit that it is monetarily an advantage to remain on welfare as a single parent in preference to taking a low-paying job and hiring baby sitters. Some have discovered that they can “make” even more money by having more children, allowing an automatic raise in benefits. A poll taken by the Los Angeles Times in 1985, asking whether poor women often have children to increase benefits, showed that while non-poor residents said “No”, 64 percent of those considered poor said “Yes”. With the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples, we can only expect the situation to worsen.
     Are fathers needed? Obviously, God’s pattern from the beginning was that of a father, mother and children. To depart from it is at our peril. Let Isaac Shakur, the rapper who was killed, possibly in a gang-related murder, answer: “I know for a fact that had I had a father, I’d have some discipline. I’d have more confidence…. Your mother cannot calm you down the way a man can. Your mother can’t assure you the way a man can. My mother couldn’t show me where my manhood was. You need a man to teach you how to be a man.” He admitted to running with gangs to seek structure and protection. Not surprisingly, the Journal of Research on Adolescence revealed from a study that children who have never had a father available are the most likely to end up behind bars. It is predictable that as our nation continues to live in a world of “virtual reality” instead of facing the fact that God knows best, the situation will continue to deteriorate. And as the family-structure is destroyed, our blinded nation can only expect a similar fate. One day we will wake up and ask, “Where have all the fathers gone?”

- Ronald Bartanen preaches for Arthur Church of Christ, Arthur, IL.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.arthurchurchofchrist.com
Your Father Called
By Joe Slater

    Years ago I saw a clever TV ad by a religious group: “Your Father called, and He wants you to come home.” God, our Heavenly Father, has, indeed, called us. He did this through the gospel (2 Thessalonians 2;14), not through human traditions. As the parable of the lost son teaches us, the Father wants His wayward children to come home (Luke 15).
    Primarily, the lost son in Luke 15 stands for the child of God who has fallen away. There is a sense, however, in which all people are children of God, having been made in His image (Acts 17:28, 29). Either way, God desires that sinners come home. He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). 
    Why won’t children come home? Sometimes it is because they don’t like the rules of the house. “Nobody’s going to tell me what to do!” Rebellion prompted the young son in Jesus’ parable to leave the Father’s house; and it kept him away until he came to his senses. Only when he was willing to submit to his father did he return home.
     God our Father has some rules for His family, too. They are contained in the New Testament. Self-willed people leave when they don’t like the rules. Tragically, they stay away until and unless they come to their senses and submit to the Father’s authority.
    Sometimes children won’t come home because they don’t appreciate the blessings of their father’s house. The young son in the parable obviously thought he would be much happier on his own, doing as he pleased, spending his inheritance on whatever tickled his fancy. For a time, it appeared that he was right. Why would he come home when he was having so much fun?
   Then the famine struck; finally, the boy realized how foolish he had been. He was impoverished while his father’s servants enjoyed plenty. Now he understood how blessed he had been as a son in his father’s house; he was willing to return, even to a lesser station.
     Few people comprehend the blessedness of being a faithful child of God. The world pulls at us, tempting us with the deceitful pleasures of sin. We foolishly allow ourselves to believe we’ll be better off doing the works of the flesh than bearing the fruit of the Spirit. Eventually, we discover that Satan makes big promises, but doesn’t deliver. We find ourselves starving in the barren wasteland of sin. Why, oh why, did we ever leave the Father’s house?
       Are you away from God? Do you see the tragic mistake you made? Why not change your mind and change your ways? Your Father called, and He wants you to come home.

- 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
The Value of Dad
By Jeff Arnette

    In our modern society, the value of a dad in the home has, to a large degree, been lost. The reason our society and our families are in such disarray, is because dads are absent in the home. Some dads, being unwilling to be responsible or afraid of settling down, have completely walked out on their children. Some dads, being so consumed with the pursuit of wealth, have allowed work to keep them out of the home and their children’s life. And some dads, are so absent and disconnected from their children that he does not and could not really teach them about faith, Jesus, or the Father. Not only is the blessing of having a child something to be honored, something to be treasured, the value of dad in the home to lead his family cannot be compared (Psalm 127:3; Ex. 20:12).  
    Throughout the scriptures, God has emphasized the importance and value of dad. Not only are we told to honor dad (Ex. 20:12) but rebellion or mistreatment of dad was worthy of the death penalty (Ex. 21:15; Lev. 20:9; Deut. 22:18-21). I used to read these passages as a young man and wonder why God could call for such strict punishment for those who disobeyed dad. My conclusion was that God wanted us to value him that much. Dad was so valuable to the home and society that God protected him with the death penalty. He was responsibility for teaching his children about God and helping them to fulfill the law to enter into a covenant relationship (Lev. 12:3; Deut. 11:19). So valuable and precious is dad that God used that relationship to describe his own value to us (Psalm 103:13).  
    In the New Testament, the imagery is just as strong. God is the father of who believe and love (Matt. 6:5-8; 10:29-31). One of the greatest parables of Jesus, the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), was mostly about the love and forgiveness of God as seen in our dads. This parable helps us understand ourselves, and just as importantly, it helps us understand our great God.  
    It seems that God understands something that has been all but lost in our modern, enlightened, society. In our wisdom and advancement, we have replaced dad with gifts, with possessions that could never be as important as dad. We have lost sight of just how important his role really is to our children, our homes, and our churches. As one writer said, “the father was truly the linchpin of the family and society.”*
    Isn’t it time we get back to God’s standard and value for dad? Isn’t it time that we encourage dads to step up and be the man God knows he can be? Until we do, we will never truly be successful. Disobedience to God always equals failure and the role and value of dad is no exception.  
 
- Jeff Arnette preaches for the Central Haywood church of Christ, Clyde, NC.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://centralhaywoodchurchofchrist.com

* Nash, Kathleen S. “Father.” Ed. David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers, and Astrid B. Beck. Eerdmans dictionary of the Bible 2000 : 456. Print.
A Father’s Work
By Brian Mitchell

    For the man with children, it does not matter what profession one may choose, there is no greater work than that which is done as a father. When it comes to the problems which ail our society a lengthy list could be produced. However, I would suggest to you that one of the greatest problems our society is facing is the absence of the godly father in the home, and I am not just talking about the homes where the father has left. A father does not have to leave the home to leave the home. Many homes have broken down merely because the fathers of our society have abdicated their roles as the leader of the family. As a tragic result, many of our children and our society are suffering as a result.
    Consider the following statistics regarding children in homes where the father is absent, in spirit or in presence. Children without fathers are at an increased risk for antisocial behaviors—such as fighting, lying, cheating and criminal behavior. They are at an increased risk for depression and suicide. They are nearly twice as likely to engage in the use of tobacco products, illegal drugs and alcohol; and twice as likely to engage in pre-marital sex. Let us never underestimate the powerful influence that fathers have in the lives of their children and thus in our world as a whole. It has been said that, “Children love their mothers, but they follow their fathers.” If this is true, as father we must ask; where are we leading our children?
   In Eph.6:4 the Apostle Paul examines the work of the father in both negative (what they shouldn’t do) and positive terms (what they should do). If we as fathers are going to lead our children anywhere worth going we need to understand what Paul says our work as a father is. To fathers Paul writes, “and you father, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”
  Let us first consider the work of the father from the negative perspective. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath.” Provoke to wrath—is a term which means to make angry and when fathers provoke their children they are causing them to become discouraged, frustrated, and eventually to lose heart. Fathers can do this through unrealistic expectations, preferential treatment of siblings, the use of excessive disciple or simply neglect. Regardless of how one might cause his own children to lose heart, Paul says don’t do it. This does not mean that children will agree with every decision a father makes but it does call for careful attention to how one is dealing with his children and the affect it is having on them.
    From the positive perspective Paul says that fathers are to “bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” “In the training” refers to a holistic child education and includes the discipline needed to carry it out. As I said, excessive discipline can provoke a child to wrath but this does not mean that loving discipline done to instruct children in righteousness is not needed. “And admonition of the Lord” refers to instruction or warning, the qualifying phrase of which is “in the Lord.” Thus, we as fathers are supposed to impart spiritual instruction to our children. While the mothers must help in all of this, the primary responsibility lay with the father.
    So on this Father’s Day I encourage each of our fathers here to answer an important question; Where are You Leading Your Children?

- 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
Fathers, We Thank You
Robert Guinn

    A father is more than someone you are connected to by genetics. Having worked with a children’s home and now serving as foster parents, my wife and I have had our eyes opened to the reality that many fathers are absent. Not everyone has the blessing of having a father in their life. Whether they are absent physically, emotionally, mentally, or spiritually, the negative impact can be seen on a child. So, I want to take a moment to thank the fathers that fulfill their Biblical roles within the family.
  • For stressing the importance of God in the Family (Psalm 127:1) … thank you
  • For leading your family as Christ leads the church (Ephesians 5:23)…. thank you
  • For providing for your family (1 Timothy 5:8) …. thank you
  • For cultivating a self-sacrificing love for your family (Ephesians 5:25-33)…. thank you
  • For training your children (Proverbs 22:6)…. thank you
  • For encouraging your children in God’s way (Colossians 3:21) …. thank you
  • For instructing and teaching your family in the Lord (Ephesians 6:4) …. thank you
  • For showing compassion (Psalm 103:13) …thank you
  • For talking about God’s word (Deuteronomy 6:6-9) … thank you
  • For seeing your children as a blessing (Psalms 127:3-5) …. thank you
  • For choosing to serve the Lord with your family (Joshua 24:15) …. thank you
  • For fearing the Lord (Proverbs 14:26) …. thank you
  • For walking in integrity (Proverbs 20:7) …. thank you
  • For being willing to discipline (Proverbs 13:24; 19:18) …. thank you
  • For encouraging your family to walk in truth (3 John 1:4) … thank you
    You have made, and continue to make, a difference in the lives of you family and others by choosing the Lord as the centerpiece of your family. God bless you and help you lead your family in His ways.

- 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
No Excuse!
By Ed Wittlif

    "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse" (Romans 1:20).
    Look at the physical universe, our world, and you cannot fail to see evidence of the Creator. The planet Earth was designed for man to live on. The earth is a finely tuned habitat for humanity. The fact that we are able to mess up the environment speaks to our planet being created for a purpose and not an accidental happening.
    The evidence for God isn't just limited to what we can see with our eyes. I am reading The Case For A Creator by Lee Strobel.  Strobel points out that our DNA speaks of an intelligent Creator. Scientists acknowledge that our DNA contains coding regions having the exact same properties as computer code or even language. We understand that computer code and language didn't just happen. Therefore, there is intelligent design behind creation.
    Even down to the lowest cellular level, everything points to a Creator. Our heavenly Father left His finger prints, as it were, over everything in creation.
    The Holy Spirit through Paul points out in Romans 1:20 that the evidence for a powerful creator is clearly visible. The person who says that there is no God is denying clear and plain truth. That person has no excuse, for God left evidence that He is.
    Rest assured that the evidence for God is overwhelming. Therefore, do not allow any theory or anyone talk you out of your belief in God or cause doubts. Jesus says, "Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life" (Revelation 2:10c)."

- Ed Wittlif is from Denver, CO; via the Church of Christ in Justin, TX. Joe Slater serves as minister and he may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://justinchurchofchrist.com

The Church That Jesus Saw
By Bill Brandstatter
 
     One of the most familiar passages to many Christians is Matt. 16:18. There Jesus states, “…Upon this rock I will build my church”…; but what was the church that Jesus saw when He spoke those words? He no doubt knew about what the Old Testament writers said regarding the church.
    Jesus knew about the prophecy of Daniel pertaining to the kingdom. When the church came, the kingdom came. Daniel prophesied that God would set up a kingdom that would never be destroyed. (Dan. 2:44) Later Jesus told Peter He would give to him the keys to the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 16:19) The establishment of the church was in the eternal purpose of God. (Eph. 3:11) Since Jesus was with the Father in the beginning and involved in Creation, He no doubt knew all about the establishment of the church in New Testament times. (John 1:1, 2)
    Jesus read and knew about the prophecy of Isaiah pertaining to the Lord’s house being established in the top of the mountains, and all nations flowing into it. (Isa. 2:2-3) Later the apostle Paul described the church as the “house of God”. (1 Tim. 3:15)
    Jesus knew that the name of God’s people in the church would change. Being familiar with the writings of Isaiah, He read Isaiah 62:2 where Isaiah stated that the Lord would give His people a new name which the mouth of the Lord would utter. He also knew that God’s servants would be called by another name. (Isa. 65:15) That name was first used in Acts 11:26 when the disciples were first called Christians.
    Jesus knew about the day that the church would be established. Peter stated that “all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as man as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.” (Acts 3:24) Jesus being familiar with Old Testament writings, no doubt knew what those days were. He also knew what Joel wrote in Joel 2:28-32. This is what Peter quoted on the day of Pentecost. He prefaced Joel’s words by stating, “this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.” (Acts 2:14)
    Jesus no doubt knew about the establishment of the church was in God’s plan before He even came to earth. Paul writes to the church at Ephesus and told them that the church was in the eternal purpose of God. (Eph. 3:11) Jesus was there in the beginning. (John 1:1-2) Today we have at our disposal a lot of information about the church. We have His words.  We have the words of the apostles. Yet with all the information available to us many still are confused regarding the church. Jesus read about the church; we can too. Will I believe what is written, accept it, and obey it? Jesus would want me to since the church belongs to Him. (Matt.16:18; Acts 20:28) We can read the same verses that Jesus read. With all this information there should not be any problem with understanding about the church. Perhaps we need to look again at the church that Jesus saw.

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

 1  The mystery of the empty pew. Why are members absent? It would seem that for some the freedom to worship can be interpreted as  freedom from worship – at least freedom from the assemblies for worship (Heb. 10:25).
 2.  The mystery of the disappearing church member. Some drop out and no one knows why.  They may fall back in love with the world (2 Tim. 4:10). Since they cannot serve God and mammon, they give up God (Mt. 6:24).
 3.  The mystery of the unaccompanied child. They are dropped off by parents who never attend any church services or activities. They are sent off alone or in the care of neighbors. This condition seems to apply to others besides children too. The wife, and sometimes the husband, comes without the mate. Parents sometimes come without their children – it is a mystery to the parents that the children do not want to attend and actually refuse to attend with them. Does Proverbs 22:6 apply?
 4.  The mystery of the indisposition of one that renders a whole group incapable.  One person is sick, so all members of the family stay at home.
 5.  The mystery of the closed Bible. In the homes the Bible is a seldom opened dust catcher. Even in the church’s assemblies the Bible is opened only by the preacher or teacher. Can one be an approved student of scripture without studying the scripture (2 Tim. 2:15)?
 6.  The mystery of buried talents. Most members enjoy seeing work done, but too many neglect their own opportunities and abilities (Mt. 25:14-30).
 7.  The mystery of uncommitted money. Conversion seems to miss the pocketbook and checkbook in some cases (2 Cor. 9:7).
 8.  The mystery of the misused day.  The Lord’s day is used for everything except worship and service to the Lord.
 9.  The mystery of worried and fearful saints. With a concerned and loving Savior to defend and preserve us, what do we really have to fear?

- 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
Making a Difference
By Alan Smith

    The following story comes from John Shay, Sr.:
    A group of dinner guests were sitting around a table discussing life.  A CEO decided to explain the problem with education.  He argued, "What's a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?"  He reminded the other dinner guests what they say about teachers: "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach."
    To stress his point, he said to another guest, "You're a teacher, Susan.  Be honest. What do you make?"
    Susan, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness, replied, "You want to know what I make? I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.  I make a C+ student feel like the winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor.  I make kids sit through 40 minutes of study hall in absolute silence.
    "You want to know what I make? I make kids wonder. I make them criticize.  I make them apologize and mean it. I make them write. I make them read, read, read. I make them show all their work in math and perfect their final drafts in English. I make them understand that, if you have the brains and follow your heart, and if someone ever tries to judge you by what you make, you must pay no attention because they just didn't learn."
    Susan paused and then continued. "You want to know what I make? I make a difference. What do you make?"
    It was James who wrote, "Brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers." (James 3:1, GOD'S WORD).  He points out that teachers will be judged more severely.  He could just as easily have said that teachers have a greater responsibility, a greater challenge, a greater opportunity to affect the lives of people in a negative way.  It is impossible to teach without using words, and with greater use of words comes a greater danger that the words will do harm.
    But thanks be to God that there are those who face that challenge and assume that responsibility and make a diligent effort to use their words as an opportunity to affect the lives of people in a positive way.  Those of you who are teachers -- who can begin to measure the tremendous effect that you are having in the lives of the children (and adults) in your classrooms?  You may not see the results of your efforts for years.  In fact, you may never get to see the results.  But you do make a difference.
    Those of you who are schoolteachers are teaching not only the basics of education, but you are teaching values and character.  Those of you who are Bible class teachers are filling the minds and hearts of our children with stories of faith that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.  Those of you who are preachers are strengthening the family of God and bringing salvation to the lost.
    So, my hat is off to all of you who are teachers because I know exactly what you make.  You make a difference!
    "We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.  If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach." (Romans 12:6-7)
    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: http://www.cruciformcoc.com/

Friends and Family
By R. W. McAlister

    Friends are such a blessing. When we need a “shoulder to cry on,” as the expression goes, a good friend is often the one to whom we turn. When we need to be cheered up, a good friend is often just the person for the job. Good friends aren’t afraid to tell us when we’re about to make the biggest mistake of our lives, and they continue to love us even if we do.  The wise man wrote, “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Prov. 17:17), and again, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24).
    A true friend loves in adversity as well as in prosperity. Such is not a “fair-weather friend” and it often it takes hard times to show us which friends are genuinely loyal. D. L. Moody says, “A true friend is like ivy—the greater the ruin, the closer he clings.”
    As Prov. 18:24 points out, gaining friends is dependent upon demonstrating friendliness toward others. He who will be a friend will always meet others eager to reciprocate an attitude of friendliness. Friends, however, will sometimes desert or fail you in the time of need. This reality shouldn’t depress us, for there are true friends (Pr. 17:17) whose commitments will never waver. The true friend is rare, and his devotion often surpasses that of a blood-brother.
    Jesus Christ is such a friend. His devotion to you surpasses that of any blood relative or earthly friend. He was willing to go to Calvary and be nailed to a tree and shed His blood to cover your sins. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Jesus is your friend. The question is: are you His?
    Every friendship must have a foundation, be it common interests, a shared profession, etc. The foundation for friendship with Jesus is obedience. “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (Jn. 15:14). Have you obeyed His commands? Have you shunned man-made religious teachings for the pure truth of the Bible? Have you responded in obedience to the ordinance of baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38)? “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” We mustn’t ignore the conditional nature of this promise of friendship with Jesus.
    Have you ever had a good friend that you wished could be part of your family? That doesn’t often work out in the physical world, but it can in the spiritual. You see, you can not only claim Jesus as your friend, but He can be your brother as well! Isn’t that a thrilling thought – that you could claim Jesus as your brother? Here’s how, in Jesus’ own words: “Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Mt. 12:50). Notice again the conditional promise: “whosoever shall do the will of my Father…the same is my brother and sister…”
    The message is clear: in spite of what the majority of the religious world teaches, such things as “faith only” salvation, “once saved always saved,” etc. “Do” in Mt. 12:50 translates the Greek word, “hodos,” which means, “a traveler’s journey; a manner of thinking or deciding.” It means a continuous action – we must always strive to do what the Savior commands. We must always strive to do the will of the Father. Then, and only then, can we enjoy friendship with Christ and be part of His family.
    Dear Reader, have you been made part of God’s family through obedience? If not, why not? Why not claim friendship with Jesus and a place in God’s family? Give it some thought.  

- 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/
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