BulletinGold #188
September 2017  
Vol 17 #9 

September 2017                                      BG# 188                                      Vol. 17                                       Issue 09
BULLETINGold
Subscribe                     Website                     Submissions                      Editor: David Bragg
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In this issue ...
                                 
Send Me
By R. W. McAlister
                               

He Shall Direct Your Paths
By Joe Slater

You Started It!
By Alan Smith

She Ain't Heavy
By David A. Sargent

Helping God Answer Your Prayers
By Gerald Cowan

Stand in the Gap
By Ron Thomas

Let Us Pray
By Edd Sterchi

Let’s Go Fight!
By Kevin Rutherford

A Message For All Age's
By Bill Brandstatter

FIRE! By David Bragg

Make Eternal Life Your Goal
By Larry Miles

Don’t Underestimate Your Enemy!
By Jeff Arnette

How’s Your Serve?
By Robert E. Guinn

Reverence and Obedience
By Joe Chesser

The School of Hard Knocks
By Ron Bartanen

Are You A Lighthouse?
By Ed Wittlif

Send Me
By R. W. McAlister

    Years ago when I was substitute teaching, I would frequently end up in the early elementary grades. Most who substitute teach don’t enjoy it very much, but I always did, in part because the younger ages had an immeasurable amount of enthusiasm. If ever there was an errand to run, I could always count on a number of hands waving in the air, and it was common to hear, “pick me!” As I’ve gotten older and more involved in the work of the Lord’s church, I look around at my fellow Christians at home and in other congregations my family and I occasionally visit, and I can’t help but wonder where that child-like enthusiasm has gone. The predominant attitude seems to be, “Well, I hope nobody asks me to do
anything!”  
    I’ve overheard conversations dealing with something that needs to be done to the church building or something that needs to be done in regard to the work of the church, and the question was often, “Well, who’s going to do that?” Was this the attitude Isaiah had? Recall Isaiah 6:8. Just prior to this passage, the Lord was considering whom to send to reach out to disobedient Israel. In this passage, Isaiah is speaking and the Bible reads, “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.”
    Where is the enthusiasm of Isaiah today? Many of us in the Lord’s church want the church to grow, but how much do we do toward that end? We cannot expect the work of the church to progress if we don’t help it along. The church will not experience the same growth it saw in the first century if only a “handful” are evangelizing. This work requires everyone.   
    We can also apply this principle to our everyday lives. Be willing to do what needs to be done without having to be asked. This makes for a very positive atmosphere and an enjoyable place to be. If every Christian were willing to fulfill his or her duties as a Christian and pitch in and help out, every congregation of the Lord’s church would grow in spirit and in number.   
    The next time something needs to be done for God (or another), try saying, “Here am I, send me.”  
 
 - 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/
He Shall Direct Your Paths
By Joe Slater

    Whoever said life is a breeze was wrong! At home, work, school, and yes, even at church, we struggle with complicated issues. Sometimes we wonder which way to turn. How can we resolve life’s thorny problems?
    Pop psychology says to look within yourself for the answers. Follow your heart! Do whatever you think is right, and it will all work out.
    Major problem: God’s word says exactly the opposite! “O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). So, according to God’s inspired prophet, we are looking in the wrong place when we look within ourselves for direction. Why is that?
    God, through Jeremiah, gives us the answer in 17:9 – “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” Ouch! It hurts me to admit that I am sinful. The world erroneously insists that people are fundamentally good, so we can find the right course by looking inside ourselves. God Himself says our hearts are deceitful and wicked; it is not in us to direct our own steps.
    That’s not to say that there is nothing good about us, or that we can never be correct about the direction we should go. A heart that has been cleansed by the blood of Jesus and trained in God’s word might very well recommend the right path frequently. But that’s just the point: bottom line, the right way is determined by God’s word, not by whatever might be in my heart. Even the heart converted to Christ may be deceived by Satan’s lies through the weakness of the flesh.
    King Solomon wisely wrote: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:6).
    When the world calls you to look within yourself to find the truth, resist that appeal with all your might. Let God direct your paths; then you may be confident that you will arrive safely at your eternal destination! 

- 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

You Started It!
By Alan Smith

    Reaching the end of a job interview, the Human Resources person asked the young MBA fresh out of MIT, "And what starting salary were you looking for?"
    The candidate responded, "In the neighborhood of $125,000 a year, depending on the benefits package."
    The HR person said, "Well, what would you say to a package of 5-weeks vacation, 14 paid holidays, full medical and dental, company matching retirement fund to 50% salary, and a company car leased every two years - say a red Corvette?"
    The graduate sat up mouth agape and said, "Wow! Are you kidding?"
    And the HR person responded, "Certainly.....but you started it!"
    That's the trouble with a lot of young people today (I never thought I would be old enough to say that!) -- they want to start at the top and work their way up from there.
    We as Christians are sometimes the same way, though. We want what's at "the top" without going through what lies below. For example, we want patience (and we want it right now!), but we don't want the trials that develop patience. We'd rather start at the top.  James said, "My brothers and sisters, when you have many kinds of troubles, you should be full of joy, because you know that these troubles test your faith, and this will give you patience." (James 1:2-3, NCV)
    Have you prayed for patience lately? You need to expect that God will give it to you immediately. And, on top of that, you will never have any problems in life at all. None! Everything will always go smoothly. You'll suffer no injustices, experience no heartaches, and never know what it means to fail. Am I kidding? Certainly........but you started it!
    May the troubles you experience today lead you toward patience and maturity in the days to come (no kidding!).
    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/

She Ain't Heavy
By David A. Sargent

    Twin sisters, Claire and Chloe Gruenke, are accustomed to doing things together. Yet the actions of these 13-year-old girls at the recent southern Illinois state track meet reveal the depth of their love for one another.
    The twins were both running in the 800 meter race when Chloe heard a pop in her thigh and fell to the track in pain. Claire saw what had happened and stopped to help her sister up. Then in a beautiful display of love and solidarity, Claire put her sister on her back and carried her 370 meters – almost a full lap around the track – to the finish line. The duo completed the race with a standing ovation from the crowd.
    Similar to the sentiments of the 1969 hit song written by Bobby Scott and Bob Russell and made famous by the Hollies (“He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”), Claire would say it was no burden for her to carry her sister. “It’s about showing compassion, love and sportsmanship,” Claire said. “Even if you lose and help somebody, it’s still worth it. The energy from the crowd made me stronger. They were saying I can’t believe you just did that.” *
    Consider the words of Solomon ... “Two are better than one, Because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, For he has no one to help him up” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
    You and I are like Chloe … we are the ones who have fallen onto the track beneath the weight of the burden of our sin. Because of our sin, we are disqualified and condemned.
    But then Jesus came to our rescue. When we accept His offer of salvation, He becomes our burden-bearer, taking the burden of our sin upon Himself, which is exactly what He did for us when He died on the cross for our sins. “He Himself bore
our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness; by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
    Jesus FREES us from the burden of sin so that we can follow Him as we “run the Christian race.” 
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
    Jesus will bear the burden of sin for those who will place their faith and trust in Him (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess His name 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 those who continue to follow Him as they walk – or “run” -- in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7).
    Won’t YOU allow Jesus to bear the burden of your sins so that you can complete the race and share in His victory?

- 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 “Twin sister carries sibling across finish line at track meet” by Fox 4 News -- http://fox4kc.com/2014/05/13/twin-sister-carries-sibling-across-finish-line-at-track-meet/

Helping God Answer Your Prayers
By Gerald Cowan

    Someone has said we should pray as if everything depended upon God and work as if everything depended upon us. Prayer may be ineffective if God doesn’t do His part, and it may be futile if the one praying doesn’t do his part.
    A little girl prayed: “Dear God, please don’t let the rabbits get in my brother’s traps. Thank you God, ‘cause I know you won’t let rabbits get in the traps.” Her mother heard the prayer and asked, “How do you know God won’t let the rabbits get in the traps?” “Because I smashed all of the traps,” the girl replied.
    A man who prayed fervently and frequently for God to burn down a bar and brothel in his neighborhood got tired of waiting and decided he would “lend God the matches.”
    That probably is not what is meant by doing your own part to get your prayer answered. James 2:15-16 and 1 John 3:17-19 give us an important key to effective praying: Don’t pray for God to warm, feed, and supply needs of others when you yourself could do it, but make no effort to do it.   

- 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
Stand in the Gap
By Ron Thomas

    Reading through Ezekiel one can’t help but notice the Lord’s great displeasure with His people because they desired and decided to be like the other nations. Rather than destroying them, the Lord sent prophet after prophet to warn them of a pending judgment. By the time of Ezekiel, the northern kingdom of Israel (base in Samaria) was gone (the northern tribes) and Jerusalem/Judah had already experienced one invasion by Babylon, with many taken into captivity. Still the people, as a nation, refused to learn.
    What was the core problem Jerusalem and the area surrounding the city refused to address? The problem, as mentioned, was directly connected to their decisions. In Joshua 24:14-15, the Lord’s prophet called upon the leaders of Israel to make a decision: "Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD! And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD" (NKJV).
    Throughout their history, some eight hundred years later, they struggled with making the right choices. To Ezekiel, the Lord said, “So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one” (22:30, NKJV). Clearly, the Lord had men/saints standing in the gap, but these people could not stanch the flow of depravity that was coming through the wall. Why was this? It had everything to do with leadership.
    Leadership is a key to all things related to groups. On a baseball team there is the coach/manager. In government there are mayor, governors, and even the president. In social clubs there is a designated leader. These leaders to a greater or lesser degree determine the direction of those being led. The same is also in relation to the church. In the New Testament, the Lord set forth the elders as the leaders in the congregation. This responsibility does not reside in the preacher, but in the collective wisdom of at least two godly men.
    The Lord needs men to stand in the gap. If they do not they will themselves be swept through in the flood that surely will be experienced.

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

    Oftentimes a prayer will begin this way: “Let us pray...” Since Paul was one who imitated Christ in his life (cf. 1 Cor. 11:1), maybe we should alter the phrase to, “Let us pray like Paul did.” How did Paul pray? There is a good example of how he prayed in 2 Cor. 12:8 where he himself prayed pertaining to an affliction, “Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.” To pray like Paul did we must pray...
    ...specifically. Paul prayed “concerning” that particular infirmity (i.e. the thorn in his flesh, 2 Cor. 12:7). We would do well in our personal prayers to be very personal. We should pray concerning specific matters in our life. Our personal prayers are just between us and God. That is why we are to go to a very private place when we pray (cf. Matt. 6:6). Personal prayers are not the time to generalize.
    ...entreatingly. Paul “pleaded with the Lord.” It is important that we pour out our hearts and emotions before the Lord. With our innermost feelings we should let our “requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6).
    ...repeatedly. Paul prayed “three times.” Too many times, we pray for something once (if even that) and let it go. Pray about it over and over again. We need to remember that Jesus Himself taught the importance of persistence in prayer (cf. Luke 18:1-8). Indeed, let us “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17).
    ...purposefully. Paul prayed concerning this burden “that it might depart.” We should also pray with great purpose and intent – with much resolve and determination. We should always “continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it” (Col. 4:2).
    Paul’s prayer was answered, albeit not the way he initially desired. But his prayer was heard and answered with what was best for him. Let us all take a lesson from this great man of prayer and resolve to improve our own prayer lives. Now, “Let us pray...”

 - 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/
Let’s Go Fight!
By Kevin Rutherford
 
    The true church of Christ will never call for a physical war. We understand our war is a spiritual one, and so we put on the armor of God to go and fight (Ephesians 6:12-17).
    We war against an ancient adversary who seeks to destroy us (1Peter 5:8). He will do all that he can to pull us away from the truth, and to destroy our souls. He is the arch-enemy of all that is good, righteous, pure, and holy.
    We go and fight so that we might save our own souls and win others to Christ (Mark 16:15, 16). We wield the sword of the Spirit mightily in battle while pressing on toward our ultimate and final victory (Ephesians 6:17; Philippians 3:12-14).
    In order to win the war, we must win the battles. When Satan tempts us we are in battle. When we talk to others about Christ we are in battle. When we face painful and discouraging moments in life we are I battle. Who can lead us to victory in this battle? None other than our glorious King and Leader, Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18). It is He who can give us the strength to endure the battles so that we might win the war (Phil. 4:13).
    As we age we gain strength from victories won in numerous battles. Sometimes we bear battle scars from painful lessons learned, but we get up and fight on (Acts 8:22). We will never let Satan keep us down for long. We will rise from defeat, and we will push on in victory. We will never give up, we will not lose.  
    The fight is on! Satan is corrupting culture. The fight is on! Satan is persecuting Christians. The fight is on! Satan is turning the minds of men to perversion. We must run to the battle! Satan is deceiving the hearts and minds of men and women. Let’s go fight! Let us “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13).
    I read recently about the death of Alexander the Great. While we do not hold him up as a spiritual hero, we do believe his life makes a good illustration. At age 33 he had conquered all the major military forces of the Mediterranean region, but he died. One author suggests he died of a combination of causes. He was battle weary, scarred, wounded, and a  drunkard. The combination led to a fever which ended his life. As a drunkard he is certainly no example, but let us consider a spiritual application. We fight to conquer Satan and his forces in our lives and in the lives of others. As we fight we may at times become battle weary, scarred, and wounded. But, if we press on we shall succeed. If we push forward we shall grow stronger.
    Paul told Timothy to be watchful in all things and to endure afflictions (2 Timothy 4:5). Certainly Paul had done the same. As a mighty spiritual warrior for Christ he dealt some definitive blows against evil, but soon he would die. Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). In death Paul would soon receive victory. In life Paul had fought valiantly for the cause of Christ.
    While we have life, let us go to the fight. As long as there is breath in our bodies let us conquer the enemies of truth. Until we no longer walk on this earth let us push, press, struggle, reach, strain, and endure. It is not always easy, but it is always worthwhile. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).     
 
- Kevin Rutherford preaches for the Warners Chapel church of Christ in Clemmons, NC. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://warnerschapelchurchofchrist.org/
A Message For All Age's
By Bill Brandstatter

    The good news of Jesus Christ is a message for all ages. Since this message is so important it must be adapted to different age groups. Jesus adapted His teachings to His listeners by speaking to them in parables (Matt. 13:15). All Christians should be in Bible class on Sunday morning if at all possible.  
    THE MASTER TEACHER WANTS YOU THERE. In the Great Commission as recorded by Matthew Jesus told his disciples to go teach, baptize then teach. (Mt. 28:19, 20). We therefore are under an obligation to learn, be baptized, and learn. Teaching plays a big part in God's plan. (2 Tim. 2:2). Christ said: “It is written in the prophets, and they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me (Jn. 6:44, 45).      
    THE APOSTLES WOULD WANT YOU IN BIBLE CLASS. Throughout the writings of Paul, Peter, and John the emphasis on learning and education is a big one. Peter admonishes us to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (II Pet. 3:18). If Bible class is eliminated you wouldn't have much time out of the week to do it on your own. Paul distinguishes for us the difference between preachers and teachers (Eph. 4:11).
    YOUR TEACHER WANTS YOU THERE. Is anyone so smart in the Bible that they don't need a teacher? The teacher's aim is to help and guide the one taught by the communication and knowledge. The eunuch didn't have a correct understanding. He asked the question: “How can I except some man guide me?--Act 8:31.
    Sunday school is a time of character building. Teaching of God's Word develops the best in boys and girls, men and women.
    YOU SHOULD WANT TO BE THERE.
    Why would a Christian not want to learn more about Christ, God and the Bible?  
    Some dodges around going to Bible class:
        “I have to get up early; it’s my only day off."
        “It is too difficult to get the kids ready."
    One of the best ways to get the right answer to what God would have you to do for salvation is to be in Bible school and work in the church. The Bible has the right answer to the question” What must I do to be saved? It has the right answer to the questions: “What should I do to become a Christian?” and "What should I do to remain a Christian?" As the wrong answers in Math would bring forth failure, so the wrong answer spiritually will also bring forth failure. Come to Bible school
and study God's answer book so that you can have the right answers.

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

    At 10:48 on Sunday morning, February 7, 1904, fire was reported near the heart of Baltimore, Maryland. The effort to bring it under control would eventually take 1,231 firefighters from Baltimore, surrounding communities, and even fire units from out of state. Each crew responding to the fire brought along their own equipment, primed and ready to assist. As these various units converged to tackle the rapidly spreading fire they stumbled over a nagging barrier that hindered their efforts: "the lack of national standards in firefighting equipment" (Wikipedia). Many of the firefighting units that responded to the disaster could offer little actual assistance because the couplings on their hoses didn't fit the connections on Baltimore's fire hydrants.
    When the fire was finally tamed over 1,500 buildings lay in ashes. Before long the National Fire Protection Association adopted national regulations requiring standardized equipment for all firefighting equipment, especially hose couplings and hydrant connections. The “Great Baltimore Fire” ranks within the top five of our nation’s greatest fire disasters.
    Just as we rely on standardization to make life easier, God recognized the same need long ago. While some bristle at any restrictions, we need the dependable guidelines God’s word provides. These provisions carry the promise that, if embraced and adopted, our life will be more meaningful and our eternal life enjoyed in the presence of God. Jesus spoke of this when He said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). Most importantly, you will avoid the FIRE!

 - 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/
Make Eternal Life Your Goal
By Larry Miles

    One of the benefits of living the Christian life is that we can look with anticipation to being with our Heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus, along with the Holy Spirit for eternity.  Eternal life is for the faithful!
    We must realize that man was created with the ability to choose between good and evil. Christ came that we might have life. He came to give us a richer life in Him! Praise God that He loves us so much! Live for Him who died for you. Make choices spiritually that will lead to Eternal Life!

 - Larry Miles lives in Louisville, KY and publishes "Larry's Lines" several times a week. Copyright 2009. Visit his website: http://larryslines.com/
Don’t Underestimate Your Enemy!
By Jeff Arnette

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (2 Timothy 3:12–13, ESV)
    Every person who has made the good decision to become a Christian; every person who tries to live a godly life, will eventually face persecution for their faith. It is inevitable, sad, but inevitable.
    This is true because scriptures say it is true (and that settles it), but also because of our enemy. Behind all the visible evidences of sin and wickedness there is the invisible, spiritual powers at work. They are led by our enemy and adversary, Satan. These powers are present everywhere and they infiltrate every place, even the church. They are trying to overthrow and destroy every sincere disciple of Jesus.
    “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8, ESV) Satan is our adversary, the one who stands against us and he is a powerful enemy. We cannot afford to overestimate his power nor to think that he is not working against us. We must always be watchful and thinking clearly about him and his attacks. He is constantly on the prowl searching for a Christian who is alone or weak, so that he can attack and devour them.
    Since this is true, it is extremely dangerous to oversimplify the Christian life and our spiritual warfare. It is unwise, if not downright neglectful, for followers of Jesus to underestimate the powers that oppose them.
    Paul tells us about our enemy and the warfare that is facing us in Ephesians 6:10-13.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” (ESV)
God has given us the strength and power we need to face our adversary. He has given us His armor to wear. The all-powerful God of creation has given us His personal armor to wear so that Satan cannot hurt us. Please put it on and prepare for the battle that is inevitable.

 - Jeff Arnette preaches for the Central Haywood church of Christ, Clyde, NC.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://centralhaywoodchurchofchrist.com
How’s Your Serve?
By Robert E. Guinn

    One of the most convicting things about Christianity is that our Savior set the clearest of examples for us in the life that He lived on earth. The Bible encourages us to have the same servant-leader attitude as Jesus. We read:
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross,” (Philippians 2:5-8).  
    We later read in the epistle of Titus that Jesus’ self-sacrifice was to redeem us, to purify us, and to inspire us to be zealous for His work (Titus 2:11-14). The same passage informs us that the grace of God trains and teaches the soul how to live and that His grace has been revealed to all men. In other words, when the reality of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross sinks into our heart and soul we realize that we are called by the Gospel to serve and live for the Lord God Almighty. We have been selected for His service.
    Think  about it. The Scriptures teach that when someone obeys the Gospel through baptism, they are transformed into a new creation. They are no longer a slave or servant to sin but called-out servant of Christ (Romans 6). So, our allegiance changes from serving self and Satan to serving the one and only Savior of our soul when we follow the Gospel call. No wonder Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other,” (Matt. 6:24).
    One of the most humbling tests of our faith is to sincerely ask ourselves, “How is my serve?” We communicate our love for Christ through an obedient lifestyle (John 14:15; 15:14). We also reveal our faith and devotion to Him through the life we live (James 2:18-20). For this very reason, Christians are challenged to test and examine whether or not they are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). 
    If we do not like the answer to this question (“How’s my serve”), maybe we need to remind ourselves of the servant example in Jesus. He served to the point of enduring the humiliating death of a criminal. Now, let us be determined that His sacrifice will inspire faith and devotion in the life we give back to the Lord.

 - 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
Reverence and Obedience
By Joe Chesser
 
    It must have been something awesome! It must have been a time of wonder and fear and exhilaration all at the same time. Thousands and thousands of people were standing at the foot of the mountain and every eye was glued to the sight before them. Nothing like it had been seen before or since. The mountain was blazing with fire to the very heavens, yet there were black clouds and deep darkness. If that were not enough, the voice of God Almighty spoke out of the fire for all to hear. The people saw no form, only the sound of the words, but there was no mistaking the sound for anything else. God declared to His people His covenant, the Ten Commandments, and He then wrote them on two tablets of stone for them to read over and over. God had called His people to that place to not only hear His words, but also so that they would have reverence for Him as long as they lived, and they were to pass on to their children the reverence they felt and the words they heard. Moses warned them to be careful, “and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live” (Deuteronomy 4:9-14).
    Reverence for God and knowledge of God’s word are not intended to be standalone entities. One requires the other to be as effective as God intends. Many, many years after the incident above King Solomon summarized the entire duty of man as to “Fear God and keep His commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Satan would like nothing more of Christian people than to try to keep these two concepts separate. 
    When you concentrate on the commands of God, but have little or no reverence for Him, you have removed the power and substance of His words to transform lives in the likeness of God. The Pharisees had this perfected. They knew the Law. They had done the word studies and knew the syllogisms, but they had no idea of the heart of God. They were confident of their own righteousness because of what they did and didn’t do. They could argue and debate truth, and win, yet had completely failed at being accepted by God (Luke 18:9-14). They had no reverence for who God is.
    On the other hand, when you focus almost entirely on having reverence for God while neglecting what this awesome God has to say, you will wander through life hopelessly lost. You’ll feel good about it, but still be lost. Satan loves it when we get so caught up in the emotions of praise and worship that we don’t care about anything else. All we want to do is feel good about God. It doesn’t matter how we do it as long as it makes “me” feel good about God. Caring for the needy, teaching the lost, or living moral lives are not important. Being a good spouse or parent or employee is rarely considered.
    We need a healthy balance between fearing God and keeping His commands. We need to remember that reverence gives depth and purpose to obedience, and obedience gives expression to reverence. Let’s stand at the mountain in awe of God, and then go and do what He commands!                                                                                      

 - Joe Chesser preaches for the Fruitland Church of Christ, Fruitland, MO.  He may be contacted at joeandareva@yahoo.com
The School of Hard Knocks
By Ron Bartanen
 
    The psalmist prayed, “You have dealt well with Your servant, O LORD, according to Your word” (Psalm 119:65). 
    At first, taking the verse alone, we might think he was thankful that God had blessed him with an easy life—but not so. In verse 71 he wrote, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.” 
    It seems the psalmist had apparently gone through what has been called “the school of hard knocks.” While we seek to avoid the pains in life, we need to learn that if our heart seeks the Lord, we can learn from our painful experiences. When troubles come, we have the choice of facing them with bitterness or with assurance that “we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). In the “school of hard knocks,” we must learn to seek comfort in God’s word, submitting our lives to Him and His will. 
    Are there afflictions and difficulties in your life that sometimes seem insurmountable? If so, have you learned to turn them over to the Lord? By faith, find comfort and strength in God’s word: “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7). Do you seek strength in prayer and God’s word? Have you let the Lord be your Teacher in the “school of hard knocks?”

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

Are You A Lighthouse?
By Ed Wittlif

"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in
heaven" (Matthew 5:16).
    Before radar and global positioning satellites, lighthouses were positioned to guide sailors past dangers to safe haven. Lighthouses go back to ancient times. Being a lighthouse keeper was a very responsible position and it required a trustworthy man to serve as one.
    In the darkness, light serves as a guide and also reveals reality. Even during the day, we live in a world of darkness. The vast majority stumble about in darkness, not seeing the reality of God and sin.
    Jesus tells us that those who follow Him are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). We serve to point out the dangers of unbelief in God and disobedience to God. We also serve as guides to leading people to God.
    Jesus says that if our light is hidden, it serves no purpose. If the lighthouse keepers had covered their lights, lives would have perished. We must be active in this dark world. People need to see that God is real and is shown to be what He is through our behavior and words. People need to learn that God is loving and that He cares. But they also must learn that God has standards that will not be put aside.

 - 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
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