BulletinGold #72 
December 3, 2006   Vol 6 #10 

----by David Bragg

Life consists of a multitude of choices, a reality that was not lost on the imprisoned evangelists on Christianity' s maiden voyage into Europe.  Having their choice, Paul and Silas likely would have preferred better accommodations.  Luke tells us that their room was dark and their mobility severely restricted by the chains that held them securely to the wall.   These two evangelists had undoubtedly been better situated in times past.  The imagination need hardly be called upon to factor in the dampness, rats and the stench of unwashed and sick human bodies that would make the Philippian penitentiary a terrible place to spend the night.
With backs bruised, swollen and bleeding from the severe beating with long iron rods, Paul and Silas were somehow able to suppress the pain and to be overpowered by the joy which welled up within them.   Their unusual reaction challenged the minds of the other prisoners who listened.  Feeling pain, they acted as if none existed.  Sitting in the darkness they acted as if in bright daylight.  Surrounded by the gloom of the dungeon they acted as if on the front row of the synagogue.  At midnight the prison rang, not with the customary curses of the condemned, but with the melodious praise offered to the eternal God and Father in heaven.
Was this hypocrisy?  Hardly.  Paul and Silas acted the way they desired to become.  No hypocrite would ever want to experience the hardships endured by these missionaries.  They only act to deceive others into thinking them better than they actually are, never planning to become actually become a better people.  But God was glorified by the positive twist Paul and Silas put on their bleak circumstances.  No Christian is a hypocrite who longs to glorify God by becoming more like His Son.

Because the passing of time only emphasizes our need to make wise choices in life, the following items address the multitude of choices we face daily, and especially the urgent need for us to choose wisely the path we will take in life, knowing that our choices will ultimately relate to where we will spend eternity.

David Bragg, co-editor
www.davidbragg. org

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Panning for Gold Feature Articles:

Poor Substitutes
By David A. Sargent

In 1991, the Japanese government sought a way to attract endangered albatrosses to the small Izu islands to breed and reproduce. The Yamashina Institute of Ornithology came up with the idea of placing some 100 wooden albatross decoys in the water to help attract the birds to the islands that are some 375 miles south of Tokyo.

The project for the most part worked well and the endangered birds have landed on the islands and breeding has increased.

But for Deko, a 5-year-old albatross, the experiment went awry. For two years he tried to woo what he believed to be the love of his life. He built her fancy nests, fought off rival suitors, and spent countless days standing faithfully by her side. But his one-and-only was a man-made decoy -- and despite the blank stare and wooden personality, he didn't catch on.

Institute researcher Fumio Sato worries that Deko's infatuation with the decoy kept him from meeting a mate. "He seemed to have no desire to date real birds," Sato observed.*

Deko is not the only one that has set his heart on inferior substitutes…YOU and I were created to worship God.  We were made “to seek the Lord, in the hope that [WE] might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:26-27).

Yet, so many direct their affections to lesser alternatives.  This is idolatry!  An IDOL is an object, person or pursuit we look to for fulfillment, happiness, significance or comfort other than God; it is a God-substitute.

The Psalmist described the idols that people worshiped in his day:

“Their idols are silver and gold, The work of men's hands.
They have mouths, but they do not speak;
Eyes they have, but they do not see;
They have ears, but they do not hear;
Noses they have, but they do not smell;
They have hands, but they do not handle;
Feet they have, but they do not walk;
Nor do they mutter through their throat.
Those who MAKE them are LIKE them; So is everyone who trusts in them” (Psalm 115:4-8). 

No idol is worthy of our worship.  All idols will disappoint us – and will eventually DESTROY us – in the end.

The Psalmist directed his peers to the One True God: “O Israel, trust in the LORD; He is their help and their shield” (Psalm 115:9).  Only God is worthy of our worship, because of who He is, what He has done, and for what He will do.  He is the Heavenly Father who loves us so much that He gave His only Son to die on the cross for our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Through His Son, we may have the abundant life and eternal life to come.
The Living God will give life to those who: believe and trust Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) in His name for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).  Eternal life awaits those who CONTINUE to follow Him (1 John 1:7) by walking in the light of His Word.

Don’t settle for poor substitutes.  Trust and obey the One True Living God.   God bless you!

-- David A. Sargent preaches for the church of Christ at Creekwood, in Mobile, Alabama.  He may be contacted through the church's website:  www.creekwoodcc. org

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The Thief on the Cross (Luke 23:42-43)
By G. T. Rowe, Jr.

Much has been said concerning the subject of the thief on the cross, who was told by Jesus, "TODAY THOU SHALT BE WITH ME IN PARADISE."  When we carefully examine the scriptures and obey that which is written, it will lead us all to definite and concrete conclusions concerning this particular situation.  The Old Testament, Isaiah 53:12, foretold of not only the suffering of Christ, but also that He would be numbered with the transgressors.  Matthew 27:38, Mark 15:27-28, and Luke 23:39 gives us explicit details of the fulfillment of this prophecy.

One of the main points to remember in the situation of the thief on the cross is the dispensation of time in which the thief on the cross lived, and more importantly, the dispensation of time in which he was crucified on the cross.  The three main dispensations of biblical times are Patriarchal, Mosaic (Old covenant), and Christian (New covenant).  In each dispensation of time God always had a way by which He directed and governed the affairs of His people.

God never left it up to man to direct his own steps, Jeremiah 10:23.  Under the Patriarchal dispensation of time, God spoke directly to the fathers to give instructions to the families.  Examples of the process under this dispensation include God's direct instructions to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Gen. 2:15-17; Gen. 6:13-22; Gen. 12:1-7; Gen. 17:1-14; Gen. 26:1-6; Gen. 28:13-17; Gen. 35:1-5)

When Moses received the law from God on Mt. Sinai, Exodus Chapters 20-31, the Patriarchal dispensation of time ended, and the Mosaic dispensation of time, also known as the old covenant or Law, began to be in force for God's people.  This law or covenant governed the lives of the Israelites, Deuteronomy 5:1-5, as well as their worship to almighty God, but it was not a permanent law, only temporary. (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Romans 7:4-6)

While Christ lived He was under the Mosaic Law, but He also had authority from God the Father to save, execute judgment, and forgive sins. (Luke 5:19-24; Luke 19:9-10; Luke 7:47-50; John 5:18-27)  When Jesus proclaimed to the thief on the cross, "TODAY THOU SHALT BE WITH ME IN PARADISE," the old covenant, or the law of Moses was still in effect.  The Christian dispensation or New covenant had not yet began, because JESUS CHRIST WAS STILL ALIVE!  (HEBREWS 9:16-17)

When Christ died, was buried, and rose from the grave, and the gospel was preached by Peter, and the 3,000 were added to the church, the Christian dispensation of time began.  This new covenant would not just be for the Jews, but all who are willing to be obedient to Christ. (I Cor. 15:1-4; John 1:17; Gal. 3:13-29; Acts 2:14-47: Heb. 5:8-9)  The old covenant, which was temporary, was blotted out and taken out of the way upon the death of Christ. (Eph. 2:13-16; Col. 2:8-15; Heb. 8:1-8; Heb. 9:11-28)

Under the New covenant Christ plainly tells us what the requirements are that must be obeyed in order to be saved, and His words will never change.  (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47; Matt. 24:35; Heb. 1:1-2)

Let us carefully examine the scriptures concerning the thief on the cross, and it will eliminate confusion and false opinions.  The thief on the cross was not baptized in the name of Christ for the remission of his sins, because he lived and died under the old covenant. The One (Jesus Christ) who stated He would be with him in paradise, had received authority from God to save, execute judgment, and forgive sins!

-- Gene Rowe, Jr. is the minister of the church of Christ (Westward Ave.), Texas City, Texas.  He may be contacted at GTrowe67@aol. com

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A Great Difference
By Ron Boatwright

What a tragedy it would be if we fall short and fail to receive the heavenly inheritance reserved for us due to our failure. It is sad that the vast majority of people of this world are entering the wide gate that leads to eternal punishment in Hell. Jesus says, “for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14). For the majority who are lost there will be no second chance to get it right. It is tragic for a child of God to fall short and miss heaven.
In Matthew chapter 25 the Lord gives the parable of the ten virgins: five foolish and five wise. The five foolish did not make the necessary preparation for the wedding of the bridegroom. The wedding began and the door was shut. Afterward the five foolish “virgins came also saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ But he answered and said, ‘assuredly I say to you, I do not know you.’” (Matthew 25:11-12). Let’s not be among the foolish.
We are warned to “beware lest you fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked” (2 Peter 3:17). We are to ‘Let no one cheat you of your reward” (Colossians 2:18). Our soul is the most precious thing we possess in the world. "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole word, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 10:26). It is bad enough that those in the world are going to be eternally lost but it is horrible for a Christian to also be lost. But “some shall depart from the faith” (1 Timothy 4:1).   We should be very careful for, “let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). No one who departs this life with a failing faith can expect to go to Heaven. “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12). Those who turn back and walk no more with Christ need not expect eternal salvation. “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure” (2 Peter 1:10).
-- Ron Boatwright  Conway, AR;  via Belvedere Beacon, the weekly bulletin for the Belvedere church of Christ, Belvedere, SC.  Ken Chumbley, who serves as their evangelist, may be contacted at church@belvederechu rchofchrist. org

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Unseen Dangers
By Ron Bartanen

In Alice in Wonderland, Alice is asked, "What do you see?" and she replies, "Nothing."  The response was: "What good eye-sight you have to see nothing, and at such a distance, too!"  From infancy to old age we are confronted with dangers- some real,  some  imaginary.   The  worst dangers are the ones unseen, but very real.

John the baptizer could see what others could not.  He saw the danger his nation and fellow-countrymen were in.  He saw the "ax at the root of the tree" (Matt. 3:7-12), a tree ready to be hewn down and consumed in the flames.  The tree was Israel, which within 40 years was destined to be destroyed by Rome.

Prejudice and self-seeking blind men to reality and truth.  Jesus lamented at  the future destruction of Jerusalem, to be brought on by the fact that the people did not accept Christ, the way of peace.  Who Jesus truly was, was hidden from their eyes (Luke 19:41-44).

As our nation is apparently being blinded to Christ and His way for our lives, accepting such things as abortion, deviant sexual lifestyles, and the elimination of any mention of God in classrooms, court houses, etc., are we not also blind as to the fearful consequences that may await us? We live in extremely perilous times, but seem oblivious to the dangers that threaten us daily.  Pray that we may see an awakening of conscience in our great country, and a trust in the God who made our nation

-- Ron Bartanen preaches for the Arthur church of Christ, Arthur, IL. He may be contacted through the church's website:  www.arthurchurchofc hrist.com

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Between Holy and Profane
By Wes Hazel

There is a disturbing trend in the religious world to take very worldly things and attempt to Christianize them in an effort to "connect" with people.  In searches for interesting PowerPoint backgrounds I keep running across a slide with a white picket fence that is titled, “Desperate Households.”  This of course is a take off of the television show “Desperate Housewives.”  Instead of speaking out against this kind of sinful entertainment it is as if many have just accepted that people watch this kind of thing.  I have seen numerous youth rallies whose themes and classes have been titled after movies like “Austin Powers” and various crude MTV programs.  I’m sure that the content of these classes are good and well intended, but we are sending the wrong message to our congregations and the world when we try to promote the gospel with sinful things.

It seems to me that we are becoming guilty of the same sin the priests of Ezekiel’s time were guilty.  “They have made no distinction between the holy and the profane, and they have not taught the difference between the unclean and the clean” (Ezekiel 22:26).  We must understand that some things are sinful and profane no matter the context.  Even if they are cleaned up and brought into a church setting they are still wrong.  The only time that we ought to be making reference to worldly things such as inappropriate movies and television shows is when we are speaking out against these things.  Let us make an effort to make a distinction between holy things and profane things.

“Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?  Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?” (2 Corinthians 6:4-16)

-- Wes Hazel preaches for the Main Street church of Christ in Manchester, TN.  He may be contacted via their website: www.mainstreetcofc. org

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When It Hurts To Do What’s Right
By Bryan McAlister

Jeremiah was a preacher of God’s truth, and a defender of the principles of God to a people who did not want to hear or obey what the God of their father’s had commanded them to observe. Jeremiah was not a wicked man, or a man that chose to live against God, but he needed to be convinced to do what God requested of him. Upon hearing the reassurance that God would be with him, Jeremiah obeyed the word of the Lord, doing what was asked of him. What is most surprising about Jeremiah’s obedience was the blunt honesty with which God spoke to Jeremiah, and Jeremiah’s resolve to follow God.

When God spoke to his servant Jeremiah concerning what kind of reception awaited him from his audience, the Almighty promised, “They will fight against you” (Jer 1:19). God plainly promised, “You’ll be doing what is right, but it’s going to hurt”. Jeremiah was to preach to the people of God’s impending judgment, but the people were determined to remain set in their ways with God, “near in their mouth but far from their mind” (Jer 12:2). Eventually Jeremiah reached a point of hurt that led him to say, “Why is my pain perpetual and my wound incurable, which refuses to be healed” (Jer 15:18a)? Jeremiah kept on preaching, but to him it seemed, the more right he did, the less willing the people were to listen (see Jer 18:12)!

People laughed at Jeremiah because of the truth he spoke (Jer 20:7). Jeremiah was mocked because of the righteousness he called the people of God to adopt. The people talked about Jeremiah to his face and behind his back (Jer 18:18), and it hurt Jeremiah deeply. Israel was offended by the words Jeremiah spoke from the Lord, and they tried to silence Jeremiah, discourage Jeremiah, and destroy Jeremiah. Here was a life that fully surrendered to do God’s will, yet it seemed like his life was one defeat and sorrow after another. With so much good in the life of Jeremiah, he had so much pain. He despised his birth (Jer 15:10), he felt abandoned (Jer 15:15), he thought about giving up (Jer 20:9a), and even asked, what’s the use (Jer 38:15).
Jeremiah hurt a great deal, and even more so when he saw Jerusalem meet its destruction just as God had warned through him (Lam 1:1).   One aspect of Jeremiah that stands firm, through his hurt, there was always hope. Even when he despised his birth, he still found patience in the Lord to endure (Jer. 15:15). Though overwhelmed with feeling abandoned, he remembered the joy of God’s word (Jer 15:16). When he thought about giving up, he knew holding back God’s truth, which he believed, was impossible, for it was like a fire in his bones (Jer 20:9b). Asking, “what’s the use” in preaching the word of God, Jeremiah knew God’s word was the only source of life (Jer 38:20). God’s path is not always easy Jesus promised as much (Matt 7:14). But God’s path is the only path offering real hope, true life, and assurance of rest. It may from time to time hurt to do what’s right, but it will never fail us, so long as, “the Lord is with me, as a mighty, awesome One (Jer 20:11). 

-- Bryan McAlister preaches for the Jackson church of Christ, Jackson, MO.  He may be contacted at bryan@jacksonchurch ofchrist. com

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Nuggets and Quick Riches - misc. goodies this issue

It Might be Funny if it Wasn't so Painful

     Two men were arguing about which of them knew most of the Bible. Finally one bet the other that he couldn't quote the Lord's prayer. The bet was called and the fellow recited:

  "Now I lay me down to sleep.
  I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
  If I should die before I wake,
  I pray the Lord my soul to take."

When he finished the other fellow said, "Well here's your money. I didn't think you could do it."

-- Via The Encourager, the weekly bulletin for the Dongola church of Christ, Dongola, IL.

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Death is NOT the Final Word

   In an instant history changed forever, because where once the human mortality rate had held steady at 100%, now it skipped a beat as Jesus, Savior of all mankind, stepped out of dead statistics into life.  Death is the last word no longer for Jesus' followers; life is.    "I believe in Buddha," some still insist amid the marketplace of the world religions.  "Confucius," say the Chinese.  "Mohammed," cry the Muslims.  "Bhagway Shree Rajneesh," shout his followers, and on and on it goes.

   "Jesus," Mary would tell us; "He changed my life." And millions around the globe would echo, "Mine, too.  He touched my life, too."

     For while religious leaders have come and gone, the fact remains: only One stepped forth from the tomb. Only One has risen from the dead.  Only One has conquered death.  Only One offers the promise of eternal life to those who follow Him.
     "I am the resurrection and the life," Jesus said.  "He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in me will never die."

-- From the weekly bulletin of the Lake Land church of Christ, Mattoon, IL.  David Ferguson serves the congregation as  minister.

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A Gift List Anyone Can Afford

The gift of listening, even when we are busy and don't want to be bothered.
The gift of a handshake, pat on the back, or a hug.
The gift of a note or letter long put off.
The gift of laughter, a cartoon or quip, a riddle or joke.
The gift of a game with a person who needs a partner.
The gift of a favor at the least expected time.
The gift of cheerfulness to those around you.
The gift of privacy for the others who need it.
The gift of a compliment.
The gift of a smile.
The gift of a prayer for all those you gifted above.

-- via West Erwin church of Christ

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Hearts of Gold - poetry this issue

Leave the Clouds Behind
By Kay Hoffman
Turn your face toward the sun
And leave the clouds behind;
Today is yours, God-given,
A precious gift of time.
Yesterday's beyond recall,
It cannot be redone;
Tomorrow is still unclaimed;
It may or may not come.
Too oft we worry over
The bridge we'll never cross
And miss the joys of today,
To be forever lost.
If there's a kindness you can do
For another's sake,
Do it now while there is time,
Tomorrow may be too late.
Keep your face toward the sun
And happiness you'll find;
Cherish the gift of each new day
And leave the clouds behind.

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By Shirley McDonald
God can lift the hurt you're feeling,
He can take away each care,
but, you must give Him your burden,
and that's only done through prayer.
God knows everything about you
from beginning to the end,
He can help you like no other,
He's your very dearest friend.
When you're weak He'll make you strong,
when you're sad He brings such peace,
when discouraged He's right with you,
then you feel a sweet release.
He'll walk with you through each valley
till the mountain you ascend,
and it's only through His comfort
that a broken heart can mend.
Don't allow your faith to falter,
don't give up, keep pressing on;
you can make it with the Lord's help,
after darkness comes the dawn.

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By  H. L. Gradowith

It is not the beginning of a thing we dread,
For beginnings are fine, what is sad is the end;
For though we'll see not each other as once we did
I’ll remember and love you and remain a friend.
The smiles on your faces and the kind things you said,
The connections we made, all mean so much to me;
No matter what happens, let’s try to stay in touch,
And we will – I’ll come and visit – just wait and see…
Until then my prayer is that God will be with you,
And bless you and help you in every good way;
Just trust and obey Him – He’ll never lead you wrong,
And remember the smiles to chase your blues away.
Life’s too short to forget, and too long to worry,
But just right to be friends and to love and to care.
And when one friend moves on then another moves in;
We’ll meet again, if not down here, maybe up there.
May God Bless And Keep You Always.
- H. L. Gradowith  For more information on H. L. Gradowith and GRADOWITH POEMS e-mail group visit http://www.geocitie s.com/fp5699/ - the website of Tim Smith, minister of the Enon church of Christ in Webb, AL.

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Gold Mines ---- quotes & sayings for bulletins and signs 

"Time changes.  Weather changes.  But Christ remains the same."

"The world has too many cranks and not enough self-starters."

"Worry is the interest paid on borrowed trouble."

"These are just speed bumps on the highway of life"  (Los Angeles restaurant owner who lost a nightclub in the Rodney King verdict riots, a Malibu home in the fires, and a beachside café in an earthquake).
"Don't confuse fame with success.  Madonna is one, and Helen Keller is the other" (Irma Brombeck).

"To sensible men, every day is a day of reckoning" (John W. Gardner).

 --All from Leadership Magazine.

"Most people want to be delivered from temptation but would like it to keep in touch" (Robert Orben).

"Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country"  (Mayor Marion Barry, Washington, DC).