BulletinGold #67 
July 2, 2006   Vol 6 #5
 

Editorial
----by David Bragg
Summer, along with it's longer days and increasing heat, often brings with it dwendling attendance as vacationing church members are away from their home congregation (i.e. "the summer slump").  For some churches, along interstate highways and in resort destinations, attendance during this time may remain near normal or even larger than normal.  Sadly, many Christians use this time away from home to also take a "vacation" from worship.  These do not make any effort to locate and attend worship services, revealing either a lack of commitment or a lack of understanding or appreciation of the Lord's church.

This month's issue features articles and bulletin fillers revolving around the subjects of church, its work and worship.  We appreciate the authors and bulletin editors who share their work with us and we are thankful for each of our group members who play the important role of passing these along to their readers who might come to better know God's will for their lives.

David Bragg, co-editor
http://davebragg.blog.com/

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Panning for Gold
- Feature Articles:  


What is the church of Christ?
by: David Bragg

In considering the four questions that follow one can demonstrate to the inquiring individual a clear picture of the church, Christ's spiritual body.
 
1.  Is the church of Christ a denomination?  The church revealed in the New Testament was unified in one body under one Head, Jesus (Col. 1:18).  This unity was essential to prove the identity of Jesus as God's Son to the world (Jn. 17:20-21).  Division and denominationalism destroys this unity by dividing believers.  Unity is restored when Christ is again enthroned as head and reigns by the authority of His word.  As men realized the need to go back to the Bible and find God's plan for His church and the unity of all believers, the church of Christ as taught in the New Testament began to be restored.  The result was the original church established in Acts 2, and not a new denomination.  The church of Christ is not a denomination.
 
2.  What does the church of Christ believe?  If it were not for the message of the Bible, man would not really be able to know God or Jesus.  Man would likewise be ignorant of the purpose and organization of Christ's church, salvation, and God's will for man's life.  The Bible is God's message to man (2 Tim. 3:16-17) and is the only source from which one can learn this message (2 Tim. 2:15).  The one who does not study cannot know what to believe on any of these subjects.  The church of Christ believes the Bible to be the ONLY authority and guide for ALL matters of religion.  Since the Bible is God's Word and Will for the church and every believer today, the church must plead for mankind to join in a serious investigation of God's Word and then believe and practice neither more nor less than the Good Book teaches.
 
3.  How does one become a member of the church of Christ?  One becomes a member of the church of Christ today in exactly the same manner as one became a member of the church of Christ in the New Testament times.  When a person obeys the gospel they are saved.  Peter's audience on Pentecost verifies this.  When they obeyed (Acts 2:38, 41) they were saved (vs. 47).  When they were saved the Lord added them to His church (vs. 47; cf. other examples: Acts 8:12, the Samaritans; 8:38, the Eunuch; 9:18, 22:16, Paul; 10:47, Cornelius; 16:15, 33, Lydia and the Jailer).  Everyone who was saved after the church was established in Acts two was saved in the same manner.  They believed Jesus was the Christ, repented by turning away from their sins, and were immersed for the forgiveness of their sins (1 Pet. 3:21).  When they did this Jesus added them to his church.  When one does this today Jesus will add that person to the same church.
 
4.  Why should I be a member of the church of Christ?  Because the church is the body of Christ, who is its Savior (Eph. 5:23).  It is this body, with Christ as the head, that will be saved.  Therefore, it is of the greatest importance to be a part of that body that will be saved by its Head.  To be a part of another body would require having another head, and the Bible plainly teaches that salvation is only found in Christ (Acts 4:12). 

The Bible tells man of God's will for him and what he must do to be saved.  Nothing is more important than to learn God's will for one's life, thereby preventing their soul from being lost. 

- David Bragg lives in Cape Girardeau, MO and worships with the Jackson church of Christ in Jackson, MO.  He may be contacted at davebragg@hotmail.com
                                

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A Caring Church
by: Edd Sterchi

The title phrase is one commonly heard when describing particular congregations.  But what does it mean to be a caring church?  Is this church a caring church?  Let's find out.

A Caring Church is a Sharing Church.  A caring church is thankful Christ has shared with them and thus is willing to share with others (Heb. 13:16; 1 Tim. 6:18; 2 Cor. 9:13).  A caring church shares with one another, both blessings and burdens (Eph. 4:16; 1 Tim. 6:18).  A caring church shares the gospel with the lost and shares with those who spread the gospel (Philemon 6; Phil. 4:15).

A Caring Church is a Declaring Church.  A caring church is one that declares Jesus as Lord and Savior (1 John 1:1-3; Rom. 1:1-3).  A caring church is one which declares the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27; 1 Cor. 2:1).  A caring church is one that will declare praise to God in proper worship (Heb. 2:12; 1 Cor. 15:1-2).

A Caring Church is a Preparing Church.  A caring church is one that prepares for eternity (1 Cor. 2:9; Heb. 11:16).  A caring church is one that prepares its members to live pure, faithful, and active lives for Christ (2 Tim. 2:21-22; Eph. 2:10).  A caring church makes all future preparations in harmony with the will of God (Eph. 6:15; cf 2 Chron. 35:6 as an example).

A caring church cares for others, cares for what is right, and cares for God, and as a result will always be sharing, declaring, and preparing.  Do you care enough to be a part of a caring church?

- Edd Sterchi preaches for the Harrisburg Church of Christ in Harrisburg, IL.  He may be contacted at sterchi@midwest.net
                               

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Remembering The Head
by: Ron Bartanen

   The New Testament book of Colossians warned of teachers who promoted humanly devised "doctrines" and "commandments of men" (2:22), imposing their own authority over believers, and "not holding the Head" (2:19a).  The  "Head", obviously, is Jesus Christ  (1:18).    All  that  would   desire to restore the purity and unity of the church must look beyond the sects and denominations of Christendom, remembering who is "the Head of the body, the church".  We can never hope to achieve God's desire of unity for His people by seeking grains of truth in sifting through the sectarian chaff that has accumulated through the centuries, for all truth is in Christ alone, the Head of the church.  In Christ are hidden "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:3).  Jesus declared, "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6).  Too long have men looked to popes, bishops and church councils for direction, ignoring Him who declared, "All power (authority) is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Matthew 28:18).  For any to seek to usurp that which is the Lord's alone, is to despise the authority of Him who is the Head.

   Those who would submit to the Head must go to the New Testament Scriptures, the truth He has revealed through His apostles by the Holy Spirit (John 16:13-14). Jesus prayed, "Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth" (John 17:17).  It is "through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord" that we have been given "all things that pertain unto life and godliness" (2 Peter 1:2-3).                  

- Ron Bartanen preaches for the Arthur church of Christ, Arthur, IL.  He may be contacted at
ron33dor@one-eleven.net                                

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The Foolishness of Preaching
by: Bill Brandstatter

The apostle Paul wrote: “For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe” (1 Cor. 1:21—NKJV). Why did Paul refer to preaching as foolishness?  From the viewpoint of many in the world and perhaps some in the church the following may be part of the reason.

Preaching is not entertaining enough. Many today want to be entertained. The Bible tells of a certain reverence and awe that occurred during the Word being proclaimed. One of the Old Testament Minor Prophets, Habakkuk describes the attitude during worship: “But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him” (Hab. 2:20). A worshipper today might declare: “How boring!” Yet we cannot equate preaching with entertainment. They are two entirely different areas.

The purpose of preaching is not to entertain. The job of the preacher is to proclaim the Word of God. David wrote: “I have preached righteousness in the great congregation: lo, I have not refrained my lips, O LORD, thou knowest” (Psa. 40:9). The first words Jesus preached were: “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mat. 4:17). Peter stated, “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Pet. 4:11). John F. McArthur Jr., in his book Ashamed of the Gospel states “Nothing in Scripture indicates the church should lure people to Christ by presenting Christianity as an attractive option. Nothing about the gospel is optional” (72). He further declares:
“There seems almost no limit to what modern church leaders will do to entice people who aren’t interested in worship and preaching. Too many have bought the notion that the church must win people by offering an alternative form of entertainment” (70).

Preaching causes me to make a change. Throughout the Bible many were changed by preaching.  On the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 thousands were pricked to their hearts and gladly received the message and were baptized. The jailer in Acts 16 heard the spoken Word and was baptized (Acts 16:30-31). Felix however did not want to change and when Paul preached to him he stated “Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee” (Acts 24:25). There is no doubt about it, preaching can change a person. Many unfortunately simply do not want to make a change. If a person hears preaching long enough, there is a likelihood something in that person’s life will change. The Gospel may not be obeyed, but change might come. It is easier for some to stay where they are than to make a change.

Preaching gives a message that means responsibility. In a day and time when everyone seems to be a victim taking responsibility for actions is not a popular message. Whenever evil occurs, excuses are made for the person’s actions. Perhaps they were mistreated as a child. Maybe they simply did not get enough attention. There may have been discrimination of some kind in life, and that person reacted in a negative way. Sin today is condoned because many do not want to take responsibility.

When Jesus said “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3), He was preaching a message that was hard for some to obey. If a person repents, that person must admit wrong in life. There must be an acknowledgment of sin and wrong doing. In our day where negativism, truth, and responsibility are wrong, that is something few want to do.

For the above reasons, we can understand why preaching seems foolish to some. To the child of God however it is “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16). If a person tells me “I enjoyed your sermon” it usually means, I said something they found of benefit.  Whenever the Word of God is preached, great benefit can come. If the heart of the listener is right, faith and obedience can result (Acts 2:41). Thanks be to God for the foolishness of preaching!

- Bill Brandstatter preaches for the church of Christ in Vienna, IL.  Bill may be contaced at djpreacher@juno.com
                               

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Handling Disagreements

Anyone can be involved in an argument. Paul and Barnabas are reminders that even faithful brethren are not immune from having disagreements (Acts 15:35-41).   Occasionally,  our disagreements get out of hand and we end up saying things we later regret. So what are some safeguards we can use in handling disagreements in a Christian way? Here are a few suggestions with the help of the book of Proverbs:

Be friendly. Try not to be adversarial in your point of view. "He that hath friends must show himself friendly" and "A friend loveth at all times" (Prov. 18:24; 17:17).

Ever use kindness. Cordiality goes a long way towards maintaining tranquility. "A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger" (Prov. 15:1).

Let up some. Most disagreements would remain friendly if we would just back off a little. ". . .but he that refraineth his lips is wise" (Prov. 10:19).

Overcome with good. Oftentimes in the heat of an argument we lash out in retaliation. "Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me" (Prov. 24:29).

Value their opinion. Listen attentively to what others have to say. "He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him" (Prov. 18:13).

Introduce soothing words. You can get your point across in a nice way. "Pleasant words are as  honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones" (Prov. 16:24).

Never engage irate behavior. If a disagreement becomes ugly - conversation over! "Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee" (Prov. 4:24).

Grow taller. The desire to win an argument often escalates it. Bigger people will refuse. ". . . Therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with" (Prov. 17:14).

- Bulletin Digest; via  The Encourager, the weekly bulletin of the Calvert City church of Christ, Calvert City, KY.
                              

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What did you bring to worship?
by: Ron Thomas

Each Lord's day, the church of our Lord gathers together for public worship. We do this because our Lord died for us and those who love Him desire to worship His high and holy name. Those who love the Lord do not come to the building to "get something out of it", but to serve the Lord. Mind you, those who come seek to be edified, but edification is the result of serving/worshipping the Lord not by being pleased because of what some preacher says. It is not unreasonable, however, for the Christian to expect a lesson from the preacher that does at least two things. First, exalt the Lord's glory by proclaiming His will. Second, by bringing a lesson that one can make application to.

Unfortunately, a great many people judge the worship of the church by the sermon preached. Is that the standard by which we judge the worship of the church? The worship of the church is much more than just the sermon preached. It is also the singing of praise to the Lord's name, participation in the Lord's Supper, our prayers, and our contribution to the Lord's work. Yet, some people are wanting something "sweet" rather than something substantive. "Worship is like cotton candy. A great deal of sugar, but in a moment's time, nothing is left but a pleasant taste" (William Woodson). Perhaps, too many people forget that God is the object of our worship.

If you want "something out of worship," then you might put something into it. You can do this by making preparations. You expect the preacher to be prepared for his Sunday morning lesson (lessons if he teaches Bible class). Perhaps the Christian needs to be prepared for worship as well.

We can be prepared by going to bed at a reasonable hour in order that we are fully rested by morning's light. This way we can give our attention to the Lord and not go through the mere motions of routine. When we come to the building maybe we need to leave earlier than we normally do so that we are not rushed and, ultimately, arrive late. This will allow us time to sit down and collect our thoughts. When we sing our songs of praise we expect the song leader to be prepared, don't we? It is unfortunate when our song leader is unprepared and just "gathers some songs" to sing because it's his turn to lead. You expect the song leader to prayerfully think about the message of the songs, don't you? If so, then perhaps it is a good idea that all of us who sing along with the song leader be prepared as well. Our preparation is important.

"A student came to a Scottish professor, asking him how long he might safely put off decision for Christ. "Until the day before your death," was the strange reply. "But I cannot tell when I shall die," said the youth. "True," replied the professor, "then decide now."" (Knight's illustrations, p. 541)

Someone said, "The cross is something you wear, not just bear." If we "wear" the cross of Christ, then preparation for our Sunday worship is never a problem. It is like getting dress each day; unless we have lost our minds, this is never a problem. I think too many Christians are just trying to "bear" the cross on Sundays. Our exhortation from this is that what we are supposed to bring to worship on each Lord's day is our prepared heart to worship/serve God. This is not to much to ask for the Lord, is it?

- Ron Thomas preaches for the Highway church of Christ, Sullivan, IL.  He may be contacted at rthomas1@one-eleven.net
                              

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Nuggets and Quick Riches
-    misc. goodies this issue

Dangers Confronting the Lord's Church

Several years ago brother N.B. Hardeman, one of the greatest spiritual giants of his generation, was asked what dangers he saw confronting the church of his day.  His reply was as follows:
 
    1) A lack of Bible knowledge and a light regard with what it says.
 
    2) A tendency to make the church a social club of entertainment.
 
     3) A disposition to compromise the truth and to discourage sound preaching.
 
    4) A love for the praise of men more than the praise of God.

Consider these four things and note how the growth of each of them is causing problems to the church in our day.

- Copied; I apologize for this vague but oft cited source.  I try to identify each item's source when used in BulletinGold.  However, in this case I failed.  My sincere apology to whomever submitted this insightful piece.  Although I do not know who you are I, and all our readers, am very thankful for you sharing this with us.
                              

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Boy! What Preaching!

As a young minister, I was asked by a funeral director to hold a grave-side service for a homeless man, with no family or friends. The funeral was to be held at a cemetery way back in the country, and this man would be the first to be laid to rest there.

As I was not familiar with the backwoods area, I became lost! And being the typical man did not stop for directions. I finally arrived an hour late. I saw the backhoe and the crew, who were eating lunch, but the hearse was no where in sight.

I apologized to the workers for my tardiness, and stepped to the side of the open grave, where I saw the vault lid already in place. I assured the workers I would not hold them up for long, but this was the proper thing to do. The workers gathered around, still eating their lunch. I poured out my heart and soul.

As I preached the workers began to say "Amen," "Praise the Lord," and "Glory," I preached, and I preached, like I'd never preached before: from Genesis all the way to Revelation. I closed the lengthy service with a prayer and walked to my car.

As I was opening the door and taking off my coat, I overheard one of the workers saying to another, "I ain't never seen anything like that before and I've been putting in septic tanks for twenty years."

- This item came to us via The Lantern, the weekly bulletin of the Highway church of Christ, Sullivan, IL.
                              

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Don't Laugh, It's Real!
by: Gerald Cowan

    If you are old enough to remember the Ma and Pa Kettle movies (or have seen the occasional re-runs on TV) you will appreciate this excerpt. In one movie two situations stand out indelibly. The first involved the Kettle family at the dinner table. Pa offered a four word prayer:  Thanks for the vittles." A mad scramble of forks and elbows followed. The second situation involved the Kettle family at a church service. As the collection plate went from hand to hand, each member of the Kettle clan rapped the underside with a knuckle, counterfeiting the sound of money dropping into the plate. But the plate was still empty when it got to the end of the pew.
   
    Maybe it was all in fun, it did make a lot of people laugh, but it contained a good deal of realism too. A proper attitude about prayer and a sense of financial responsibility to the church are both highly important to the Christian. I wonder how many pots would call the Kettles black.

- Gerald Cowan lives in Marion, IL and preaches  for the Dongola church of Christ, Dongola, IL.  He may be contacted at Geraldcowan1931@aol.com
                               

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Hearts of Gold
----poetry this issue


In The Valley I Grow

Sometimes life seems hard to bear
Full of sorrow, trouble, and woe,
It's then I have to remember
That it's in the valleys I grow.
If I always stayed on the mountaintop
And never experienced pain,
I would never appreciate God's love
And would be living in vain.
I have so much to learn
And my growth is very slow,
Sometimes I need the mountaintops,
But it's in the valleys I grow.

I do not always understand
Why things happen as they do,
But I am very sure of one thing:
My Lord will see me through.
My little valleys are nothing
When I picture Christ on the cross.
He went through the valley of death;
His victory was Satan's loss.
Forgive me, Lord, for complaining
When I'm feeling so very low.
Just give me a gentle reminder
That it's in the valleys I grow.

Continue to strengthen me, Lord,
And use my life each day
To share your love with others
And help them find their way.
Thank you for valleys, Lord,
For this one thing I know:
The mountaintops are glorious
But it's in the valleys I grow.

- Via The Sower, weekly bulletin of the Arthur church of Christ, Arthur, IL.
                              

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Praise Him
by: Janice George

For temptations met
>From day to day,
and trials encountered
Along the way,
Praise Him!

For the opportunity to go
To Him in prayer
To relieve your burdens
Toils and care,
Praise Him!

For grace bestowed
And blessings received,
For forgiveness of sins
And heartaches relieved
Praise Him!

For the refreshing rain
And the evening's sun,
For a crown of life
When our tasks here are done,
Praise Him!
                              

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The Faithful Few

In every church, in every clime,
   When there's some work to do,
It's very likely to be done
   By just the faithful few.

Many folks will help to sing,
   And some are glad to talk,
But when it comes to doing things
   A lot of them will balk.

"I can't do this", "I can't do that",
   "Excuse me please, this time",
"I'd be glad to help you out,
   But it's not in my line".

So when the elders look about
   For some who'll help to do,
They nearly always have to go
   And ask a faithful few.

They know full well they're busy, too,
   And always hard at work;
Yet they are sure they'll not refuse,
   Nor any duty shirk.
They never stop to make excuse,
   But always try to do.

Some day the Lord will come again
   With judgment wise and true
And then with him to heaven fair
   He'll take the faithful few! !

- Author Unknown

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

""We must not change the message; the message must change us" (Galatians 1:6-9) [via The Mathis Messenger, the weekly bulletin of the Mathis church of Christ, Mathis, TX; website: www.mathiscofc.org  e-mail: MathisCofC@stx.rr.com]

Fortune does not change men, it unmasks them (Suzanne Necker).

"Some people are born on third base and go through life thinking they hit a triple" (Barry Switzer).

"Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway." (John Wayne; via the APRIL 2006 MSFYi; Multiple Sclerosis Foundation Internet Newsletter).

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