BulletinGold #98
February 2009   Vol 8 #12

----by David Bragg
     For a moment think of how much God loves you.  Consider the blessings so easily taken for granted: air, light, water.  God provides these without regard to wealth, morality or spirituality (Mat. 5:45).  Without these basic blessings life could not exist.  Yet they all exist because of God's love.
     God also provided other blessings we are free to pursue.  Although available to all, they are sought by few:  forgiveness, grace, reconciliation, hope.  These blessings are found only in Christ, each extended through His love.
     So what keeps the human race from enjoying these greatest blessings of God?  For some it is ignorance.  To those we must carry the Word.  For others it is indifference.  We must convince them of the reality of God's love.
     To be loved is one of our basic needs.  People spend billions in a vain effort to feel loved while God supplied that need at the cross.  It is that pinnacle moment in time that has become the doorway to the deeper blessings of God.
     The world questions the existence of God.  They cast doubt upon His loving nature.  In raising these issues they overlook the real question.  You need not worry whether or not God loves you.  The real question is, "do you love God?" (John 14:15).

David Bragg, co-editor

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Panning for Gold
- Feature Articles:  

Love Letters

by: Steve Higginbotham

     Not long ago, my wife and I were cleaning out one of our closets.  On the top shelf, in the back of the closet was an unmarked box.  So I pulled it down and was surprised to see that inside of it were all the “love letters” that I wrote to her while we were dating.
     Well, I had forgotten what I had written, so I pulled out a few to read.  Oh my!  Talk about corny and embarrassing!  Some day my children will get a kick out of reading Daddy’s love letters to Mama.
     But as I took a break to read some of these letters to my wife, I found that she remembered them.  They weren’t strange words to her.  While I had no memory of these letters, and was busy analyzing handwriting samples to make sure I indeed wrote them, My wife needed no such analysis.  She knew the letters were from me, and she remembered the very words I had written.
     The fact that she remembered my letters so well indicates that those letters were cherished by her.
    Now here’s my point…How well do you cherish God’s love for you?  You do know that He has written several “love letters” to you, don’t you?  Have you forgotten their content?  Have you even taken the time to open and read what He had to say to you?  I might go so far as to suggest that the way we cherish or fail to cherish His words are an indicator of the depth of our love for Him.  Give it some thought.

- Steve Higginbotham is the minister for the South Green Street church of Christ, Glasgow, Kentucky.  He may be contacted at shigg@glasgow-ky.com  [Copyright © 2008, South Green Street Church of Christ, Glasgow, Kentucky.  Permission is granted to copy these articles.]

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Authentic Love in a Stable and Dependable Relationship
by: Gerald Cowan

     Many do not "feel loved" because they do not know what love is, how to give or receive true love. The agape love of God is more important than the love of any and all humans. One of the great needs of any person is to experience the agape love of God in and with others in a dependable, stable relationship.
     This love does not require acceptance and approval. It is not a "relationship" in the common sense of that word. Love must be in the relationship, but separate from the relationship. Love is not possession or control.
     Love is the desire for a valid "connection" with others. Love as affection is the emotional connection. Love is mutual covenant, the "reciprocal connection." Love as unselfish good will can easily function without a connection or relationship. It seeks only what is truly good for its object, even if the object is an enemy.
     Perfect love is the "ultimate connection." It is from God, the personification and fulfillment of His love. Perfect means it is given and received, shared and returned.
Perfect love casts out fear. It does not abuse, neglect, or hurt another. It does not fail to do good. If we know that is God's attitude toward us, why be afraid? If we know that is the attitude of others toward us, why be afraid?
     God’s agape love is unconditional. It is ours no matter what we do. But it does not bring salvation for us unless it is perfected in us, unless we share it with others and return it to Him.

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

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Our Father's Great Love
by: David Ferguson

     The Parable of the Prodigal Son is one of the most widely known of all the parables that Jesus taught. Additionally, it is also Jesus' longest parable, comprising 22 verses (Luke 15:11-32). In The Parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus reaches the apex in His response to the charge against Him leveled by the scribes and Pharisees, which was the accusation, "This man receives sinners and eats with them." And how did Jesus respond to this murmuring? He responded by delivering three parables in which He illustrated quite emphatically His Father's great and undying love for those who are lost: The Parable of the Lost Sheep, The Parable of the Lost Coin, and The Parable of the Prodigal Son.
     There is much that could be said about this parable, but I will keep my comments brief. The Parable of the Prodigal Son continues the theme of rejoicing and even adds to it. The first half of the parable illustrates rejoicing over a sinner who returned, while the second half more directly counters the situation Jesus faced: the criticism of the religious establishment about His willingness to be with sinners. Jesus, by telling the parable in the manner in which He did, admonishes those who do not rejoice about the interest in learning of repentance and salvation that is demonstrated by those very sinners in whom the scribes and Pharisees detested. The message is made abundantly clear: if even God and heaven rejoice over the repentance of one lost sinner, should we on earth do anything less?
     In the first two parables, the lost were found by searching. But in The Parable of the Prodigal Son, the younger son was found by waiting. During this time of Jesus' earthly ministry, the spiritually lost were already coming to Jesus. There was no need for Him to seek them out. They had been spiritually dead and were now showing interest. They desired to be taught by Jesus, because as Matthew recorded, "…the multitudes were astonished at His teaching: for He taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes." (Matthew 7:28b-29) Yes, Jesus received them and yes, He did eat with them. His willingness to reach out to those despised individuals would have encouraged them to keep the laws they already knew and to continue to listen to Him for more instruction in God's way of righteousness.
     But the parable is not pertinent simply to those Jews Jesus was teaching in the first century. The lessons to be gleaned are timeless messages for all as they depict so vividly how much great love our Father has for His lost children. He rejoices over and honors every sinner who comes to repentance. He does not require nor wait for a full and formal apology. He looks into the heart and perceives the attitude of a contrite spirit, and He comes toward us. This theme of joyful acceptance, as similarly illustrated in the first two parables of this chapter, dominates the beginning of this parable. This is the lesson illustrated by the Father: He is always ready to welcome a returning child!

- David R. Ferguson preaches for the Lakeland Church of Christ in Mattoon, IL.  He may be contacted at davidferguson61@yahoo.com   You may also want to visit the congregation's website at http://lakelandchurchofchrist.web.officelive.com/default.aspx

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He Loves Me
by: Rick Woodall

     This past Sunday I was asked to address a controversial subject. The examination of this topic from the scriptures points us in a positive direction. Many times we must be willing to listen to instruction that is pointed and accurate. I have listened to hundreds of sermons on certain topics that changed my perspective. My gift reminds me that the way a subject is communicated is just about as important as the lesson itself.
     "But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. - Eph 4:15-16
     Every lesson I prepare comes from the heart. Oral communication for the cause of Christ must be truthful. That truth should always be honored with the call for the authorization of the Word. The Love factor motivates each of us to recall that we are the family of God. When we love each other with the teaching, it does not come back to us empty-handed. After all, the listener can tell the difference.
     Edification with love equals growth. As we approach anyone with the Good News that saves, let us always remember how to connect to the congregation or the individual. If we want people to seek truth, the love factor is absolutely a must.
     "For God is not unjust; he will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do." - Heb 6:10
     Many are hearing words of hope and devotion for the first time. Many are being loved. Why you might ask?
     "We love because he first loved us." - 1 John 4:19
     Do you remember how much Christ loves you?

- Rick Woodall is the minister for the Yorktown Road church of Christ in Logansport Indiana. His weekly devotional message, Life Thoughts, can be found through this address:  http://mysite.verizon.net/yorktownroadchurchofchrist/

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Practicing the Golden Rule
by: Alan Smith

     I read recently about one of the most touching moments in sports I've ever heard about.  It took place at a women's softball game on April 26.  Central Washington and Western Oregon faced off against each other, with the winner to receive a bid to the NCAA's Division II playoffs.
     Sara Tucholsky, a Western Oregon player, came to the plate in the second inning with the score tied 0-0 and two runners on base.  Sara had never hit a home run in her lifetime.  However, things were about to change.  She connected on a pitch and hit the ball over the center field fence.  Due to her excitement, she missed first base.  So she stopped and turned to go back to the base.  But when she made the sudden stop and turn, she collapsed to the ground, having torn her ACL.
     Her first base coach wanted to run out and help her, but if she touched Sara, she would have been counted out.  As Sara lay on the ground, umpires conferred and determined that the best thing to do was to allow Western Oregon to substitute a pinch runner at first base (which would have canceled the home run).
     The coach prepared to make the substitution when she heard a voice:  "Excuse me, would it be OK if we carried her around and she touched each bag?'"  You see, in softball, a teammate can't touch a player while running the bases, but there's no rule that says the opponents can't touch her.  So Mallory Holtman and Liz Wallace, two players on the opposing team offered to carry Sara around the bases so that her home run would not be counted as a single.  These two players gently picked up Sara, and carried her around the bases, allowing her to tap each base along the way.  After reaching home plate, these two girls handed Sara off to her own teammates.
     When asked later why she did it, Mallory Holtman said, "Honestly, it's one of those things that I hope anyone would do it for me..." In other words, she was practicing the "Golden Rule" "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
     There's not much I can add to a touching story like that.  May it serve as an inspiration to find ways in your own life to look for people who could use a hand.  When we are less concerned about winning" than we are about helping others, we can truly begin to reflect Jesus Christ in our lives.
     "Therefore, whatever you want men to do for you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 7:12)

- Alan Smith, author of the popular "Thought For Today," and minister for the White House church of Christ in White House, TN, may be contacted at alansmith.servant@gmail.com

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Nuggets and Quick Riches
-    misc. goodies this issue

How to Be Happy

Keep your heart free from hate, your mind free from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, fill your life with love, scatter sunshine, forget self, think of others and their feelings. Do as you would have done to you.  These are tried links in the golden chain of contentment.

- Selected; via the weekly bulletin of the Harrisburg church of Christ in Harrisburg, IL.  You may visit their website at http://www.harrisburgchurchofchrist.org

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Love and God’s Commandments
by: Edd Sterchi

     Do you want Jesus to love you? Then keep His commandments. “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (John 15:10)
     Do you want to show your love for Jesus? Then keep His commandments. “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” (John 14:15)
     Do you want God’s Spirit to lovingly abide in you? Then keep His commandments. “Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.” (1 John 3:24).
     Do you love your brethren? Then keep God’s commandments. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments.” (1 John 5:2).
     Do you want to make it to heaven where love will reign forevermore? Then keep God’s commandments. “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.” (Revelation 22:14)
     “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)

- Edd Sterchi preaches for the Jackson church of Christ in Jackson, MO.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.jacksonchurchofchrist.com

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by: James C. Guy
For God so loVed the world,
That He gAve
His onLy
Begott En
That whosoever
Believeth In Him
Should Not perish,
But have Everlasting life."
John 3:16

- James C. Guy, Canal Heights church of Christ, in Demopolis, Alabama.  He may be contacted at THE BIBLE SAYS website at: http://biblesays.faithsite.com

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A New Attitude

ONE. Give people more than they expect—cheerfully (Philemon 1:21).
TWO. Don’t believe all you hear, spend all you have, or sleep all you want.
THREE. Smile when answering the phone. Callers can hear it in your voice.
FOUR. Remember that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
FIVE. When you say, “I’m sorry,” look the person in the eye.
SIX. Be engaged at least six months before you get married.
SEVEN. Believe in love at first sight.
EIGHT. Spend some time alone (Matthew 14:23).
NINE. When you say, “I love you,” mean it (1 Peter 1:22).
TEN. Never laugh at a dream. People without dreams don’t have much.
ELEVEN. Don’t let a little dispute injure a great friendship (Proverbs 27:10).
TWELVE. Talk slowly but think quickly (James 1:19).
THIRTEEN. Don’t judge people by their relatives (Matthew 7:1).
FOURTEEN. Marry a man/woman you love to talk to (1 Peter 3:7).
FIFTEEN. Do an anonymous kindness each day (Ephesians 4:32).
SIXTEEN. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson (James 1:1-3).
SEVENTEEN. When you make a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
EIGHTEEN. In disagreements, fight fairly. No name calling, threats, or bringing up ancient history.
NINETEEN. Remember the three Rs: Respect for self; Respect for others; and Responsibility for all your actions.
TWENTY. When someone asks you a question you don’t want to answer, smile and ask, “Why do you want to know?”
TWENTY-ONE. Love deeply and passionately. You might get hurt but it’s the only way to live life completely.

- Author Unknown; via the Belvedere Beacon, the weekly bulletin of the Belvedere church of Christ, Belvedere, SC.  Ken Chumbley preaches for this congregation, and he may be contacted at their website: http://www.belvederechurchofchrist.org or e-mail: church@belvederechurchofchrist.org

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Hearts of Gold
----poetry this issue
A Deed of Simple Kindness
by: Joseph Morris

“Do a deed of simple kindness;
Though its end you might not see,
It may reach, like widening ripples
Down a long eternity.”

- Via The Encourager, the weekly bulletin for the Calvert City church of Christ, Calvert City, KY.  Lance Cordle preaches for the congregation.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.calvertchurchofchrist.com

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Love and Care
by: Michael Dubina

The greatest thrills of life and love
That fill us with content
Are gifts of grace we give away
And ask no compliment.
It might be just a helping hand
We give to one, in need,
Or just a gift of caring grace --
When nothing else succeeds.

A little bit of love and care
That comes from you and me
Can lift a heart of grief and tears
From days of misery;
And it is heavenly ordained
That we -- of faith -- impart
The love and care God gives to us
To share with crying hearts.

- Submitted by Mark McWhorter.  Mark may be contacted at mtmcvb@concentric.net

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Jesus Loves You
by: H. L. Gradowith

For some lonely souls there is no tomorrow,
Just yesterdays filled with trouble and sorrow;
No today, no hope, no comfort and no peace,
From the cruel past they can find no release.

For some there's darkness, the black dark of the night,
So lost and confused, they wander without light;
And when they draw near to the light, they evade
And seek to escape, as though they are afraid.

Maybe they're happy when they're suffering so,
Maybe they love it, maybe, but I don't know;
Maybe nobody ever treated them right,
Or maybe it's not so very black and white.

To the extent that we believe in our Lord
And do exactly what we're told in His Word
We find happiness, and hope for tomorrow,
And learn to forget past trouble and sorrow.

For in Him we find hope and comfort and peace,
From the cruel past Jesus grants full release!
We leave the darkness of sins' long, lonely night,
And bask in the warmth of His wonderful light!

In Jesus we find there's no need to evade
Or seek to escape, for we are not afraid;
We long for heaven when our time here is done,
We know He'll be There when our race here is run!

If you don't know Him, O! Friend why do you wait?
He wants to help you, come now it's growing late.
He will embrace you and help you come what may,
There is no other Friend like Jesus today.

Come to Him today, poor lost one come today,
Let Jesus cleanse you, He'll wash your sins away;
For Jesus loves you with a heavenly love,
And longs to take you to a Mansion Above!

- H. L. Gradowith  For more information on H. L. Gradowith and GRADOWITH POEMS e-mail group visit http://www.geocities.com/fp5699/ - the website of Tim Smith, minister of the Enon church of Christ in Webb, AL.

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A Lovely Deed

A lovely deed was in my heart;
I never set it free.
It died from lack of exercise;
And made its tomb in me."

- Tony's Scrapbook, Decatur Tribune, August 10, 2005; from THE SOWER, a weekly publication of the Arthur church of Christ, Arthur, IL. Ron Bartanen, who serves as minister and editor, may be contacted at - ron33dor@yahoo.com  You may also visit their website at http://www.arthurchurchofchrist.com

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

"The test of character is not whether you conform to moral standards when they are the community norm, but whether you continue to adhere to them when the community strays elsewhere."

"A man shows his character by what he laughs at." (Italian proverb)

"Wear a smile, and have friends. Wear a scowl, and have wrinkles." (George Elliot)

"There is only one thing more painful than learning from experience, and that is not learning from experience." (Archibald McLeish)

“People seldom improve when they have no other model but themselves to copy after.” (Goldsmith)

- via THE SOWER, a weekly publication of the Arthur church of Christ, Arthur, IL. Ron Bartanen, who serves as minister and editor, may be contacted at - ron33dor@yahoo.com  You may also visit their website at http://www.arthurchurchofchrist.com

“How a man plays the game shows something of his character; how he loses shows all of it!”

“The Christian life is a reproduction, not an imitation, of the life of Christ.”

- via The Lantern, Highway church of Christ, Sullivan, IL  Visit their website as http://www.highwaycofc.com

“Experience gained the hard way brings knowledge that stays with you.”

”Experience is a very good teacher, but a hard one. She gives the test first, and then the lesson.”

“Deal with the faults of others at least as gently as you deal with your own.”

“To be in the minority can be a test of courage. To be in the majority is a test of tolerance.”

“You can't push yourself forward by patting yourself on the back.”

- via The Encourager, the weekly bulletin for the Dongola church of Christ, Dongola, IL.  Gerald Cowan serves the congregation as minister.  He may be contacted at Geraldcowan1931@aol.com

“Dealing with network executives is like being nibbled to death by ducks.” (Eric Sevareid)

“Ten percent of happenings are ninety percent of the reaction to it.   We are in charge of our attitudes.”

“True humility is not an abject, groveling, self-despising spirit; it is but a right estimate of ourselves as God sees us" (Tyron Edwards).

“Humility is strong - not bold; quiet - not speechless; sure - not arrogant.” (Estelle Smith).

“Peace starts with a smile.”

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