|EX - RATED RELIGION|
|PUTTING THE "THANKS" BACK IN THANKSGIVING|
|HOW TO REDUCE THE RISK OF HEART ATTACKS|
|HE DIED FOR ME|
|DO WE MEAN WHAT WE SING?|
|GOD BECAME ANGRY|
|TO ACHIEVE YOUR DREAMS, REMEMBER YOUR ABC'S|
|IS CONSCIENCE A SAFE GUIDE?|
|HOW WE SPEND OUR MONEY INDICATES OUR VALUES|
|GOING THE SECOND MILE|
|CHILDREN IN WORSHIP|
|THE SIN OF DOING NOTHING|
|THERE IS ONE GOD|
|THE ABC'S OF CHRISTIAN BEHAVIOR|
|PLEASE HEAR WHAT I'M NOT SAYING|
|DO NOTHING AND SIN|
|A HAPPY FACE ON THE CROSS|
|TALKING OR DOING|
|DISCERNING THE DIFFERENCE|
|WHAT IS THE LORD'S CHURCH|
|DYING TO SELF|
|EVOLUTION OR CREATION?|
|HOW'S YOUR TRANSFORMATION COMING?|
|HOW MUCH DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THE DEVIL?|
|THE DESTRUCTIVE NATURE OF SIN|
|FRIEND OR FOE?|
|BRING OUR WAYWARD BRETHREN BACK|
|"CHRISTIAN" IN APPEARANCE ONLY?|
|WHAT IS REALLY IMPORTANT IN LIFE?|
|WHAT REALLY COUNTS? WHAT IS IMPORTANT?
IF YOU REALLY WANT TO ENJOY LIFE, THEN CHECK:
|GIVING NOT GETTING|
any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take
|Christianity is an "ex - rated" religion! Of this there can be no doubt. This very act makes it distinctive. Consider the following:|
|1.||IT CAME AT AN "EX - TREMELY" HIGH
COST TO GOD!
"For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16).
|2.||IT'S PROVISIONS "EX - TEND" TO THE
"Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." (Mark 16:15-16).
|3.||THOSE WHO ARE SAVED ARE "EX -
ONERATED" FROM THE GUILT OF SIN!
"In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace." (Ephesians 1:7).
|4.||CHRISTIANS HAVE BEEN "EX - ALTED"
BY THE HEAVENLY FATHER!
"And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 2:6-7).
|5.||WE ARE THE RECIPIENTS OF "EX -
CEEDING" PRECIOUS PROMISES!
"Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises; that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust." (2 Peter 1:4).
|6.||THE CHRISTIAN BELONGS "EX -
CLUSIVELY" TO GOD!
"What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price." (I Corinthians 6:19-20).
|7.||THE SAVED ARE TO LEAD "EX -
EMPLARY" LIVES IN THE WORLD!
"But be thou anexample of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity." (I Timothy 4:12).
|8.||AN "EX - TRAORDINARY" REWARD
AWAITS THE FAITHFUL WHEN JESUS COMES AGAIN!
"In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also." (John 14:2-3).
|--Bulletin Digest --Larry Fluitt, The Lamplighter, Sweetwater, TX|
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PUTTING THE "THANKS" BACK IN THANKSGIVING
"Enter His gates with thanksgiving
and His courts with praise;
give thanks to Him and praise His name."
The inspired writers have consistently pointed us toward the expression of thanks. Paul goes so far as to tell the saints at Thessalonica (Thessalonians 5:18) to "give thanks in all circumstances." We indeed have much to be thankful for and as this Thanksgiving season approaches, let me suggest some things.Truth "We shall know the truth and the truth will set us free" (John 8:32). "Sanctify them in truth, thy word is truth" (John 17:17). Heaven "Let not your hearts be troubled ... in my Father's house are many rooms ... and I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:1-2). Abundance "I have come that they might have life, and ... have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). Newness of life "We are buried with Him by baptism into death ... in order that ... we too may live a new life" (Romans 6:4). Kingdom of God "Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18). Salvation "He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him" (Hebrews 5:9). Giving "The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance." (Romans 2:4). Identification "You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God" (I Peter 2:9). Victory over death " Death has been swallowed up in victory" (I Corinthians 15:54). Inheritance "And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ" (Romans 8:17). No condemnation "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). Gift of the Son "For God so loved the world that on the cross he gave his one and only begotten Son" (John 3:16).
--Bulletin Digest --Billy Joe Thrasher, The Mediator, Tulsa, OK
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Would you believe the answer is, "Attend church"? Now I know what you are saying, "Preachers will do anything to get people to come to church." Right? Wrong! This information came from the International Journal of Cardiology.
In the little paper, Bottom Line (February 15, 1987), the following article appeared:
"Religious Faith wards off heart attacks. Recent discovery: Non religious people have a heart-attack risk two and a half times higher than that of religious people -- regardless of serum cholesterol or blood pressure levels".
How could that be? I'm not a doctor but I've got a few ideas:1. Christians Don't Have to Live With Guilt. As a child of God I can know that the blood of Jesus continues to keep me pure everyday (1 John 1:7). Even though I foul up I can live with confidence knowing I'm safe in the arms of my Lord. I'm free to enjoy forgiveness.
2. Christians Can Be Part of a Loving Family -- The Church. In a day when families are being shattered by divorce, alcoholism, and death I have something that remains the same. My family, the church, remains to help me make it through the worst of times. Redwood trees have been able to survive the centuries because their roots interlock with others. In the church I am able to have support, love, understanding and a family, whether my physical family survives or not.
3. Christians Do Not Have to Fear Death. That fear has kept us in bondage all our lives -- till Jesus came (Hebrews 2:14-15). We know that we will be resurrected, our bodies changed from physical to spiritual, and we'll live forever with God. David said, "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for thou art with me ... "
Want to avoid a heart attack? See you in church Sunday.
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HE DIED FOR ME
Back in frontier days, a woman and her baby were trapped by a prairie fire. That mother exhausted every possible means of escape. In desperation she scooped a hole in the ground with her bare hands. Placing her baby in that hole, she covered him with her own body. A day later, she was found -- dead; but the baby was alive. At the funeral service of that brave woman, someone said, "That's what Jesus did for me. He died that I might live. He put His body between me and the everlasting fire."
In the sixteenth century, Oliver Cromwell ordered that an English soldier be shot for a cowardly crime. The execution was to take place at the ringing of the evening bell, but at the appointed time no sound came from the belfry. Investigation revealed that the girl who was engaged to be married to the condemned man had climbed into the bell tower and clung to the clapper of the giant bell to prevent it from striking. They found her there with her hands bleeding and torn to shreds.
All of us are sinners under sentence of death, but Christ intervened on our behalf. Look at His bruised and bleeding hands -- nail - pierced on that cross.
SEE FROM HIS HEAD, HIS HANDS, HIS FEET,
SORROW AND LOVE FLOW MINGLED DOWN:
DID E'ER SUCH LOVE AND SORROW MEET,
OR THORNS COMPOSE SO RICH A CROWN?
WERE THE WHOLE REALM OF NATURE MINE,
THAT WERE A PRESENT FAR TOO SMALL;
LOVE SO AMAZING, SO DIVINE,
DEMANDS MY SOUL, MY LIFE, MY ALL.
--Joe R. Barnett
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DO WE MEAN WHAT WE SING?
It thrills my soul to join with the children of God in singing His praises! However, as I see so many who claim to be Christians live lives contrary to the sons we often sing in praise to God, it makes me wonder if we really mean what we sing. Consider how this is true as we ponder the following list of songs and the footnotes after them:
|Tell Me The Old, Old Story||if it doesn't take too long.|
|Have Thine Own Way, Lord||if it doesn't conflict with what I want.|
|I Am Thine, O Lord||but I belong to the club and have a meeting to attend right now.|
|If Jesus Goes With Me||it may be embarrassing for us both.|
|O Lord, Our Lord||(I say it every time I'm angry or hit my thumb with a hammer).|
|More About Jesus Would I Know||unless it requires that I read my Bible every day.|
|Give Me the Bible||just don't make it too plain or too challenging.|
|Take The World, But Give Me Jesus||just don't take too much of it.|
|If We Never Meet Again This Side of Heaven||don't be surprised; you now know why.|
How wonderful it will be When All of God's Singers Get Home! To be sure we are among them, let us truly live as we sincerely sing Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah! "For Jesus' sake" (2 Corinthians 4:11).
--Bulletin Digest --Jack Simons via Dexter, MO
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GOD BECAME ANGRY
In Psalms 106: 13 - 33 we read a stirring passage dealing with the Israelites treatment of God. Phrases such as: "they soon forgot, they waited not, but lusted exceedingly, tempted God, they worshipped a molten image, they changed their glory, they believed not his word, they joined themselves to Baal, etc..." It is a scary thought to read all that the Israelites did to God. They acted terribly. They treated God with disdain and rejected Him as God. So, God became angry (Hebrews 3:11). Can you imagine? They have invoked the wrath of Almighty God. They now will stand in judgment for this lack of respect and their disbelief.
Ironically, as you read Psalms 106, one can picture many people today. Our world is full of people who are acting the same way the Israelites did. Their final resting place will be as the Israelites, separated from God.
As one considers these things it is easy to focus on the world and see all of the wickedness and disrespect. We can easily see into the world of others and point out their sin. It is not so easy to be like the prodigal son, and "cometo ourselves." This means that we cease our looking around and focus on our lives and our shortcomings.
God is watching. He knows, and He may be getting angry. What makes God angry? Is there something in our lives that angers God? Are we participating in things that anger God?
We are a selfish people. Our wants and desires are most important, and that offends our Lord. He expects to be first in our lives (Matthew 10). He deserves our full attention, not just part. When we place our habits (smoking, drinking, gambling, willfully missing services, drugs, etc. .. anything that controls us, or damages our health) above what God wants, surely he becomes angry.
We have relegated Him to a position of second, not first where He belongs. When we fail to place the needs of our families in front of our own selfish desires, God rejects our sacrifice.
Are we so naive that we simply think that God will "overlook" those things that we are doing wrong? God certainly did not "overlook" the wickedness of Israel. He will treat us no different. That is why we have such a warning found in the book of Hebrews. In chapter 3 we are told how God became angry. By the waywardness of His chosen people.
Is God becoming angry with our lives? Are we living in such a way as to bring God honor and glory? Good people, we have been given ample warning from God through His word. May God help us to heed the warning, pay attention, and make the proper changes in our lives.
--David Stofel, Ethridge Church of Christ, TNBack to Top
TO ACHIEVE YOUR DREAMS, REMEMBER YOUR ABC'S Avoid negative sources, people, places, things, and habits.
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Spiritual Maturity is not to be assumed merely because one has been a Christian for many years. Hebrews 5:12 - 14 affirms that fact. Spiritual maturity is not proven by large amounts of scripture committed to memory, for there is a vast difference between knowing truths and making application of those truths in daily living. Then, too, spiritual maturity cannot be determined by how large of a following one builds for himself.
Spiritual maturity becomes increasingly evident in our lives as we reduce the disparity between what we say we love and what we show we love; between what we say and what we do; between what we claim and how we act.Sift to hear, slow to speak. James 1:19
Magnifying Christ in one's manner of life.
Abstaining from every appearance of evil. I Thessalonians 5:22.
Telling others the truths of God's Word in love. Ephesians 4:15
United as one with the brethren. Psalms 133:1
Redeeming time. Ephesians 5:16
Inclined toward good counsel. Proverbs 4:20-22
Trying the spirits to determine if they be of God. I John 4:1.
Yielding to God. Romans 6:13
Spiritual maturity does not just happen -- it is diligently worked toward and developed as we make the principles of Christian character more practical in our lives. Very simply put, spiritual maturity is ... being stronger in the faith each day of our life than we were the day before; confidently drawing on our faith for the solutions to life's problems; happily accepting the Lordship of Christ over my life; exhibiting genuine concern for the physical and spiritual welfare of others; understanding this life as nothing more than a pilgrimage to a far greater, more meaningful one of an eternal nature; accepting the major thrust of life as being selflessness, not selfishness; when our first love is the cause of Christ.
--Charlie T. Garner
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|Many people say, "It does not matter what one believes or does in religion just so he follows his conscience."|
|***||This is not true in secular matters. In traveling on the highways, we do not follow conscience about the road to take ... we use the road map. In matters of health, we do not follow conscience -- we want a doctor. We may take poison in all good conscience and die because our conscience was wrong.|
|***||Honesty, sincerity, and a good conscience do not change the physical laws or nature. Nature's laws were framed by the same God who gave us the laws of religion and worship. Why then should we think conscience could change any of God's laws?|
|***||Conscience is not safe in the business world. Sincerity does not keep banks from failing, businesses from going broke, or companies from losing money. It is not enough in marriage. Many marriages fail, not because of insincerity, but of other factors.|
|***||If conscience is not safe in these matters, why should we think it safe in religion? Conscience is not our guide; it serves as a court. It is the exercise of one's judgment of knowledge previously acquired.|
|***||Conscience may accuse or excuse (Romans 2:12-15) or bear witness (Romans 9:1). Conscience warns us only when we are going contrary to what we have been taught.|
|***||When one is doing what he has been taught to be right, his conscience is clear and is spoken of in the Bible as good (Acts 23:1), pure (2 Timothy 1:3), and void of offense (Acts 24:16). If one violates what he has been taught, his conscience is said to be defiled (Titus 1:15) or seared ( 1 Timothy 4:2).|
|***||Conscience should not be violated (Romans 14:14). However, to think a thing is right does not make it right, for the Apostle Paul persecuted Christians with a good conscience. (Galatians 1:13; Acts 26:9-10; Acts 23:1).|
|***||What then is our guide? In religion it is the Bible only. "Through thy precepts I get understanding..." (Psalm 119:18). Christ has all authority (Matthew 28:18). We must not go beyond His word (2 John 9). Reject His word and you will be rejected (John 12:48). We will be judged by His word (Revelation 20:12).|
|--Via Lake Forest bulletin, Jacksonville, FL|
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HOW WE SPEND OUR MONEY INDICATES OUR VALUES
One of the true ironies of our country is its pet-craze. Just accounting for the cats and dogs that people own yields an amazing figure. There are 45 million dogs and 55 million cats owned by Americans. That's 100 million animals -- and that's just the dogs and cats!
Not the British people are an animal loving people. The ratio of pets to people is 1 to 3. That is, there is one pet for every three people. In the U.S. however, the ratio is 1 to 2 -- one pet for every two people. This is the highest ratio in the world.
But, that is not all. Americans spend $300 million per year to buy these pets. To feed them cost $2 billion per year. That figure is higher than the money spent to buy food for the babies in this country!
To support all of this, there are 3,000 dog and cat food companies. The largest selling dry or canned food item in almost all grocery stores is pet food. This is four times what is spent on baby food sales.
To this can be added billions of dollars on animal accessories. Considering just the dog accessories totals $2 billion dollars. Items like gem - studded collars, perfume, gold - plated license tag, beef - flavored toothpaste, and breath sprays are very popular.
All of this makes me wonder how much Americans are spending on taking care of the really important things of life. How much are they spending on the care and feeding of their eternal souls? I'm sure the figures would be equally staggeringly -- but low.
--Bulletin Digest --Mike Johnson via Richmond, KY
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GOING THE SECOND MILE
A farmer left his son to plow a large field, instructing him to plow out to the peach trees and to try to finish the job by the end of the day.
When the farmer returned that evening, he discovered that his son had plowed all the way out to the road, far beyond the peach trees. It was almost twice the amount of work he had expected his son to do.
When he asked his son about it, the boy replied, "Dad, I plowed out to the peach trees because you told me to. But I plowed on out to the road because I wanted to."
The wanted to in this boy's response is the language of genuine love. Only the love of Christ within us can compel us to go beyond the requirements and give more than expected. Christians should pray daily for the love of Christ to direct us in all our dealings with others.
"And whoever compels you to go one mile, " Jesus taught, "go with him two" (Matthew 5:41)
--Bulletin Digest --via Salt Lake City, UT
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|Not long ago, I was asked the question, "What is your doctrine?" My response was that I do not have a doctrine. I then went on to explain that I simply follow the doctrine of Christ. The word "doctrine" literally means "teaching" or "the content of that which was taught." The words "doctrine" and "teaching" are then in essence interchangeable.|
|The New Testament refers to three distinct and different types of doctrine.|
|1.||The doctrine of Christ. (2 John 9)
This is the doctrine we are called to follow. In Titus 2:1 this doctrine is said to be sound. In 2 Timothy 4:2, Paul states that this doctrine also exhorts. Then in Acts 2:42 we re told that the church "continued steadfastly in the Apostles Doctrine." The "Apostles Doctrine was in reality Christ's teachings because they were teaching that which Christ had taught them as well as what the Holy Spirit had instructed them in.
|2.||The Doctrine of Devils (1 Timothy 4:1-3)
Paul states that some will leave the faith and be given over to the teachings of demons. He goes on to say that they will lie and have a scarred conscience.
|3.||Strange Doctrines (Hebrews 13:9)
What then are "strange doctrines"? They would include any teaching that is not of Christ. It is teaching that is "as doctrine the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:9).
|There are of course many strange doctrines (teachings). However, we are called to follow only the doctrine of Christ Jesus. Whose doctrine do you follow?|
|--Bill W. Weaver|
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CHILDREN IN WORSHIP
One of our main goals in life is to help our children and other young people to become Christians who are faithful to God's Word and active in His kingdom, the church. We want to "bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Ephesians 6:4). We want them to know the joy of knowing, serving, and worshipping the Lord. Our children should be taught why we worship, how we worship, and how to make our worship most effective. Parents, grandparents, and friends will be the most important influences on our young people in their worship. Here are a few ideas that will help us train our children to be good worshippers.ONE -- SET A GOOD EXAMPLE
TWO -- PREPARE THE
Before Sunday, talk to your child about how to act in the assembly. Tell the child why we pray, sing, give, partake of the Lord's Supper weekly, and listen to a sermon. As you would in preparing him for school, make sure the child gets enough rest the night before to be awake and alert Sunday.
THREE -- INVOLVE THE
When singing, help him locate the page of the song. With your finger on his book, point to the words as we sing. Encourage your child to sing even though he may not always sing the right words. When the sermon is delivered, help the child locate the Scriptures cited and / or encourage him to write them down. This impresses upon the child the importance of paying attention. It also stresses that worship is active and not passive.
FOUR -- AVOID
Make sure that you child has gone to the restroom and for a drink of water before the worship service begins. Traffic in and out of the auditorium during worship is both unnecessary (with but a few exceptions) and disruptive to the worship of many.
FIVE -- SIT UP TOWARD
Don't follow the natural tendency to sit in the back so that the child does not disturb others. Think positively. Sit close to the front so that our child can see and hear what is happening. You'll be amazed at how much better he will behave when you sit toward the front, and how much more meaningful worship will be to you, too.
SIX -- FOLLOW THROUGH
Reinforce your child's learning by discussing various aspects of the worship afterwards.
SEVEN -- BE PATIENT
Children will not act like adults, but with patience and love, they can be taught to love God and worship Him from the heart. This process will take time, but it will be time well spent. The time to begin is now, regardless of how young your child is.
--Lester Kamp, via Siebles Road Church of Christ bulletin
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Is religion intended to be experienced passively as a "feeling" or will it only be experienced in practical actions? New findings released recently by George Barna and his research group show that of the number of adults who claim to attend worship services on any given Sunday, few say that they really "feel" God. Maybe that answers the question that He is not reached by those who come just to possibly receive an experience.
James 1:27 gives the definition of religion that is accepted by God as "pure and faultless." It is a two - pronged definition: "to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." Neither of these imply passiveness, but rather positive and deliberate action.
The first concern is for compassionate care to be given for those unable to take care of themselves. The idea is found in our being Christ's hands and feet and ears and eyes that are used to inject positive good in the lives of those he would touch if he himself were here in person. to "visit" (KJV) means more than just to look in on these people. It means to take whatever actions are necessary to care for them.
The second concern mentioned also takes concentrated effort on our part. A one - time effort to purge worldliness and the influence of the world on our hearts is not enough. It will take our continued steadfast awareness to keep ourselves in God's will and God's way. By the accomplishment of these things, we know our religion is an offering pleasing to God. Indeed, it is "more than a feeling."
--Bulletin Digest -- Joe Keyes via
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THE SIN OF DOING NOTHING
He made no mistakes; took no wrong roads;
He never once fumbled the ball.
He never went down 'Neath the weight of the load;
He simply did nothing at all.
He lost no hard fight In defense of the
Never bled with his back to the wall.
He never felt faint In his climb to the light;
He simply did nothing at all.
So death came high; Life had slipped by;
He feared for the judgment call.
And when asked why His murmured reply,
"I've really done nothing at all."
Oh, God will pardon Your blunders, my
Or regard with pity your fall;
But the one great "sell" That surely means Hell
Is simply to do nothing at all.
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THERE IS ONE GOD
Of all the facts that should make for unity, this is the greatest. "There is ... one God who is over all, and through all, and in you all," according to the statement of Paul in Ephesians 4:4-6.
There is only one God who had created all the world and planned for the salvation of all men through His Son, Jesus Christ. Although men had become estranged from God -- and divided man against man -- God planned that all things should be drawn together again in Christ.
It is part of God's nature that He is a unit. He is not divided against Himself -- nor are those who really follow Him divided among themselves. When divisions come, they are not the work of God, but of Satan. "But where envy and strife are, there is confusion and every evil work."
So, it is strange that men can lightly dismiss division of all kinds with a shrug and say, "Oh well, we are all worshipping God and His way that division occurs. In fact, the word 'sect' in the Bible is translated from a word that means 'one's own choice.'
If we cannot serve God and be united here on earth, how can we expect to be able to serve Him and be united in heaven? For this reason our plea is that we strive for unity -- through submission to the one God and obedience to Him through His Son.
--Jerry Starling, reprinted from 3/27/88
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THE ABC'S OF CHRISTIAN BEHAVIOR
Act instead of Argue.
Build instead of Brag.
Climb instead of Criticize.
Dig instead of Depreciate.
Encourage instead of Envy.
Fight instead of Faint.
Give instead of Grumble.
Help instead of Harm.
Invite instead of ignore.
Join instead of Jeer.
Kneel instead of Kick.
Love instead of Lampoon.
Move instead of Mold.
Nurture instead of Neglect.
Obey instead of Object.
Pray instead of Pout.
Qualify instead of Quit.
Rescue instead of Ridicule.
Shout instead of Shrink.
Try instead of Tremble.
Undergird instead of Undermine.
Vindicate instead of Vilify.
Witness instead of wilt.
eXterminate instead of eXcuse.
Yield to works of love instead of works of flesh.
Zip instead of Zigzag.
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PLEASE HEAR WHAT I'M NOT SAYING
Don't be fooled by me, don't be fooled by the face I wear, for I wear a mask, I wear a thousand masks, masks that I'm afraid to take off, and none of them are me. Pretending is an art that's second nature to me, but don't be fooled -- for God's sake, don't be fooled. I give the impression that I am secure, that all is sunny and unruffled with me, within as well as without, that confidence is my name and coolness my game, that the water is calm and I am in command and that I need no one, but don't believe me, please. My surface may seem too smooth, by my surface is my mask, my ever - varying and ever - concealing mask, beneath lies no smugness, no complacence, beneath dwells the real me, in confusion, in fear, in aloneness.
But I hide this. I don't want anyone to know it. I panic at the thought of my weakness and fear of being exposed. That's why I frantically create a mask to hide behind, a nonchalant, sophisticated facade to help me pretend, to shield me from the glance that knows. But such a glance is precisely my salvation, my only salvation, and I know it, that is, if it's followed by acceptance, if it's followed by love. It's the only thing that can liberate me from myself, from my own self - built prison walls, from the barriers that I so painstakingly erect. It's the only thing that will assure me of what I can't assure myself, that I'm really worth something. But I don't tell you this. I don't dare, I'm afraid to. I'm afraid your glance will not be followed by acceptance and love. I'm afraid you'll think less of me, that you will laugh, and your laugh would kill me. So, I play my game, my desperate pretending game, with a facade of assurance without and a trembling child within.
And so begins the parade of masks, the glittering but empty parade of masks and my life becomes a front. I idly chatter to you in the suave tones of surface talk, I tell you everything that is really nothing, and nothing of what's everything, of what's crying within me. So, when I'm going through my routine, do not be fooled by what I'm saying. Please listen carefully and try to hear what I'm not saying. What I'd like to be able to say, what for survival I need to say, but what I can't say.
I dislike hiding. Honestly, I dislike the superficial game I'm playing. I'd like to be genuine and spontaneous and me, but you've got to help me, you've got to hold out your hand, even when that's the last thing I seem to want or need. Only you can wipe away from eyes the blank stare of the breathing dead. Only you can call me into aliveness. Each time you're kind, gentle, encouraging, each time you try to understand because you really care, my heart begins to grow wings, very small wings, very feeble wings, but wings. With your sensitivity and your sympathy and your power of understanding, you can breathe life into me, I want you to know that. I want you to know how important you are to me, how you can be a creator of the person that is me -- if you choose to. Please choose to.
You alone can break down the wall behind which I tremble,
you alone can remove the mask. You alone can release me from the shadowy world of panic
and uncertainty, from my lonely prison. So do not pass me by, please do not pass me by, it
will not be easy for you -- a long conviction of worthlessness builds strong walls. The
nearer you approach to me, the blinder I may strike back, it's irrational, but, despite
what the books say about man, I am irrational. I fight against the very thing I cry for,
but I am told that love is stronger than walls, and in this lies my hope, my only hope.
Please try to beat down those walls with firm hands, but with gentle hands, for a child is
sensitive. Who am I, you may wonder? I am someone you know very well, I am every man you
meet and I am every woman you meet.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6, 7 (NIV)
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DO NOTHING AND SIN
The neglect of positive duty is just as surely wrong as the commission of overt evil. It is not sufficient to say, "So long as I don't drink and swear, lie and steal, fight and kill, I am all right." Take a soldier in the army. He doesn't have to fix his bayonet and run his colonel through to be guilty of wrong doing. He can just refuse to carry out the orders his colonel gives him. When the battle rages he can just lay down his arms and refuse to fight. What army would tolerate such conduct?
Remember that the King said to those on his left hand, "I was hungered, and ye gave me no drink." He did not say, "You were drunkards, you were dishonest, you were profane" (Matthew 25).
In the parable of the marriage feast in Luke 14:16-24, there were many who would not come, and they perished because of it. You will not find one statement made concerning them committing sins. They were shut out for not coming.
I fear for those who leave off the primary commands of repentance and baptism, for those who neglect the worship of God on Sundays, for those who fail to observe the Lord's Supper; for those who are too busy to pray, for those who are ready with an excuse for every good deed they have NOT done, for all who have simply neglected.
--Bulletin Digest --Randy Vaughn via Hinesville, GA
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A HAPPY FACE ON THE CROSS
"Will the church of the new millennium put a happy face on the cross?" That's the question asked by Frederica Matthewes-Green, a syndicated columnist and regular commentator on National Public Radio.
Are we headed that way? A "feel good" religion? Enjoy yourself, follow your heart's desires, live comfortably and enter into glory. The columnist points out that there is a hunger "for an all - forgiving God who will commiserate when we do what self - fulfillment requires." And she lays it on the line by saying that the widespread cultural hunger is the yearning for a God who is not a Father in heaven. but a "Grandfather in heaven who likes to see the young people enjoying themselves," as C.S. Lewis put it.
Who can deny it? The popular religion of today more often than not focuses on joy, happiness, peace and prosperity rather than the more demanding concepts of obedience, duty, responsibility, accountability, faithfulness, self-denial and suffering (which just happen to be in the Book, too).
Religionists who just want to cuddle and hug might have a hard time adjusting to such things as going to jail, suffering countless beatings, being brought close to death, being whipped or beaten with rods or meeting danger wherever they go. What would happen if they were constantly attacked by their own countrymen and false brethren? What if their religion meant toil and hardship, sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, being cold and suffering from exposure? (Read 2 Corinthians 12:23-28). Yet, that happened to a man who took his eyes off of himself and looked to Christ.
Matthewes-Green wrote, "The biggest challenge to the church will come from within. Hearing the multitudes cry for safety, comfort and approval, will we be seduced into supplying only that?" Or, will we have the courage to speak also of repentance, crucifixion of self and discipleship?
It's hard to put a happy fact on the cross, whether you are talking about Christ's or our own.
--John Gipson, from the Keynoter, Little Rock, AR
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|1.||Put God first in your life. "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33).|
|2.||Exclude from your life persons who walk contrary to your Christian beliefs: "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?"|
|3.||Enrich your life with wholesome activities that stimulate physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional growth. If your life is rich in each of these areas, you will less likely do things against your better judgment.|
|4.||Refuse to let others control your life and make your decisions. You and you alone control your destiny.|
|5.||Plan for the future. Learn to set goals and be determined to reach them|
|6.||Realize your potential and capitalize on your strengths. Cultivate the talents that God has given you. If you feel good about yourself, you are less likely to go along with the crowd.|
|7.||Expect to be ridiculed for not following the crowd. Christ was crucified for being "different."|
|8.||Study God's Word by attending Bible study classes. "Study to show thyself approved unto God, ..." (2 Timothy 2:15).|
|9.||Seek out Christians to develop meaningful relationships.|
|10.||Utilize resource persons in the Church to discuss and find solutions to your problems. These include the ministers, elders, deacons, Sunday School teachers, and youth staff members.|
|11.||Recognize the importance of serving God now! "Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, ..." (Ecclesiastes 12:1).|
|12.||Enjoy life! Christians should be the happiest people on earth. You can have nice clean fun. Become involved with Youth Group and enjoy wholesome activities with other Christians.|
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TALKING OR DOING
The other day I read the story about a man who had fallen over an extremely steep and deep cliff. He grabbed a tree root about 500 feet down. Looking down, it looked like it must have been 2000 more feet to the bottom.
Looking back toward the top, the man yelled, "Is anyone up there?" "Yes," came a reply. "Who is it?" the man asked. "God," said the voice. "Can you help me?" pleaded the dangling man. "Do you believe and trust me?" asked God. "I do, I do," the man replied. "Then turn loose of the tree root," said God, "and I will save you."
After a few moments of silence the man cried, "Is there anyone else up there?" A well - known support group for struggling people has a saying, "Let go, and let God." Talking about it and doing it are two different things. Doing it requires a strong, abiding faith.
Am I trusting in God? Are you?
--Bulletin Digest --Frank Morgan via Muskogee, OK
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DISCERNING THE DIFFERENCE
The church is divine in origin, spiritual in nature, and eternal in duration. It is a monument to divine wisdom. It is a portrait of beauty and simplicity beyond the Rembrandts of the ages.
Sin drove a wedge between man and God. The church is the sphere of reconciliation. It was God's will from eternity to unite all men "in one body by the cross" (Ephesians 2:16). That one body is the church (Ephesians 1:22-23). Jesus saves only the church (Ephesians 5:23) because it is composed of those who have obeyed the Gospel (Acts 2), God's only power to save (Romans 1:16). There are as many saved people outside the church as there were outside the ark in Noah's day.
If ancient Israel was the "apple of God's eye" (Deuteronomy 32:10), what must the church be but the joy of His heart! Even now, God awaits the moment when time shall give way to eternity, and the church, His Son's bride, robed in the beauty of holiness by virtue of His Son's blood, shall make its entrance into that heavenly realm to the enjoyment of eternal bliss and happiness.
Denominationalism is human in origin, physical in nature, and temporal in duration. It is a monument to human self - will, man's determination to do what he pleased instead of what God says. It is a portrait of chaos and confusion, a tool in the hand of the Devil to blind the "minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them" (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Jesus did not plant denominationalism and it "shall be rooted up" (Matthew 15:13). Its worship is ostentatious and mechanical, its kingdom hope is material, and its laws are ritualistic and traditional. David said, "I hate every false way" (Psalm 119:128). Let us love the people, but loathe the system. Israel was to discern between things holy and profane (Ezekiel 22:26). Christians need to perceive the grave distinction between the church set forth in the New Testament and denominationalism. There is a difference.
--Frank Chesser, The Voice of Truth International
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|WHAT IS THE LORD'S CHURCH|
|When we look at the pattern Jesus and the apostles left us of the Lord's church, we look at how the church worshipped and was organized. These are important elements, but we should not overlook another characteristic that is as important. The Lord's church is a sending church. It is a sending church because God is a sending God -- He sent His Son to save us. And Jesus sent out the apostles. And he sends us (Matthew 28:18-20). To refuse to send would be to disobey our Lord. Note how the first century church sent:|
|***||The apostles in Jerusalem church sent Peter and John to deify and strengthen the new Christians in Samaria (Acts 8:14).|
|***||The Jerusalem church sent Barnabas to edify the new Christians and to evangelize (Acts 11:22-24).|
|***||The church in Antioch sent Barnabas and Paul on the first missionary journey (Acts 13).|
|***||The Antioch church sent Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem, and they encouraged the Christians they met along the way (Acts 15).|
|The Lord's church does not turn inward and care only for herself. She must, by nature, be a sending church. The size of the church may affect how much or how far she is involved in sending, but it will not change that essential nature.|
|--Bulletin Digest --via Brownwood, TX|
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DYING TO SELF
When you are forgotten, or neglected, or purposely set at naught, and you don't sting and hurt with the insult or the oversight, but your heart is happy, being counted worthy to suffer for Christ, that is dying to self.When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed, and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart, or even defend yourself, but take it all in patient, loving silence, that is dying to self.
When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, any irregularity, any impunctuality, or any annoyance; when you stand face-to-face with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility -- and endure it as Jesus endured, that is dying to self.
When you are content with any food, any offering, any climate, any society, any regiment, any interruption by the will of God, that is dying to self.
When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation, or to record your own good works, or itch after commendations, when you can truly love to be unknown, that is dying to self.
When you can see your brother prosper and have his needs met and can honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy, or question God, while your own needs are far greater and in desperate circumstances, that is dying to self.
When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself and can humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart, that is dying to self.
Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it" (Matthew 16:24-25).
--Bulletin Digest --Alan Smith, via Boone, NC
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EVOLUTION OR CREATION?
Are you a descendant of an ape-like creature that lived millions of years ago? Did your forbears at one time swing through the trees on some remote island? Can you trace your "roots" back to some primordial slime that evolved, by chance and environmental pressure, into the human being you are today?
We see television specials and read textbooks on the "history of man" in which we see mankind move from the swamp on all fours, straighten up, shed his tail, grow hair, and learn to think and talk. We see this alleged scenario almost daily through such magazines as NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, TIME, NATURAL HISTORY, and others.
It this really what happened? As you the result of billions of years of evolutionary change? Are you the result of spontaneous generation that took place a long, long time ago -- only to find it culmination in Homo Sapiens of today? Or, were you specially created by God "in His image"? Did He, as the Bible indicates, create mankind "male and female" (Matthew 19:4)? Are we, as the Psalmist wrote, "fearfully and wonderfully made"? (Psalm 139:14).
What does the evidence say? It's not enough for someone to venture a mere opinion. What we need here is evidence adequate to the situation. Is there any? Indeed there is.
The fundamental law of biology is the Law of Biogenesis. This law (and there are no known exceptions to it in nature) state that all life comes from preceding life of its kind. As Dr. McNair Williams said in an Oxford University Medical publication: "Modern medicine and surgery are founded on the truth enunciated by Pasteur, that life precedes only from life, and only from life of the same kind and type."
Evolution postulates spontaneous generation -- life arising from non-life. Yet all available scientific evidence establishes beyond the shadow of a doubt that spontaneous generation simply does not occur. Experiment after experiment has shown that only life can give rise to life. All the while we are asked to believe that somehow, sometime, somewhere spontaneous generation did occur, and here we are as a result of it.
Evolution postulates an ever increasing upward trend in
complexity. We are told that nature moves upward, from disorder to order, from the simple
to the complex, and that this is how evolution has actually occurred. Yet this is in
direct contradiction to one of the most basic, most fundamental laws of science -- the LAW
OF ENTROPY. This law (also known as the SECOND LAW OF THERMODYNAMICS) states categorically
that all systems move toward higher entropy. That is to say, all systems go from order to
disorder, from complex to simple. All things are becoming more and more random, not
structured. And eventually, if the Universe lasts long enough, the Earth would die a
"heat death" because energy is becoming less available for use as time goes by.
--Dr. Bert Thompson, The Voice of Truth International
The FIRST LAW OF THERMODYNAMICS (something must come from something) teaches us that the Universe could not have come from nothing. To have something like the Universe, we have to have something even greater to make it. that something, or Someone, is God.
The SECOND LAW OF THERMODYNAMICS teaches us that the Universe must have had a beginning. The very first verse of the Bible says, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth."
--Trevor Major, Discovery Magazine
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HOW'S YOUR TRANSFORMATION COMING?
"And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Have you, as a Christian considered that you are continually being changed, 'transformed,' into the likeness of the Lord? Certainly it should make us stop and think! How's that transformation coming?
--Bulletin Digest --Larry Keele, via Hope, AR
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HOW MUCH DO YOU KNOW ABOUT THE DEVIL?
What do you picture in your mind when you think of the devil? Many envision in their mind a sooty creature in a red suit with a forked tail, carrying a pitch fork. I believe the reason more do not fear the devil, and try to avoid him at all cost, is because they do not know just how evil and powerful he really is.
The devil is called by various names and alluded to in various ways in the Bible. This evil being is referred to as 'Abaddon," the place of destruction (Revelation 9:11), the 'accuser' (Revelation 12:10), an 'adversary' (1 Peter 5:8), 'the angel of the bottomless pit' (Revelation 9:11). 'Apollyon' or destroyer (Revelation 9:11), 'Belial' or worthless and wicked (2 Corinthians 6:15), 'Beelzebub,' meaning 'lord of the house' (Matthew 12:24), the 'devil,' meaning a slanderer or false accuser (Matthew 4:1), 'the god of this world' (2 Corinthians 4:4), 'a liar, and the father of it' (John 8:44), a 'murder' (John 8:44), 'the prince of devils' (Matthew 12:24), 'the prince of the Power of the air' (Ephesians 2:2), 'the prince of this world' (John 14:30), 'a roaring lion' (1 Peter 5:8), 'the ruler of darkness' (Ephesians 6:12), the 'serpent' (Genesis 3:4), the 'tempter' (Matthew 4:3), an 'unclean spirit' (Matthew 12:43), and the 'wicked one' (Matthew 13:19). The names and descriptions of the devil ought to give us some insight into the terrible nature of this most wicked creature.
How does the devil work in our world today? One of the evil works that this 'roaring lion' exerts is the tempting of the people of the earth. The 'tempter' does this in three ways: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the will of God abideth forever: (1 John 3:15-17).
Satan tempts us through the 'lusts of the flesh;' therefore, Peter declares, "Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul" (2 Peter 2:11). This wicked one tempts us through the ' lusts of the eyes.' This is one of the things that cause Eve to disobey God. "And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat" (Genesis 3:6). This 'unclean spirit' also tempts us through 'the pride of life' or 'the vain glory of life' (ASV). This is why Paul said, "But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:6-7).
This adversary is constantly involved in deception. This is the reason Paul proclaimed, "But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:3). This liar even spreads false doctrine. "For such are fake apostles, deceitful workers transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into a angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11:13-14). Is it any wonder that Paul warns, "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils" (1 Timothy 4:1).
Can there by any clearer and greater reasons that these to avoid the devil with every ounce of your being? Remember "Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resists the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7).
--Bulletin Digest --Tommy Moore via Comanche, TX
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THE DESTRUCTIVE NATURE OF SIN
In recent years it seems that our country has been hit with a barrage of self inflicted tragedies. School shootings and bombings are almost commonplace in our society. Not long ago, I walked into the living room of our home to find my seven - year - old son watching a special news bulletin on the television. When I asked what happened he responded, "Oh, it's just another shooting." It was as if it happened everyday. Because I was concerned by his reaction, I asked my son, "Why do you think we are having so many shootings?" The answer that came from this seven - year - old both surprised and impressed me. He responded "because too many people are getting caught up in sin."
Wow, this seven - year - old was right! The television is filled with people trying to analyze and figure it all out and yet the answer to the equation is painfully clear, "sin." Sin is the root cause of every negative thing (Romans 7:5). Every crime, every decease, every act of hate and every act of sexual misconduct is rooted in sin. While it comes disguised in many different packages it is still sin. Often times we are fooled into thinking that sin is always blatant and obvious. We look to things like the before mentioned shooting and bombings and say "Oh yes, that is sin." But then fail to recognize those acts of sin that are right before us in our homes, at our place of work and yes, even within the church (John 3:19-20).
Sin in any form has the same destructive power. While earthly consequences for sin are not equal, sin's ability to destroy is. Like a cancer that seeks to destroy the body, sin seeks to destroy the soul (Galatians 6:7-8). Whether one is a gossip, a liar, a sex offender, a thief, or a murderer, the effect that sin has on their soul is the same. Sin seeks to destroy (I Peter 5:8).
As Christians we cannot afford to become desensitized to sin. As a parent, it frightened me that my son had become so desensitized to violence that he should say, "Oh, it's just another shooting." And yet, you and I can become just as insensitive to sin of any type. While Paul tells us in Romans 12:9 to abhor evil, our tendency is to excuse it or to tolerate it. However, we cannot afford to tolerate that which destroys.
Sin must be rooted out. Just as God called Moses' attention to the fact that there was sin in the camp (Exodus 32), we must also recognize when there is in in our lives, our homes, our work place and in the Lord's church. If not, sin will overtake and it will destroy. May we ever grow in our ability to recognize the destructive nature of sin.(Galatians 5:19-21)
--Bill W. Weaver
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FRIEND OR FOE?
"A man's enemies will be the members of his own house hold"
Be careful who your friends are. They bear the capacity to do the most harm. It's rarely the mates of others who crush our spirits, but our own. The neighbor's dog doesn't catch us off guard, but the family pit bull terrier. More children die from the family firearm than from drive-by shootings. We are more vulnerable to those closest to us by the very nature of their proximity - intimacy.
The old Mills Brother' song has the line, "You always hurt the one you love, the one you shouldn't hurt at all." Enemies don't pose the greatest threat to our well being. Their detractions are taken for what they're worth. We are cautious when in their presence. The bosom buddies are too frequently the ones who trip us up and ensnare us. False flatteries of friends inflate our egos. The glad hand of the pal who is eager to buy another round is the greater contributor to alcoholism. Wrong companions can corrupt good morals.
Jesus was betrayed with a kiss. His inner circle fled like ats leaving a sinking ship. When a couple should be reaffirming their vows, they frequently abandon them. Churches aren't destroyed so much by outsiders as by those within. Personal pride and selfish "my wayism" can fracture a sweet fellowship more swiftly than the false doctrines of demons. Satan has mastered the art of making enemies out of dearest friends.
Give serious thought to who your friends and enemies are,for occasionally they are one and the same.
--Bulletin Digest --Steven Clark Goad via Blythe, CABack to Top
BRING OUR WAYWARD BRETHREN BACK
Brethren if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted (Galatians 6:1). Restoring the erring is one area in which the church is badly failing.
It is reported that only fifty percent of new converts remain faithful for over five years. Brethren, this just ought not to be. We must do a better job of nurturing our babes in Christ -- encouraging, loving, and bonding, making them feel welcome and an important part of the family of God.
The apostle Paul admonishes us to restore the erring in the spirit of meekness. How can we accomplish this if we don't care about our brethren? And how can we truly care for someone we barely even know? The church is the family of God, and as such, we must work to develop a genuine love for each other. Only by spending time in prayer for each other, and by spending time getting to know each other, can we build that bond that God would have us to build. If we have the love we should have for our spiritual family; we will be grieved when a brother or sister goes back into the world.
Every person who obeys from the heart the Gospel plan of salvation becomes a child of God, and God adds him to the church (Acts 2:47). He will always be a child of God. Though he may become unfaithful, he does not cease to be a part of God's family; he is instead a wayward child. Consider the children of Israel, how time and time again they were unfaithful. God grieved over their sins, yet forgave them each time they repented and turned back to Him.
Each of us must truly become our brother's keeper. We must work to set the proper example for others, and we must encourage and build each other up. We must not be timid about talking to one another about matters that concern our souls and where we will spend eternity. May each of us determine to become more spiritual minded and more sensitive about the needs of our brethren.
Brethren, we are preparing for eternity. Christianity is a serious business. Let's be sure we don't take it too lightly -- our souls are dependent upon it.
--Bulletin Digest --Dale Grissom, via Dexter, MO
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"CHRISTIAN" IN APPEARANCE ONLY?
Maybe this has happened to you (I hope I'm not the only dummy).
I was driving home from college as usual -- with my gas tank on empty. I needed a gas station. I saw one, pulled in, jumped out, unscrewed the gas cap, squeezed the pump handle and looked up.
When I looked up it occurred to me that this gas station was vacant. Understand, it had all the signs up, the pumps looked to be functioning and the store front windows were plastered with advertising posters.
From a distance, it promised to be an oasis. Upon closer examination, it could not deliver on what its signs promised. At first I was embarrassed. Then I became angry. "If you're not a gas station anymore, then take down your signs and quit pretending to be one."
Jesus had a similar problem the Monday morning before He died. (Mark 11:12-14). While walking into Jerusalem He saw a fig tree. From the distance he could see that it was in leaf. That meant it usually had figs. But when He got to the tree it had no figs. So He cursed it and it died.
Jesus did not curse the tree just because it had no fruit. He cursed it because, from a distance, its leafy appearance promised to have fruit. But upon closer examination, it had none.
With all that was on Jesus' mind that last week, why did he bother with a fig tree? Jesus gives an immediate lesson (11:20-26). But Mark's placement in his gospel -- sandwiched between the story of the temple cleansing -- suggests that Jesus was indicting the religious climate in Jerusalem.
The religious rulers were leafy, barren fig trees. From a distance, they looked like they were religious. But upon closer examination, they had no good fruit. They were only concerned with giving the appearance of religiousness.
Some Christians look like they've got it together. By all the outward religious activity, you would assume they are mature. But upon closer examination, you come away thinking: "He looks Christian. But when you get past the smile, handshake, suit and tie there is no fruit. You should see him at home, at work, at play or in the car."
To them, we're tempted to say: "If you're not going to be a Christian then take down the signs and quit pretending to be one."
Jesus said we will be known by our fruits. Not how we appear. Sometimes, we can become so concerned with appearing Christian that we forget to really be Christian.
--Brad Poe, via South Seminole bulletin
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WHAT IS REALLY IMPORTANT IN LIFE?
1. Not where you were born:
Winston Churchill was born in the ladies cloakroom in the castle of Blenheim. His mother was attending a dance there when she gave premature birth to her son.
2. Not your education:
Did you know that nine of our presidents did not attend college? Truman, Cleveland, Andrew Johnson, Lincoln, Filmore, Taylor, Van Buren, Jackson, and Washington.
3. Not your size:
President William Howard Taft weighed 350 pounds. President John Adams was only 5 feet 6 inches tall. You can achieve if heavy or short.
4. Not your looks:
Did you know, for example, that President U.S. Grant's wife was "cross eyed?" She wanted to have it corrected with an operation, but he said he "liked her that way."
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WHAT REALLY COUNTS? WHAT IS IMPORTANT?
IF YOU REALLY WANT TO ENJOY LIFE, THEN CHECK:
"A man's spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spiritwho can bear?" (Proverbs 18:14). Your spirit or attitude can bless you or break you.
2. Use of your time:
"Live life, then with a due sense of responsibility, not as men who do not know the meaning and purpose of life, but as they who do. Make the best of your time" (Ephesians 5:15-16, Phillips).
3. Your belief:
"Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man" (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Jesus said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33). Center in on the things that really count -- your attitude, se of your time and your faith. If these are right, then you can overcome any other obstacles that may be in your way.
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GIVING NOT GETTING
Not long ago, I received a catalogue from a denominational publishing company with the theme, "Design your worship to meet the worshipper's needs!" I thought, "That's exactly where the religious world goes wrong. Worship should not be planned around PEOPLE'S needs, but around GOD'S WILL."
The more you try to please people the less you will succeed, because the whims of the public shift from week to week and from day to day. The Word of the Lord, however, endures forever.
Actually, it would rightly be said that one of the goals of worship is to free us from a self-imposed religion (which some translations call "will worship") and focus our minds on worship in SPIRIT and in TRUTH.
How upsetting to hear folks say, "I didn't get anything outof worship today." as if worship were done for them. Or folks will say, "I didn't like the songs today." Well, they were not sung so you would like them, but to offer praise and devotion to God. We are offering a sacrifice to God, not staging a presentation for an audience of people.
Worship God! The terms "worship" and "selfishness" are mutually exclusive. Worship is giving the Lord His due, not having our senses titillated by entertainment.
Worship involves and includes fellowship. We are God's family and, as such, as sinners all, saved only by God's mercy, we are all "FELLOWS in the same SHIP." We meet together to encourage one another. So many of our associations in life necessarily are negative and discouraging, and we are, on the job, on the highway, and even in our own homes, too often provoked into destructive thoughts and damaging deeds. Thus, the Lord commanded us to be regular in our assembling together as His children, to get our minds off the mundane occurrences of life, and to be provoked to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Peter Drucker once said that if a committee had worked on the design of the horse, you would have an animal that could operate its knee joints in both directions but it could not have stood up. So it is when people are determined to invent their own worship. They invest it with all the gimmicks they find amusing and satisfying to themselves. But it is no longer worship. It is entertainment. (And most of the time it's not even very good entertainment). And it's no longer directed toward God, but to our own jaded tastes.
Worship, my friend, is not getting, but giving. It is for the purpose of enabling us to reach out and touch the heart of God and to reach out and touch the hearts of those who share a like precious faith and to reach out and offer the lost and wandering the reassuring hand of love.
--via Central Bulletin, Topeka, KS
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