Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Letter to the President of the United States

Dear President Obama;

We have heard that you and your family are continuing to search for a place to worship. Thank God that you are seeking for God Himself is “seeking such to worship Him.” [John 5:23] Your decision as to where to worship will be the most important decision you will ever make. I would urge you to consider the church of Christ. Christ promised to build His church in Matthew 16:18. God then added the saved to that very same church. [Acts 2:47] Our Lord did not mince words; “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the father except by me.” [John 14:6] There truly is but “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” [Ephesians 4:5]

The church of Christ is not a denomination for such is condemned by Paul in I Corinthians 1. The church of Christ has no head except Christ Himself [Ephesians 5:23] The church of Christ strives to neither add to or take away from the revealed Word of God as we are warned not to do in Proverbs 30:5-6. One is added to the church of Christ by God Himself once anyone: hears the Word of God [Romans 10:17], believes that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God [John 8:24], repents of all past sins [Luke 13:3], confesses that Jesus is the Son of God before witnesses [Matthew 10:32] and are immersed for the remission of sins [Acts 2:38]. Such a saved person will then live faithfully from that point onward [I John 1:7] and spread this same gospel as God directs their life [Acts 8:4].

Regardless of our political persuasions, we pray for you and all of our leaders every Lord’s Day at our congregation in Charlotte, NC. We will also now pray that this letter finds its way to your desk for your most prayerful consideration.

God bless you in every way;

Russ McCullough

For a FREE Bible Study, e-mail: rmcculls6@bellsouth.net!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

To Jail & Back With The Gospel

We went to jail again tonight. Every Tuesday the Archdale church of Christ sends a delegation of two men to our local county jail. Jails, it seems, are part of the “world” that Jesus commanded us to go into with the gospel. Much “seed sowing” and “watering” takes place there and God WILL give the increase! Prisoners are very attentive, full of questions and eager to discuss the Scriptures. It turns out that our Bible studies are the high point of the week for the prisoners. Having said that, these men face obstacles (of their own making we must add) that few on the outside can imagine. Come with me as we visit the jail and see what awaits us.

Our Scripture passage this evening was John 9. Our purpose was to show similarities between what happened to the man born blind when he returned to his neighborhood and what will happen when these men return to their own neighborhoods. We illustrated that one’s reception upon return home from jail is often quite different than these men may imagine at the moment. Like the man born blind these men, instead of the “yellow ribbon round the old oak tree,” may find jaded neighbors, alienated family and outright opposition to their return to society. May God grant these men the strength to deal with the waves of disappointment that may await them upon their release. Just like the man born blind, the happiest day of one’s life can turn out to be, in some ways, the worst. BUT… there is always the silver lining! May these men who will soon be released know that, just like the man born blind, Jesus seeks them upon their return to the neighborhood! “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Our message was well received by most. However one man, a professed Muslim, became highly agitated with our message and attempted to suppress it. By the grace of God and reliance upon Scripture alone, he failed. He failed to show that Jesus was a prophet only, for the man born blind wound up later in John 9 worshipping Jesus. Prophets never were worshipped in the Bible, nor did any prophet ever accept worship from other mortals. He failed to show that Jesus was slain by being forcibly overcome by sinful men. Jesus clearly states in John 9 that He “had the power to lay down His own life and the power to raise it up again!” Though the truth did not win that man’s heart, he became silent and allowed the study to continue. We closed with the sobering thought that upon the day of their release that BOTH Jesus and Satan will be seeking them. Each man will return home that day following one or the other. Our final statement as the guard re-opened the door was a reminder of John 3:36 and Acts 2:37-38 that belief alone is not sufficient for salvation. Faith and obedience are intertwined and cannot be separated and if one is to “see God” he must not only repent but be baptized as well for the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. We always explain God’s plan of salvation each and every time for our assigned group is a transitional group, always full of men coming and going. Often, we see men only one time. Our assigned mission is critical to a singular moment in time. God be praised for the opportunity to share the gospel with these men!

The opportunities and challenges in the jail are many. The opportunities and challenges OUTSIDE the jail are many! Preaching the gospel “in and out of season” includes preaching the gospel “in and out of jail!”

We encourage all brethren everywhere to begin and sustain jail ministries. It is, after all, God’s will that “all men come to repentance,” those who wear orange and those who do not.

For A FREE Bible Study, e-mail: rmcculls6@bellsouth.net!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Reflections and Confessions

The weekend of July 11 and 12, 2009 has been an emotional tsunami for me. I experienced waves of remorse and regret rarely part of this earthly existence. I guess you might say I faced my demons. Perhaps you differ from me. Maybe your life has been totally fun, exciting and meaningful for as long as you can remember…, devoid of demons. Perhaps, but I strongly doubt it. In all likelihood, there are some un-faced demons in your life, too. The demons to which I refer are not sins per se, but rather those fears, those “nameless dreads” that haunt ones soul in the wee small hours of the morning. You know what I’m talking about, those knife sharp thoughts that race in the middle of the night robbing your mind and body of it’s much needed rest. My life had a couple of pieces missing.

It’s my prayer that by sharing these words that one or more readers will take the helm of sorrow and drive their ship into the wind as well. Someone once told me that the way to overcome that which one fears is to DO that which one fears. I can tell you that good advice turned out to be extremely valid.

By God’s grace I faced down two fears Saturday, one 43 years old and one 40. In a way they were the same fear because they both in many ways defined who I became over the intervening years. My father, Russell H. McCullough, Jr., died suddenly and without warning on January 10, 1966. He was just 46 years old. My mother was 40 years old at the time, my sister was 12 and I was 14. This wasn’t supposed to happen. I KNEW it was not supposed to happen because Mr. Grady, my shop teacher, came to our house that night. I wished that I had told him of my gratitude but speaking of such was nothing I was about to attempt in those years, certainly not to an adult two and a ½ times my age. That visit was perhaps the kindest thing anyone did for me…ever. Not only that, the day of the funeral I stepped out of that “black Cadillac” and the principal of Thomas Eaton Jr. High School was there to give his condolences. Mr. Bacuveraccus was his name, or as we called him, “Mr. B.” I was stunned, I barely knew him. “Why are you here?” was my response. I don’t recall what he replied to me but I KNEW that what was happening to us WAS NOT supposed to happen…but yet it did.

My sister and I were orphans. We had no father. Our poor mother was beyond distraught. She was devastated. For three years or more she wept through the entire worship service every Sunday morning. She wept during meals, she wept in the morning and she wept at night. She could not bear to visit Dad’s grave…ever. Two years ago this month, she went home to Abraham’s bosom where she is now comforted along with our father. “God shall wipe away all tears, there’s no death, no pain nor fears, and they count not time by years, by years, for there is no night there.”

That brings me to my first demon. This is my first confession. I, too, could not ever bring myself to visit him. My poor dead father and not a single visit in 43 years from me…, until yesterday. He deserved better. He didn’t die on purpose; he was asleep at the time, home from work and sick with bronchitis. My neglect was so pronounced that I even had to call the cemetery office and have someone meet me there to show me where he was buried, I didn’t know. I had never cared to know. Strangers surround him while mother lies resting in Tulsa, Oklahoma. On that “bright and cloudless morning” they will rise in two different places. My total neglect ended Saturday. I dropped by to see Dad.

My second confession is that I dealt with my father’s death the only way I knew how. I forced myself to forget him. Unfortunately I succeeded all too well. I now recall precious little about the man except his intense love for God and a faith as resilient as steel plated amour. He now rests in the “Garden of Faith,” Lot 4, Parklawn Memorial Cemetery, Hampton, Virginia. This is as it should be. What is not as it should be is the fact that I felt no emotion when I visited him. I “felt” like I should “feel” something…but 43 years of forced repression will seer any memory. I loved my father but he is much more like a dream to me now than a memory. For 43 years I feared what “might” happen should I visit him. Were that there was enough emotion left in me to warrant such a fear. Regardless of emotion or lack thereof, there are now no more misunderstandings between us. We had that long overdo “talk” and the air is now clear. I snapped a few pictures, pulled a few weeds from around the headstone and left with my reconciliation. I’ll be back from time to time, Lord willing.

As a result of my fathers death, my high school years were fraught with loneliness, insecurity and the burden of never hanging around when my buddies spoke about their dads. No ball games, no hunting or fishing trips, no father-son “talks” for me. I was the lone man out in high school and I viewed myself as being type cast as a permanent loner for reasons I could not begin to comprehend. Combine the usual teenage insecurities with being fatherless…I ran as fast as I could to get out of Hampton, Virginia upon graduation. I couldn’t forget about those years fast enough. No memories, no looking back and for sure…no class reunions.

That brings me to the very reason for this trip to begin with. I was invited to attend the 40th anniversary of the greatest class from the greatest high school of all time…, Hampton High School - the class of 1969. We even had a chant that said it all; “We’re so great, we’re so fine, we’re the class of 69!” For months, the thought of attending such a reunion haunted me. The thought of seeing those people again was downright terrifying. BUT, I knew I needed to go. If for no other reason, good, bad or indifferent, I would have closure. Even at the last possible moment I confess that I almost did not attend. At 6:10 p.m. Saturday night I was on the phone to Nancy and told her that I was exiting the car and going in “to get it over with as quick as possible.” [People have more enthusiasm for a root canal (minus the Novocaine) than I had Saturday night for a class reunion!] In her own very sweet and practical way she made me realize that I had come too far to turn back. And so I got out of the car and went inside 1610 Coliseum Center in Hampton, Virginia to confront the past I had so long sought to avoid. At the end of the evening we took a panoramic picture of the approximately 175 souls attending. As the photographer was preparing, we sang that old fight song. “Here’s to Hampton High School, here’s to HHS, here’s to our football team, oh yes, oh yes, oh yes!” I had a great time and a great reunion and by the way,

Thanks for going with me, Dad. I love you.

For a FREE Bible Study, e-mail: rmcculls6@bellsouth.net!

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