Monday, December 8, 2008

Where the Grass is Greener

If you have been married for any length of time you have had moments of unhappiness. Remember, your vows predicted it: in SICKNESS and in health, for richer or POORER, for better and for WORSE. Every marriage is going to be a struggle. Sometimes when the struggles are prolonged people began to think about getting out.

Across the fence they see pasture, that is, greener grass. They see a friend or co-worker of the opposite sex who listens to them. They see this person in all their good moments. They don't see their bad attitudes. They don't have to live with their bad choices. They don't see them when they are unattractive. They only see them in the sunshine.

If it is not another person that people see, perhaps it is the peacefulness of the field. No more fighting. No more rejection. No more animosity. Married folks began to think that no spouse would be better than a spouse they have learned to loathe. They think the peaceful field is easy. They don't see the forest just beyond the field that they must pass through later. They forget how much they need someone to hold their hand.

If you are married, I want you to know that the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence. You made a commitment before God and many witnesses that God wants you to keep. Your co-worker or close friend is not your spouse. Though different, they have just as many problems and weaknesses. If you hop the fence you will find the ground muddier than you thought it would be.

The grass is actually greener on your side. If it is not, it is because you have not cultivated it as you should. Think about it. You can only work the ground on your side. You can only plant the seed on your side of the fence. God will help you to grow what you have sown. He can change the soil. He can do what you think is impossible in your field if you let Him.

Paul wrote in Ephesians 5 that married couples are one flesh, and that they should nourish and cherish their relationship. This means submission to one another in the fear of God. This means learning to be unselfish. This means making sacrifices like Christ made for the church. This means the washing of water by the Word.

If we will search deep within ourselves and look at our spouse again in the love of our vows, we will remember where our happiness has its brightest hope. We will see where the grass in truly greener. It is greener with them alone, in God.

"The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul..." ~ (Psalm 23:1-3a)

Monday, December 1, 2008

When Selecting the Elders...

When the congregation of the Lord's church in which you reside engages in the process of selecting men to serve as elders, there are several things you can do to ensure success:

1. Study. Every member should not only study the sections of Scripture that list qualifications (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1), but also all the other passages that refer to the elders. Using a complete concordance, search for the words: elder, bishop, pastor, overseer, et cetera. Study these in context. Study them completely. Define the terms and write down a list for yourself both of qualifications and duties for this position.

2. Talk to fellow Christians. It may be difficult to talk to members of the local body about this sometimes, but it is helpful to see the perspective of other Christians whom you respect. This is not gossip. This is a discussion of the direction of the church and the men that can fill the office. Make sure to never allow the selection of these men to get political. Make - the qualifications of elders, the selection process, and the duty of the members to obey the elders - subjects of devotionals and Bible studies. The church needs to work together in this effort.

3. Take a look at yourself. One of the difficulties that arises during the selection of elders is the magnifying glass effect. We are quick to disqualify qualified men because they are not perfect. I have often heard that it is better to have no men serving as elders than to have unqualified men serving. While this may be true, we need to be sure not to add more guidelines than we have been given. No man being considered is perfect. He must be an exemplary Christian, and he must meet all the requirements the Holy Spirit has given. If God could only use perfect men, then He would have stopped the commission at Jesus Christ.

4. Pray. Pray and pray some more. Pray for God's will to be done. Pray for the church to grow. Pray for the men who serve and who will serve. Pray for church unity. Pray for church-wide humility. Pray for brotherly love. Pray for God to work on every heart. Pray for God to accept the decision. Pray for His providential care for the leaders and the church. Pray that souls will be saved. Pray that the truth will be taught and defended. Pray for your overall attitude and involvement in the kingdom. Pray that more men will want to serve as elders in the church.

"This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work." ~ 1 Timothy 3:1

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Difference Between Night and Day

Recently during a fellowship meal I was talking to a young lady who attends regularly and brings her children. If the doors are open, she is present. As we were talking about church matters she remarked how it always astounds her to see the difference in numbers with regard to worship and Bible class, or the difference between the number present at morning and evening services.

There are some who have legitimate reasons for not being at every service. Some have health issues and others have specific occupations that demand for them to be absent at times. Most of the time however, the reasons people miss are not legitimate.

Over the years I have tried to come up with every possible solution to this problem. I have addressed this in sermons, articles, and Bible classes. I have discussed it homes, counseling sessions, and other visits. The church has offered programs, changed service times, and done everything possible to make it easier for people to attend. But I believe the real difference is seen in three areas where people have spiritual trouble.

1. This is their tradition. Some families have always been Sunday morning worship only families. What is good enough for the parents, seems good enough for the children. It is not often that you see the second generation of believers to be more dedicated than the first. These people are difficult to change, and difficult to persuade. Later on, when their children are unfaithful, marriages are breaking down, and other problems arise, they often have regrets.

2. The kingdom is not first. Jesus instructed those who would be His disciples, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness..." (Matthew 6:33). Plain and simple, many people do not put the church first. The kingdom is an extension of themselves, rather than who they are. I do not know how to fix this problem. But I do know that people cannot excel spiritually as long as this condition remains.

3. This is their desire. Outside of those who simply are unable to attend, people are not at Bible class because they do not want to be there. They are not at the evening worship assemblies because they want to do something else. This is a heart issue. We all have a portion of our heart that God is still working on. So we are praying for God to work on hearts. Jesus said to His disciples, "With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer" (Luke 22:15). His desire was to commune with them. We will be what we need to be when we have the same desire to commune with our Savior as He has to fellowship with us.

The problem is as clear as the difference between night and day. It is about tradition. It is about priorities. It is about the heart.

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength." ~ Deuteronomy 6:5

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Paper Messages

Each week before, during, or after worship services, a good friend of mine gets little paper messages. He sits on the second pew. He is the "announcement guy." David Pinckley is one of my best friends. He does a good job with all of the church work he is involved in. I do not know what I would do without him. He is trustworthy, dependable, and one of the most compassionate and loving people I know. That is why they give him the messages. People know he will make sure that the news will be made known to the brethren at the proper time and in the appropriate way.

These little notes are sometimes far from little. They often inform of a sudden death, emergency room visits, or some type of accident. Other times, they are reminders about certain function upcoming. They may be good news: a physical birth, a spiritual birth, an anniversary, or a significant birthday. Whatever you can imagine, and also beyond what you can imagine, has been handed to David in the form of these paper messages.

In our lives we recognize the importance of communication. We often not only give notes to others, but to ourselves. We have sticky notes on the refrigerator, in our office, on our school or business folders, and everywhere in between. I even put one in my shower once. Yes, it stuck. We give ourselves these reminders because the matters are very important to us. We know that if we do not remember, there will be problems and consequences. We are trying to make sure about what is important.

Some of these messages have altered the course of history. Abraham Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address on the back of an envelope. Our Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution started with notes on a paper that were organized and then transfered. The whole Protestant reformation began with notes on a piece of paper nailed to the door of a church in Wittenberg, Saxony, October 31, 1517.

It is still more amazing to think about the paper messages that are not man-made, but holy and divine. God chose to leave on paper for us the information He feels is the most important. These are not mere reminders, suggestions, or announcements. They are commands for living that will determine our very eternity. The Pentateuch. The Shema. The Beatitudes. The Golden Rule. These have become to many the most important things ever written. But they are only a part of the paper messages God has left behind for us to understand and live.

In your hand, God has placed a very important message. Read it. Think about it it. Obey it. Announce it to all in the proper way.

"For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope." ~ Romans 15:4

Monday, November 10, 2008


Do you remember when you would go to a function and they would offer "refreshments?" You know, like VBS, when you get cookies and punch. Refreshments were offerings that were not a full meal, but just enough to get you by. Sometimes they are further defined as "light refreshments." I guess the "light" part is just to make sure you understand it isn't going to be much. Overall the idea of refreshments always seemed vague to me. Seems like the server gets to interpret the word however they so choose.

But the concept is actually important. We all need to be refreshed from time to time. We are immersed in a culture where nothing ever stops, everything is demanded now, and stress and pressure never go away. All of us need to take a time out. We need to get out of town. We need to take ten minutes in our lives for cookies and punch.

This week I went away for a day and a half and spent time in the woods. I was alone. I had time to enjoy God's beautiful creation. I had some time to think. I had some moments to work on myself. I relaxed. All of these things help a person refocus and give them an opportunity to draw nearer to God. When you get away from some things you can actually see them more clearly. Everyone needs to step back from the portrait of their life and truly "get the picture."

Our Lord and Savior withdrew from the multitudes in order to receive refreshments. He did not spend his life on vacation as some attempt, but in small pieces He took inventory and prayed. Since we pattern our life after Christ's we should do the same. I fully believe that His moments on mountains were the defining moments of His sacrifice. He gained strength in the alone time. He learned to accept the will of God for His life. He was comforted by heavenly beings. He was refreshed in His spirit.

When was the last time you partook of the refreshments? If it has been too long I highly recommend doing it. Life is a great gift. Drink it in. Drink deeply. Make it count.

"So He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed." ~ Luke 5:16

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Vote That Counts

Today while I am writing this the future of our country is being decided by our people. Regardless of how you feel about politics, we should rejoice that we still live in a country where the people have the right to select their leader. God has truly blessed us to have such freedom, and many have bled and died for us to have these rights.

I thought the biggest vote that would be cast today would be for the president. But I was wrong. Two people I spent time with made a bigger decision. Chad Hammond and Bennie McFall voted for Christ.

Chad voted for righteousness in his life. He voted for his family. He voted for fatherhood. He voted for the church.

Bennie voted for humility. He voted for obedience. He voted for his spiritual future. He voted for hope.

These two young men put on their Lord in baptism today. While the rest of America was deciding about the presidency, they decided for a King. While others fought for democracy, they yielded to monarchy. While people exercised their right to choose, these men submitted to the will of God.

God will take care of His people. He keeps His covenants. His mercy is abundant. His lovingkindness is everlasting. His will shall be done.

Knowing these things, Christian people don't have to worry about the future. You can debate all you want about the political realm, but there is no debate about heavenly things. There will be opposition to God and His word, but God is going to win.

I am thankful for two men and their encouragement today. In a day where the rest of our country was making a decision that will determine the immediate future, they decided on an eternal home. They cast the only vote that is really going to matter. They cast the vote that counts.

"And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." ~ 1 John 2:17

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Peacemaker

Telemachus was a monk who lived in the 4th century. He went to Rome and found chaos in the streets. The commotion was over the gladiators. He was amazed that four centuries after Christ had come people were still killing each other for sport. When he arrived at the coliseum the gladiators were shouting, "Hail Caesar, we will die for Caesar." He jumped over the railing and went out into the middle of the field, got between two gladiators, held up his hands and said "In the name of Christ, forbear." The crowd protested and began to shout, "Run him through, Run him through." A gladiator came over and hit him in the stomach with the back of his sword. It sent him sprawling in the sand. He got up and ran back and again said, "In the name of Christ, forbear." The crowd continued to chant, "Run him through." One gladiator came over and plunged his sword through the little monk's stomach and he fell into the sand, which began to turn crimson with his blood. One last time he gasped out, "In the name of Christ forbear." A hush came over the 80,000 people in the coliseum. Soon a man stood and left, then another and more, and within minutes all 80,000 had emptied out of the arena. It was the last known gladiatorial contest in the history of Rome.

What does it take for there to be peace? It takes sacrifice. It takes humility. It takes someone who will do what is right regardless of the cost.

Consider all the sources of conflict in life: There are wars over land and property. There are divorces over "irreconcilable differences." Sometimes relationships become strained by pride. And most of all, there is the conflict between God and ourselves because of our own foolishness and sin.

What motivates us to peace? A man standing in the middle of the conflict. A man who loves us so much that he will not allow us to continue in our sin and death. A man who himself is willing to give his life to save our own. A man who will help us to see what we are doing to ourselves and to others. A man who took a sword and cried, "Father, forgive!"

God has called us to peace. He has called us to peace through the death of His own Son. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Praise God for His love and compassion in the midst of our foolishness!

"Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God." ~ Matthew 5:9

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah!

When I was just a boy, singing was a very important part of the worship. If there was a song being led, we sang. My whole family sang. It didn't matter what our voices sounded like. It did not matter that we had no musical training. We sang because it was our way of praising and thanking our worthy God. It amazes me when I am in the worship and I see Christian people who will not sing.

One of the songs I quickly learned was "Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah." I liked the song, especially the words, "Praise His name young men and maidens, aged men, and children small." I thought the author was including me and it made me feel like my singing mattered. In the old Songs for the Church songbook it was number 148. Later on I figured out that the song was from Psalm 148, and that the words came straight from the Bible. So the author new exactly what he was talking about.

"Hallelujah" is a very special word. It is a transliterated word from an original Hebrew two-word phrase. The first part, hallelu, is the second person imperative masculine plural form of the Hebrew verb hallal, which means, "Joyous praise." The second part comes from "YHWH", a Hebrew name for God, rendered in English as "Yahweh." I have also heard some include that the "el" in the middle of the word is short for "Elohim." Elohim is the third word in the Hebrew Bible (Genesis 1:1), and another name for God. This word was so sacred to the Jews that they would not say it aloud. It expressed to them all the concepts of the divine, triune God. So some might say that "Hallelujah" is "Praise to God, the Lord." Hallelujah must not be understated. This is a joyful word of praise to God!

Just before Henry "Red" Mitchell left us this week, he tried to lead "Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah" from his bed. He wasn't finished praising Jehovah. His hallelujahs were still going strong. I believe that this song is not just another song in our song books. It was given to us by the Holy Spirit. It is an eternal and divine hymn of praise to God. "Red" has crossed over now to the land where the hallelujahs roll. He can sing this song and never get tired. He can sing this song with greater joy and meaning than he ever did in his earthly lifetime.

As a people of God, we have much for which to be thankful. We need to be a people of praise. Henry Mitchell taught us the importance of praise for the Lord. It is a lesson we must never forget. If we will sing to God, if we will praise his name with all of our hearts, it will change our lives. I promise.

"He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his saints, for the people of Israel who are near to him. Praise the Lord!" ~ Psalm 148:14

Monday, October 13, 2008


In the Old Testament there was a fortified city in the middle of Palestine located on the outskirts of a fertile plain. Trade routes and roads converged there. With regard to worship, this location was replete with altars, built by men in the name of Jehovah.

Abraham came first in about 2000 B.C. As he was about to receive the land of promise he stopped at this place. God appeared before Abraham and made a covenant with him regarding his descendants (Gen. 12:6,7). Abraham built an altar.

Jacob came to the same spot some years later. After being estranged from his brother Esau over blessing and birthright, Jacob arrived in this place just having made up with his brother. He erected an altar to God and called it El Elohe Israel, which translates, "God, the God of Israel" (Gen. 33:18-20). Jacob also built a deep well while there. The Son of God later talked to a Samaritan woman at this well (John 4:12).

Next came Joshua with the Israelites during the Caanan conquest. Having been given the victory by God, Joshua made his last statements before his death to the Jews in this plain. There was a renewal of the covenant, complete with sacrifices and the reading of the Law (Josh. 8:30-35). The ceremony had a very symbolic meaning. The Israelites had just been on Mt. Gerazim where they were told of the blessings of keeping the covenant. They had also been on Mt. Ebal where they were warned of the curses of not keeping the Law.

They now stood with Joshua in Shechem. The place of Abraham's promise and Jacob's well. The land between the two mountains. The plain between a blessing and a curse. Joshua took this opportunity to speak to their hearts. He told them they had to make a choice (Josh. 24:15).

Today, we are not so far from Shechem. We are in the land of eternal promises. We are near the well of living water. We are in the plain between eternal blessing and eternal punshment. We also have a choice to make. The correct choice is obvious. The time is at hand. So get your stones together and start building your altar. For our God is a consuming fire.

"Choose you this day whom you will serve...but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Making a Decision

An accident. A job loss. A death in the family. A divorce. A broken relationship. A wrong suffered. These are not events to which we look forward. But these are events that do take place in our lives.

An achievement. A job promotion. A birth. A marriage. A rekindled relationship. An encouragement. We seem to appreciate these things more. We hope for these things. We thank God for them.

I have been thinking this week about the importance of making spiritual decisions. Note that I am writing this on a Monday, the day after nine members of our spiritual family came forward to repent. Something happened to them Sunday that caused them to make a decision. It was a decision they have all been needing to make for some time.

So what do two lists; one of negative life changing experiences and one of positive life changing experiences have to do with it? These events touch our lives and keep us from being stagnant. They force us to think about what matters. They help us to keep from being distracted by everyday living. Often these events force us to make the spiritual decisions that have been long overdo.

I am confident that our gospel meeting will have an effect on some people for a good while. It is an event that has caused many of us to make a decision. This is why we have gospel meetings. It is about what the Bible can do to change our lives. It is about submitting to the perfect will of God. It is about spiritual blessings. It is about faith.

Think about these two lists again. While at first we may thank God for one and hope to avoid the other...we ought to thank God for both. I used to think that my life was best when things were status quo, nothing much going on, just living. But I have learned to embrace challenging times as opportunities from God. These are our chances to change. These are our chances to make important, spiritual decisions.

I am praying for you, friend. But I am not praying that your life will be without life changing events. Instead, I am praying that your life will be blessed with events that will lead you to spiritual opportunities. I am praying that when these moments come you will make a decision. I am praying that your decision will save your soul.

"...choose you this day whom ye will serve..." ~ Joshua 24:15
"The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord." ~ Job 1:21

Monday, September 15, 2008


Most congregations realize that in order for churches to grow spiritually and in number there must be a high percentage of involvement among the membership. In some larger churches, there are "Involvement Ministers." These ministers are actually on salary and spend the majority of their time organizing and helping different age groups. We have the young people, the young adults, the middle aged, and the golden age, and they all have different needs. It is good for the church to do what it can to try to help the membership maintain good relationships with God and with the brethren.

This being said, I sometimes wonder what we are accomplishing. We need to be very careful about turning the church into the country club, the YMCA, or the community center. While we should do everything that we can to encourage fellowship and help one another, we need to realize that the church is something to which we should be wholly submitted, rather than an institution that is geared to placate and babysit the membership .

The church is the kingdom of God on earth. Jesus is the only King and Ruler of the church (1 Tim. 6:15). This makes each member of the body of Christ a servant in the kingdom of God. Involvement is not about "What can the church do for me?" It should be about the individual realization that I need to be a servant to Christ. This being the case, each one of us needs to involve ourselves in the work of the church. We plan retreats, we have fellowship meals, we have fun trips to ball games, devotionals, singings, and more - these facilitate the building of relationships, but this is not what defines the church of God.

Involvement should be inherently connected to obedience to the gospel. Many people are ready to be baptized, but they are not ready to serve. There is nothing more disturbing to a preacher than dealing with seemingly mature members who have to have their arm twisted when you ask them to do anything. Our attitude should be one of optimism and hope. We should be excited and honored that we have been asked to do something to glorify the name of Christ and build up the church.

I fear that we have been spoiled for so long with our freedom and blessings that many of us are unwilling to make life-changing sacrifices. Brethren, we need to examine ourselves as to whether we are in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5).

I may not be popular for saying these things, but I have to answer to the Lord first. God wants us to give our lives to Him in full sacrifice. Part of this sacrifice includes service in the kingdom of God. Faith is more than what we say we believe, it is what we practice.

"But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?" ~ James 2:20
"Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?" ~ Luke 18:8

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


We get everything we want the way that we want it so quickly anymore. This leads even Christian people to be impatient. We speed. We tap our desk while the next internet page is loading. We get aggravated in line. We hang up if we have to wait for the computerized options for a business we are trying to contact.

Perhaps our impatience in everyday matters leads to our impatience in spiritual ones. But there is a big difference in being too long in a drive-thru and asking God to take away our pain. One is trivial, and the other dwells at the very center of our lives. We may feel like the psalmist, who lamented, "I am weary with my crying; My throat is dry; My eyes fail while I wait for my God" (Psalm 69:3)

Many of us are in a position of waiting. We are waiting to hear from the doctor about recent tests. We are waiting for our teenagers to obey the gospel. We are waiting for someone we have hurt to forgive us. We are waiting for God to help us overcome heartache and loss. We are waiting for direction. We are waiting for death to usher our feeble bodies home. We are waiting for the return of our Savior.

We are waiting...

So let us consider what God has said about waiting:

Psalm 25:5 - "Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day."

Psalm 27:14 - "Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!

Psalm 52:9 - "I will praise You forever, because You have done it; And in the presence of Your saints I will wait on Your name, for it is good."

Psalm 130:5 - "I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, And in His word I do hope."

Isaiah 40:31 - "But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."

Micah 7:7 - "Therefore I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation;My God will hear me."

Romans 8:25 - "But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance."

Galatians 5:5 - "For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith."

The golden thread that passes through every circumstance of our waiting is hope. Our consolation is in a God who will do things in the perfect way and in the perfect time, according to His own will. Waiting develops faith and character. It allows us to hope against hope. It draws us nearer to God, until in time we will perfectly trust Him to bring it to pass. Waiting is a blessing. God knows that in our waiting we shall be proven, and that in being proven we shall be free.

" The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD." ~ Lamentations 3:25-26

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

While We Can

James wrote "For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away." (James 4:14). As we age we realize the truth of this statement. It reminds us there are certain things we must do while we can...

1. We must love our parents while we can. The lyrics to a song with this sentiment say it best:
They tied our shoes, took us to school, patched our worn-out jeans
They soothed our tears and calmed our fears, and listened to our dreams
Somewhere along their golden years, their hair has lost its sheen
The notes to hymn one hundred ten crackle when they sing
And now they are alone, no children's voices fill their empty homes
We must love them while we can, we must love them while we can
For time just seems to hurry by, and the days slip into years
And the moments that we have will disappear
So love them while we can
Those who care for aging parents deal with frustration, challenges and loss that no one but them can understand. It often leaves them feeling that they just can't take anymore. But the time will soon come when their parents will be gone and they will miss them. They deserve love today. We will regret not showing them the love they have shown for us. We must love them while we can.

2. We must teach our children about God while we can. Other lyrics to the song go as follows:

The folks that taught us our first words, still have much to say
The silver secrets of the world, lie beneath those crowns of gray
As they approach the end, we change our role from children to best friend

As parents we realize that the relationship we have with our children constantly changes. One minute they take first steps and the next minute those steps are leading them right out the door. Ball games and school projects, sleepovers and birthday parties, family vacations and back-to-school nights...they all fill this precious time we have with our children. But the most important thing we have to do for our kids is to help them to know the Lord and His word.

Proverbs 22:6 - "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it." It is not in the leaving so much as in the lack of training wherein we lose our children to the world. We must teach our children about God while we can.

3. We must obey the gospel while we can. 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8 describes the coming of Christ and His judgment on the lost - "...when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." What does it mean to obey the gospel? The gospel is the death burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:1-3). Paul wrote, "Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?" (Rom. 6:3). The Bible teaches that we contact the blood of Christ through immersion in water, because of our repentant faith and confession that Jesus is the Son of God.

We can shuffle our feet all we want to. We can debate about the lack of our perfection, doubt our commitment, or argue about the plan. But if we do not obey the gospel, we will lose our eternal souls. Death will come in a moment, and it is unlikely that we will know the hour of its arrival. We must obey the gospel while we can.

"For man also does not know his time..." ~ Ecclesiastes 9:12

Monday, August 25, 2008

"Free Bible Study"

It is that third word that gets most people. As I was assigning this title to the church marquee I though about how many responses I would get if I just posted "Free Bible." Most people would take a free Bible. I am even confident that I would run out of free Bibles pretty quickly. But the third word involves several things that makes the call much tougher:

1. Commitment. How committed are you to Bible study? I made myself a promise earlier this month that I would ready Ephesians every day for a month. I have already missed some days. Beyond this is what most preachers and missionaries have dealt with for years - people say they will study, and then they drop you. People commit to a time, and something comes up. I have had more cancellations than studies. "Next time" is Satan's favorite phrase and he offers it to people in ready supply.

2. Submission. Most folks can see the difference in having a Bible they study alone and actually studying with someone who is experienced. They are afraid they will be challenged to do things they don't want to do. They are afraid of being "indoctrinated." They have a hard time being told they are wrong about spiritual matters. The key to this is to let people know that as we study we let the Bible speak. There is an humble art to studying with someone and leading them to the truth so they can draw their own conclusions.

3. Worldliness. When a person says they are ready to begin studying the Bible, what they are really admitting is that the world is not working for them. They know very well the difference between what God offers and what the world has going. But people who are entrenched in worldliness are completely satisfied with temporal pleasures and false hope. As long as things are going well, they will probably not be ready to study. A free Bible? Sure, why not? But a Bible thanks. They have already made their choice.

Ironically, we would appreciate help and our opportunity to study the Bible without persecution if such freedoms were not available. We need to remember that we have a God who speaks to us freely all of the time. We just need to open up His word and listen.

"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." ~ 2 Timothy 2:15

Monday, August 18, 2008

Keeping Worship Simple

Many people today are struggling with something that is really quite simple. The controversy concerning the instrument continues, because instruments and their use in worship are becoming more mainstream. Even in churches that still affiliate themselves with the churches of Christ, instrumental music not only is coming up, but it is now becoming more accepted. For example, one church of Christ in a neighboring county explains it this way on their website - "The singing is a cappella, meaning that we worship without instruments. This is by choice, rather than doctrine. We find nothing wrong with instrumental worship, but believe that the voice alone is a simple & beatiuful way to worship God."

What a sad state of affairs.

What God wants us to know with regard to worship is quite simple. There is commandment, example, and authorization for singing in the New Testament church. None of these exist with regard to instrumental worship.The use of instruments in the worship of the church is not authorized by God. One can lament all they want to about it. One can dream about unity with denominational people. By taking the focus off of God and the Bible and putting the emphasis on human wishes, the correct view of Scripture becomes skewed by opinion.

Instrumental worship is unauthorized worship. Whether it be offered by Cain, Nadab and Abihu, or any Christian today, unauthorized worship is displeasing to God. God is the object of worship and we are the worshipers. Why speculate when God has already told us what to do in His Word? Why not honor God and His word? Why not worship Him in spirit and in truth?

What sets the church apart from the world and its religion is our love for God and one another so as to completely follow the Bible. Let's continue to be different and worship God the way God wants to be worshiped. This is worship that will both sanctify us and glorify our Creator.

"But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him." ~ John 4:23

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Marriage Question

I have been fortunate enough to have been raised in the church. I have been in the church for 35 years now, and while I know I am young compared to many, I have seen my share of comings and goings within the membership.

One of the issues that has continually been difficult for families and individuals is that of marriage, divorce, and remarriage. The Bible teaches that we are married for life in the eyes of God (Rom. 7:2-3), and that except for sexual immorality, one is not to divorce their spouse and marry another (Matt. 19:9). But despite these simple teachings, as with any sin, people stray from God's will and make a mess of their marriage relationships.

I have been in counsel with several regarding marital situations since I began to preach. I have seen many couples attempt to get around the Bible in order to justify their relationships. What has always seemed incongruent about these matters is that people want to be accepted as they are, but will not accept God's word as it is. As one who works with people daily regarding spiritual matters, who is trying to help the church grow, I can tell you that my heart breaks over some of these marital situations. But at the same time, the real problem is that people struggle with their selfish will, personal desires and wants, and often find it hard to submit to God.

As long as the earth remains and the church continues to make every effort follow the Bible, this question of scriptural marriage relationships will have to be dealt with. It is my hope and prayer that we will always love God and His will first, that we will obey and defend His truth, and that we will love every individual and couple so as to help them have the relationships that will glorify God.

If we will submit to God, He will help us. If we will follow His will for the marriage relationship, He will bless us. If we will stand for the truth, He will keep us. If we will love one another, He will unite us.

"Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge." ~ Hebrews 13:4

Monday, August 4, 2008

On Behalf of Summer

Amber and I asked Luke the other day what he wanted to do on his last day before school started. He thought about it for a while, and just before bed he joked, "I would like to say a word on behalf of summer." So I am taking a page out of the book of Luke for this one. Here is my, pardon the expression "summery":

1. We had a great Vacation Bible School. I was very thankful for the good attendance and participation. This may have been our best VBS ever. Our community and surrounding churches attended this event well. I was very proud of our congregation for the spirit of cooperation and the sacrifices that were made by so many.

2. We were blessed with Will Sharp this year. Jeremy said it well that people probably don't know what an intern does. But I know he spent many hours with our teenagers and college kids late at night. He visited many of our members. He went to the nursing homes, preached, taught, went on the mission trip, and yes, he played golf and did other fun activities. I really appreciate the fact that he wants to work for the church. He cares about the church. We need more young men to have passion for the church like he does.

3. We have been guarded by God in many ways. Although we have been entrenched in international conflict, experienced high gas prices, and been concerned about our political future, God has continually blessed and sustained us. We have not gone without. Many of our members have enjoyed vacations with their families. Some of us have overcome surgeries and loss. But God has been with us and strengthened us in these endeavors.

As we close out the summer, I am thankful for the reset button. We are now hoping to get back into somewhat of a routine. With this in mind I believe if we will put God first, we may be able to make this year at Pulaski St. the best one yet. It can happen if we will love one another, be kind to each other, and always be encouraging. Let's be positive, rejoice in Christ, and realize that an everlasting season with our God awaits us.

"Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: let such as love thy salvation say continually, the Lord be magnified." ~ Psalm 40:16

Monday, July 28, 2008

To Be Rich Toward God

We are living in a time of financial crisis for many. While some folks have not yet been affected by the rising gasoline prices and ongoing inflation across the board, most families are not doing as well financially as they had been.

Fewer family summer vacations took place this year. Commuters are looking for carpool partners. In every instance spending is down. Take a look at the status of the offering within your local congregation.

While times may be difficult, this is not the time for us to stop giving to the Lord. I have heard many excuses over the years made by people who have either stopped giving or have cut back on their giving to the church. It has to do with everything from fixed incomes to job loss to extra expenses not expected. But I have to be honest - I don't understand this attitude. Does God get a raise when we do? Most of the time the answer is "No." But if we struggle for a while we tend to lose our faith.

Why is it that God gets the first pay cut? If we were honest about our spending there are things that each individual and family could change that has nothing to do with the offering. I have found that for the most part, people will cut God out and live the same way they were living, with few adjustments. Then when they get back on their feet financially, their offering does not increase again to the level of the past.

In difficult times, we should be able to see that God is the One who sustains us. Do we not ask Him to give us daily bread? If we receive it, do we not recognize our prayers to Him have been answered? Malachi asked by inspiration, "
Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say, 'In what way have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings. You are cursed with a curse, For you have robbed Me, Even this whole nation" (Malachi 3:8-9).

Malachi was pointing out that we often limit what we can do by settling for what we are obligated to do. True faith is not seen in that which merely meets the norm. It is found in the willingness to go beyond what God has asked. It is giving when it doesn't fit the budget. It is extending oneself beyond what is reasonable into uncharted waters of hope.

God was not obligated to give sinful man anything. Man left God. But when the grace of God was abundantly poured out on His highest creation, God did not spare. Instead He sent His very best. He made the biggest sacrifice He could make. Jesus, though He was rich, for our sakes became poor, that we might have true riches.

I ask of you, is there anything that you lack in true blessings? Is there any reason for giving to God less than your best? Can you have true faith? Can you examine yourself as you examine the Christ? Can you show yourself to be rich toward God?

"But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?' So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God." ~ Luke 12:20-21

- Luk 12:20 -

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Last Mile of the Way

When Woodrow Wilson Kelly passed away this past week at the age of 96, my heart was saddened. He was my friend. He trusted me. He was good to my family. He was faithful to worship.

At the funeral one song chosen was "The Last Mile of the Way." As the song was played in A cappella format I couldn't help but think about Brother Kelly's last mile. I can still close my eyes and see him coming slowly up the aisle on his walker as all the members stood during the last verse of the invitation song. This past Sunday morning I thought I saw him again. I looked for him but he was not there. But the image of his willingness to follow Christ hasn't left my mind.

Only a small number of people have been blessed to witness the walk of a penitent sinner from a preacher's perspective. It is one of the most beautiful sights this side of eternity. There have been a few confessions made on the front pew during my lifetime that were so pure and perfect that I believe they rang the bells of heaven. Brother Kelly was one who wanted to do the will of God so much that he saw a need to approach the throne of grace with regularity.

As he aged, and his mental faculties began to waiver, I am sure many questioned his plea. But I don't care about that. When I see a tenth of the humility in the nay-sayers that W.W. Kelly displayed I will listen. He was a man who had lived his early life outside of Christ. His obedience in his mind was long overdue. I am confident that he would have obeyed even if it meant death. He was willing to give heart, soul, mind, strength, and every earthly possession to God.

The last mile of the way for brother Kelly was a mile of resolution and victory. He was not a perfect man, but his final example made him one of my heroes. Following Jesus is about heart. When hearts are open anything is possible. It is even possible for a man once taken in by the world and its pleasures to give up the temporal things at all costs. I imagine that by the end of his life Brother Kelly walked the aisle of repentance for a full mile...the last mile of the way.

"But as for me, I will walk in my integrity;
Redeem me and be merciful to me. My foot stands in an even place;
In the congregations I will bless the LORD." ~ Psalm 26:11-12

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Lessons on Teamwork

Some of the best lessons come from unexpected places. One of the best lessons you can ever find about teamwork comes from geese. When they fly to a warmer climate during winter months they work together:

1. They take turns flying point. When they travel in their famous V-formation the leaders take turns. In doing this they save their energy and everyone has the opportunity to share the hardest job.

2. They uplift one another. By flying in the V-formation every bird creates an extra lift for the bird behind them. Experts have concluded that they get 70% extra help from this formation, because it is easier to fly behind another bird.

3. They help the sick and wounded. Most people don't know this, but when a goose is sick or wounded and is forced to go to the ground, at least two other geese will go to the ground to help. These helping geese will stay with the troubled bird until it is able to fly again.

4. The honkers fly in the back. Maybe you have been on a lake before and you have heard the geese honk as they fly over your head. Where is the honking coming from? It comes from the geese that follow behind. Why? Perhaps it is to say to the geese working hardest in the front that everything is fine in the back. Perhaps it is for encouragement. Perhaps it is a honk of appreciation for the work of the leadership.

What a great lesson to learn from God's creation! By nature we should also help each other. So:
1. Take you turn at the helm and relinquish it at the proper time. 2. Realize that the work you do is helping the work of others. 3. Never forget to help those who need help the most. 4. Always encourage those who lead and sacrifice for others.

"...from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love." Ephesians 4:16

Special thanks to Chuck Swindoll for the research done on geese that inspired this article...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


In 1991 the Men's Health Magazine reported that the average male is: 5' 9" tall and 173 pounds. Is married, 1.8 years older than his wife and would marry her again. Has not completed college. Earns $28,605 per year. Prefers showering to taking a bath. Sends about 7.2 hours a week eating. Does not know his cholesterol count, but it's 211. Watches 26 hours and 44 minutes of TV a week. Takes out the garbage in his household. Prefers white underwear to colored. Cries about once a month--one fourth as much as Jane Doe. Eats his corn on the cob in circles, not straight across, and prefers his steak medium. Can't whistle by inserting his fingers in his mouth. Prefers that his toilet tissue unwind over, rather than under, the spool. Will not stop to ask for directions when he's in the car.

In a book, American Averages, written in 1980, Mead, Feinsilber, and Doubleday reported that on an average day in the USA: 1,169,863 people take a taxi, 176,810,950 eggs are laid, 21,000 gallons of oil are spilled from tankers and barges, 63,288 cars crash, 28 mailmen are bitten by dogs, 2 billion $1 bills are in circulation, industry generates nearly 1 pound of hazardous waste for every person in America, 1.1 million people are in the hospital, the U.S. Postal Service sells 90 million stamps, handles 320 million pieces of mail and delivers 833,000 packages, 180,000 people buy new radios, 500 million cups of coffee are drunk, 10,205 people give blood, $54,794 is spent to fight dandruff, bricklayers lay 22,741,000 bricks, amateurs take 19,178,000 snapshots, 9,077 babies are born, 2,466 children are bitten by dogs, 5,962 couples wed, every one of us produces nearly 6 pounds of garbage.

Now of course each one of us still makes our own decisions. We are not exactly average. None of these things may well describe you. But I wonder if a survey was taken concerning our spiritual lives, where would each one of us fall along the curve?

According to U.S.A. Today, May 25, 1994, 48% of church-goers attend an average of once a month. According to Psychology Today, 1988, the percentage of mothers who said they wanted their children to develop a loyalty to church in 1924: 50. In 1978: 22. Now it somewhere around 15%.

We often complain about how American is losing its religion. I get email forwards daily concerning the dwindling influence of Christianity in our culture. But are you contributing to it? Does your lack of daily Bible reading fall below average? What about your attendance to Bible class? What about your involvement in fellowship or evangelism? In what direction is your spiritual life going? Is the time spent with God less and less or more and more?

God is not concerned with averages. He is concerned with your soul. He wants you to be better than average. He wants you to be excellent.

"But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves." ~ James 1:22

Monday, June 30, 2008

Accentuate the Positive

Don't mess with Mr. In-Between. At least that's how Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters used to sing it. Some of you may remember the old song, "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive." The words and music of this song came by way of Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer in the 1940's. What an appropriate time for the thought of the song, since our country was immersed in World War II.

This song was also performed and recorded by such stars as Perry Como, Ella Fitzgerald, and Al Jarreau, but I prefer the version by Crosby and the Andrews Sisters. I'll give you the lyrics in case you don't remember...

Gather 'round me, everybody
Gather 'round me while I'm preachin'
Feel a sermon comin' on me
The topic will be sin and that's what I'm ag'in'
If you wanna hear my story
The settle back and just sit tight
While I start reviewin'
The attitude of doin' right

You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between

You've got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium's
Liable to walk upon the scene

To illustrate my last remark
Jonah in the whale, Noah in the ark
What did they do just when everything looked so dark?

(Man, they said "We'd better accentuate the positive")
("Eliminate the negative")
("And latch on to the affirmative")
Don't mess with Mister In-Between (No!)
Don't mess with Mister In-Between

(Ya got to spread joy up to the maximum)
(Bring gloom down to the minimum)
(Have faith or pandemonium's)
(Liable to walk upon the scene)

You got to ac (yes, yes) -cent-tchu-ate the positive
Eliminate (yes, yes) the negative
And latch (yes, yes) on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between
No, don't mess with Mister In-Between

Those of us who are Christians need to remember to rejoice. There are too many good things about Christianity to be negative all of the time. If you are down and out, remember your spiritual blessings, remember heaven, remember your God and Savior, and remember your Christian friends.

Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and don't mess with Mr. In-Between!

"Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, 'Rejoice.'" ~ Phil. 4:4

Monday, June 23, 2008

Negative Communication

One of the fastest ways to tear a local body of Christ apart is with your mouth. If you want to split the church, use your tongue. Negativity is one of the worst things that can come upon a family of believers. If you engage in negative talk about a brother or sister in Christ, you should be ashamed.

I have been guilty of this sin myself. It is easy to get pulled into this pit by your closest friends in Christ. It starts innocently, with just the remarks about a person's habits or weaknesses. But before you know it, you stop looking for the good in people and you accentuate the bad.

Consider how negative communication affects:

1. The elders. They have the most difficult position in the church. They usually only get to hear the negative. People don't come to them to say "Great job!" or "What can I do to make your job easier?" Instead they usually say, "Why did you do that?" or "I don't like it when...." or "You all need to do something about..." Negative talk about the eldership is hurtful to the ones who serve, and it discourages younger men from ever desiring the position. A constant critique of the eldership will eventually cause division in the church.

2. The preachers. If you want to get a new preacher or youth minister every 2-5 years, then be highly critical of their activity. Try not to understand the anxiety and stress of their job. Spread a rumor about them. Pick on their sermons. Correct them whenever you get a chance. Challenge their work ethic. Preachers are involved with the members at a high level. When they are the objects of negativity, it always gets back to them. They begin to lose confidence, feeling that they are ineffective or unwanted. Negative talk about the preacher will do more than pack his bags, it will take him out of the pulpit for good.

3. The members. In order for families to be healthy, every member needs to find their place and purpose. When members of the body of Christ feel unloved, judged, or inadequate, the whole family will be in turmoil. On a daily basis, members of the family of God gossip, complain, note weaknesses in brethren, and dismiss the viability of certain people within the body of Christ. Not only is this sinful, but it contributes to Satan's most important work - the attempt to destroy the work of Christ. The church is often in more danger from within than from without. Every child of God must take responsibility for how they treat fellow Christians. May God help us to avoid any negative communication concerning our brethren.

"Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers." ~ Ephesians 4:29

Friday, June 20, 2008


On March 31, 2008 I posted an article on this blog that was printed in our bulletin. Evidently it was picked up by some other church bulletins. From that article I recently received the following letter. I am going to print it word for word just as it was written. I will protect the name of the author and the church of which she is a member.

Dear Sir,

Your article on lack of Respect toward George Bush. This was printed in our church bulletin, _______________________, June 15, 08 and I wish I had not read it before church began, because it made me angry. This man does not deserve any respect. He lied for a solid year to the American people about "Weapons of Mass Destruction." The inspectors returned after a two year search and reported to him. There were no weapons found.

In an interview approx. two wks. ago the reporter ask George Bush, "Why did you take this country into a war when you knew there was no weapons found." His answer was, "I thought they would find them later."

Sir I respect Hitler as much as I do George Bush. We were taken into that war because Saddam tried to have Bush Senior assassinated after the war of 1991. So after all the pain and suffering, our economy destroyed. This man will never admit to the harm he has caused. So there Mr. Tatum.
___Name Here Signed_______

I am not at all upset about receiving this letter. I keep every negative letter or email I receive. It helps to keep me balanced and reminds me that criticism is a part of personal growth. I encourage any of you to go back and read the article itself, to see as to whether or not this interpretation is correct. What she got out of it was no where near the point I was making. But to her that was the point just the same. For me it had nothing to do with politics, but rather it had to do with respect for authority. But I digress.

It is important for each one of us to remember that criticism can be very valuable. We should not look forward to it, and we should not hope to get it. We should not be controversial for the sake of trouble. But at the same time, if we are never criticized, then we are not living the Christian life.

To avoid criticism do nothing, say nothing, be nothing ~ Elbert Hubbard

"Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound"
~ 2 Timothy 2:9

Monday, June 16, 2008

I'd Rather Have Jesus

Most every Monday morning David Pinckley and I arrive at the office at about the same time. Nobody is calling yet and nobody else is usually there. We get to talk about our lives for a few minutes. We talk about things that are going on with our families, things we need to get done that week, and sometimes we talk about our relationship with God. I enjoy talking about that last subject the most. I love and respect David and I appreciate his dedicated work. He puts a lot of time in calling people and doing church work all week.

One of our discussions surrounded faithfulness to the Lord. I mentioned that our 210+ on a Sunday night on Father's Day really represented a group of people who know where they belong. You see there are some people that are always going to choose spiritual opportunities and responsibilities over anything else. I am very thankful for these people. If it were not for the Sunday evening crowd we would be weaker as a church. Another hour of worship and study binds us together and helps us mature in Christ.

As we were talking, David made a statement that has been running through my mind ever since. He said that if he were to suddenly stop attending the worship, it wouldn't be very long before he wouldn't know what to do with himself. He knew he would sorely miss the assembly, and he knew that the concern he would have about his estranged relationship with God would be difficult to bear. While it is true we are creatures of habit, some things are more than a habit. Some things we do identify who we are, and what matters to us the most. I know that the Sunday night crowd loves to worship. I know they are wanting to go the second mile. I know they are glad when people say, "Let us go into the house of the Lord."

One other thing...I understand exactly how David feels. I really had no business coming back to services the Sunday after my surgery. But I was already feeling a great need to be with God's people and to worship Him. There are many things in this life that we could exchange for Christ. There are hobbies, occupations, relationships, and other things to keep us busy. But the only thing of lasting value is Jesus Christ. I'd rather have Jesus.

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold;
I’d rather be His than have riches untold;
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands,
I’d rather be led by His nail pierced hand.

Than to be a king of a vast domain
Or be held in sin’s dread sway,
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

~ Rhea F. Miller

"But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ." ~ Philippians 3:7

Monday, June 9, 2008

How Hot Is It?

Well, the answer to this question is, "Pretty Hot!" How do I know? 1. The temperature hit 100 degrees at 5:00 P.M. on Saturday in West Tennessee, where I was preaching a gospel meeting. 2. I have not seen any dogs outside of the shade recently. 3. I burned my hand on my child's car-seat. 4. People are taking too many clothes off in public.

It is number 4 that is disconcerting to me. Modesty is a real problem these days. We live in a state of undress in America. Why are we surprised? Internet pornography is rampant. "Girls Gone Wild" is a T.V. ad you will find on virtually any station after 11:00 P.M. Nudity is all over the entertainment scene. Even Christians allow themselves and their children to be immodest all over the country - at the beach, at the pool, at the ballpark, and at school and community functions. I have seen some amazingly immodest outfits even in worship.

A new place of immodesty in our culture is the social network. Whether it be MySpace or Facebook, or some other internet spot, folks are putting up pictures of themselves to entice the opposite sex. Skin is still in, and when the temperature rises more clothes come off. I have heard many excuses for inappropriate dress: "People shouldn't be so lustful or look long at a woman or man." "I want to show off my tan." "If you look good, what is the point if nobody can see it?"

Well, there is a point. Vanity is the point. We have to get away from being so concerned about the physical if we are going to please God.

The child of God who wants to please God will dress appropriately for eternity. How hot is it really? We may find out for sure if we are not careful.

"...that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein...~ 1 Corinthians 14:15

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A Change in Policy

I am not sure who said it first, but it used to be said that "Honesty is the best policy." One of the trademarks of a nation that was once largely of a moral conscience was that the common man could be found to be truthful. It was honesty in business. It was the surety of a handshake. It was knowing that a man's word was his bond.

Unfortunately, as we are witnessing a breakdown in morality within our culture we are also witnessing a change in moral policy. It may be as was written by Shakespeare in Hamlet - "Ay sir; to be honest, as this world goes, is to be one man picked out of ten thousand."

One of the blessings of going to Freed-Hardeman University straight from California was that I no longer had to lock up all my things all the time. While attending there I rarely locked my car. If I left something on campus I could always go back and get it with no problem. When we lived in New Providence, Kentucky, we were never worried about burglars. In this small farming community the church doors remained unlocked. When we moved into the preacher's home, I tried to lock the door the first night. I had no key, so I called up the former minister, who had taken a job with a larger church in town. He said he didn't know where the key was. He had lived there for six years, and had never even locked up the house!

But things are changing. Monday evening my wife had to do some late shopping at the Lawrenceburg Walmart. She accidentally left her cell phone at the cake counter and had to go back for it. When she got there it was gone. So she called the number. The person who had picked up the phone was rude with her and at first refused to give it back. Finally when she did get it from him, he used foul language and showed her little respect. He was guilty of stealing, dishonesty, hatred, slander, drunkenness, and wickedness, just to name a few.

I would like to tell you all that you can trust the common man. I would like to tell you all that people are generally honest about most everything. I would like to tell you all that you can depend on most people for anything. But I cannot tell you that. Until we as a nation turn back to God, starting with our individual homes, we must realize that the policy has changed. With all of this, I know there are so many good people out there. But it is time for these good people to speak up.

"An honest man's the noblest work of God" ~ Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man

"...that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty." ~ 1 Timothy 2:2

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

My Recovery

First of all let me say that I am sorry for being so worthless at blogging. When I started out, I used the blog often, but after I began a discussion group on facebook my computer time began to be laregly spent on that endeavor instead. Maybe in the coming weeks I will do better. But I don't blame any of you out there who have given up on this blog.

The main reason for my delay in posting has been the surgery I had two weeks ago today. It was a thyroid cancer surgery which lasted 3 and a half hours. I had my thyroid removed in 2004, but cancer has sustained itself in lymph nodes of the past 3+ years. On April 11, 2008, an ultrasound provided us with specific information as to the location of the cancer. Needle biopsy procedures confirmed this information, and surgery was scheduled.

On May 13, I received a procedure known as a selective neck disection. This included work from my earlobe and jawline all the way down into my chest. 35 lymph nodes were removed, including scar tissue and other tissues that the cancer could invade. This week we received the results from post-surgery testing, and only 2 of the 35 lymph nodes were found to have any cancer in them. This is good news for now. Hopefully the cancer will not return, but only time will tell.

As for me, I am moving very slowly. I am numb from just above my right jaw all the way down into my chest on the right side. I cannot move my right arm well, and it will take some weeks and months for things to return to normal again. It doesn't look like there is anything wrong with me, and so people probably will expect me to be more active than I can be. But I am very thankful to God for his providencial care, and for my friends and family who have prayed for me and helped me. This has been a good expereince overall, including highs and lows, but it has made me appreciate the things that really matter. It has caused me to think about some more changes I need to make spiritually, and to pray for the ability to continue to work for my family and for the church.

So, this is a summary of my recovery. May God bless each one of you and may He allow you good health and ability. Don't ever underestimate the daily blessings. I have learned to appreciate the little things we are allowed to do most of all.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Personality and Opinion

Why don't people get along? Have you ever asked yourself that question? Another question even more perplexing is this: Why don't Christian brethren get along? This is a difficult subject. It would seem obvious to us that there is no sense in brethren being at odds with one another. But it happens all the time. In fact, it is hard to find a time when there is not some conflict in the church.

The first reason why brethren are often on different pages has to do with variations in individual personality. Some folks just don't click with other folks. They value things differently. Some are talkative and some are quiet. Some are bold to get in your business while others are very private. There are probably some Christians to which we naturally gravitate. There are also probably some Christians with whom we might struggle to have a normal conversation.

The second reason why brethren don't get along has to do with an individual's regard for their own opinion. Some Christian did something they didn't like. Perhaps a brother or sister in Christ hurt their feelings. Or perhaps they are too prideful to admit that their attitude about a particular situation or person is wrong. A lack of Christian behavior over one issue may lead to lack of respect in another. We stop being genuinely friendly. We tend not to trust one another. We hear gossip about a situation that has been elevated to a place it should have never been in the first place. Before you know it, we are so far away from some brethren that we don't even want to see them or hear about them at all.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote, "The only sin which we never forgive in each other is the difference of opinion." William Blake once said, "The man who never alters his opinion is like standing water, and breeds reptiles of the mind."

It is tragic when even strong, faithful Christians don't get along. I have seen this in every congregation in which I have been a member. At the end of the day, this phenomenon still leaves me asking, "Why?"

Life is too short and eternity is too long for us not to make every effort we can to resolve our differences with others. The church is too precious and our relationships are too meaningful for us to continue to have too much pride to change our hearts and minds.

Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. ~ Romans 12:16

Monday, May 5, 2008

Church Clothes

This week my son Daniel wanted to play in the yard when we got home from Sunday worship. We told him he had to change first. He wanted to know why. We told him it was because he had on his "church clothes." There are "church clothes" and there are "play clothes." We didn't want him to ruin his nicest clothes.

This idea is not foreign to any of us. Since you were little, you probably were taught that when it came time to worship, you were to wear your "Sunday best." This does not imply there is a dress code for worship. We know that visitors or non-Christians may come into our assembly dressed differently than most, and this would be fine. As Christians we know that we have the responsibility of giving God the firstfruits. This means God deserves our very best, our very first, and that we make sacrifices in response to the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

But I wonder, do "church clothes" really exist? Maybe this is a bad way to describe it. After all, when are we not the church? When are we not to wear the clothes of respect for God, kindness, sacrifice, worship, and praise? In a spiritual sense, some people only wear Christian attitudes on Sunday. I have noticed that these attitudes tend to wear out, sometimes by Sunday dinner.

Our world view is very important. If we really want to please God, our world view and the Biblical view will be one in the same. When we start to become the church, rather than go to church, we will be on the same wavelength with our Creator. When we wear the clothes of righteousness all day long, every day, then we will begin to see that there are some clothes that are suitable for every occasion.

Christians look forward to a better type of clothing that God will supply. They have left the world's attire for better things. Eternally, the church will be clothed with garments that will never be stained or wear out. In that day, will not need to change, but we will all be changed, forever suited to live with and praise our marvelous God.

"For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life." ~ 2 Corinthians 5:4

Monday, April 28, 2008

Your Mark

Robert Orten once said, "A graduation ceremony is an event where the commencement speaker tells thousands of students dressed in identical caps and gowns that 'individuality' is the key to success." When you think about it, he is correct. All over our nation similar ceremonies with similar regalia will be happening this year. Many of the same thoughts like, "changing the world," or "here we come," or "nothing can stop us," or ""we've only just begun," will be heard all over the country. But before you scoff and say it is just the same old ceremony, many parents and grandparents will beg to differ. There may be millions of graduates from different centers of learning, but only one of those graduates is going to belong to them.

Those of us who are older can probably remember the assessment tests that were required by the state. While today everything seems to be computerized, in my day you needed a number two pencil. In honor of assessment tests and graduation, I would like to use some of the guidelines we once went by when we had to take those tests. I hope they will some provide some help for our graduates, as they try to make their mark in this world.

1. Read the entire question before you answer.
Our world is too fast paced. Many of life's questions will come at you quickly. But don't be in a rush to answer before you have considered all the facts. Who will you marry? Where will you live? What will be your occupation? These are going to take some time and prayer. Don't be in such a hurry. It may hurt your overall performance.

2. Choose the answer that best fits the question.
I always hated these questions! Why can't it just be a simple yes or no? And then there were those: neither A nor B, both A and C, none of the above, all of the above questions. I hated those even more! As life went on I discovered that many of the decisions I had to make turned out to be this way. There may not be an easy solution to your next challenge. Do the best you can to give an answer that suits the circumstance. Put your faith in God to help you through the difficult questions.

3. Make your mark dark.
We had number two pencils, and Scantron machines. We had to make sure we filled in the whole circle and that we filled it in dark enough for the scanner to read our test sheet correctly. If a person didn't make their mark dark, their answer wouldn't count. There is a very important analogy here. If you want to make a difference in the world, you need to make your mark with confidence. God only made one you. He has a purpose for you. He gave you a mark that is individual and unique. Make your life count. Jesus made marks that were dark. They went right through His hands and feet. They made an eternal difference. The greatest mark we can make will help others get to heaven. This is the mark of Christ.

The future lies before you
Like a field of driven snow,
Be careful how you tread it,
For every step will show.
~Author Unknown

"That they may set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments." ~ Psalm 78.7

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

James 5:16

Someone recently asked the question - "I have heard more and more in the past few years that James 5:16 '...The effective , fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much' (NKJV) means that only the prayers of the righteous are heard by God. I personally do not feel that this verse says that. I would like someone to give me some other verses that either confirm or deny this thought. It is hard for me to beleive that God does not hear any prayers unless that person is a righteous Christian. How, then would a fallen Christian gain the faith to become right again? Through prayer? Not if what I am hearing is correct. How about the person that has never heard the gospel and prays something to the effect of 'Lord, please show me what I need to do to be saved' and in time is led the the church? I just want more to back up what I have heard from some and I hope that you can help."

It is important to note that the emphasis of this verse deals with God's inclination to act when a rigtheous person prays. This does not mean God is not listening to all who call on His name. Psalm 33:13-15 says, "The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works." God is looking down upon every soul, hoping that we will respond to His love for us. In this sense God is listening to all men, small or great, strong or weak, ignorant or learned. He takes into consideration all of these matters when a person seeks His face.

In the context of James 5, James is specifically considering the prayer of faith (5:15). In the first chapter James said that if we are to ask God, we should ask believing. If we don't believe, then we shouldn't expect to receive (1:5-7).Then in James 5:16-17, he mentions the faithful prophet Elijah. He points out that this righteous man prayed to God continually and earnestly (cf. 1 kg. 18:41-46). Elijah was just an ordinary man. But his faith was extraordinary. Therefore God, seeing his excellent faith and his fervent spirit, answered His prayer accordingly.

This is the true meaning of "the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." It is understanding what God is looking for in us when we pray. God is listening to and considering the works of all men. But he is most inclined to bless those who humble themselves, obey His will, and truly believe in His power.

"I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting" ~ 1 Timothy 2:8

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

What You Need to Know About VBS (Part 1)

It is about time that time again. Churches all over the country will be preparing for their annual Vacation Bible School programs. Some congregations no longer take a full week for VBS. Instead, many have elected for a one day Family Bible Day event. Usually these are held on Saturdays. For those who like to attend week-long VBS programs, there will still be plenty of opportunities elsewhere. Some churches will have morning sessions, while others may have their VBS at night.

But, beware which VBS programs you let you children attend. I would think that most of us would know better. But their are some folks that turn VBS into a babysitter. There are parents who let their kids go to VBS's all summer long. This includes denominational VBS programs. While some might think there is no harm in letting their children attend these services, that it can only be good, there is a stark reality that is much different than they might expect.

Over the last few years, in my visits with young families, I have had some very disturbing reports about VBS programs. How would you like to find out after the fact that your 4 or 5 year-old was "saved" or "baptized" at VBS? Many denominational churches are using VBS to add to their number of adherents. They are telling innocent kids who do not yet understand and who cannot understand that they need to be saved during VBS. If you think this is far fetched, I know of couples with young children who found out later that their kids had been "saved" without their knowing of it or discussing it. I can tell you, that these parents realized that they made a big mistake. Their children will not be going back, and we can be thankful for that. But now they are going to have to de-program their kids. This leads to much confusion and discouragement for their children.

VBS has a primary purpose. It is to educate our children, to teach them the basic truths that the Bible supplies. We are building a foundation for our children, so that when they come of age they will know what they must to do be saved and to stay saved. VBS is not for indoctrinating children. It is for equipping them. I think we need to see that there is a big difference betwen these two things.

Parents, please be wise. Do not just send your kids off anywhere. Sending them to a place that is going to teach them false ideas about God and salvation can be even worse than allowing them to go where Satan is more visible. Satan is doing his best work when he appears as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14). Vacation Bible School can be a great experience for children. But parents need to get involved. The church is not your babysitter.

"And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord." ~ Ephesians 6:4

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

More Teen Violence

Teen violence is a problem on the rise in America. Nearly 40 children are killed on school grounds in our nation every year. They are being gunned down, stabbed, and beaten to death. Sometimes one individual does all the damage, and sometimes, they move in packs.

This morning the Today Show ran the story about the teenage girls and boys responsible for a violent beating of one of their own. This link had been posted but the Today Show was forced to remove it from their website due to usage restrictions. What basically happens is the victim is lured in to a house by some girls who scream at her and beat her for 30 solid minutes. In the meantime, the whole beating was videotaped while two boys stand lookout outside the home. See Teenage Beating.

Consider some of the following statistics:
  • 160,000 children skip school each day because of intimidation by their peers. (The National Education Association)
  • Two-thirds of young people have been teased or gossiped about in a mean way at least once in the past month. (Study conducted by Families and Work Institute and funded by The Colorado Trust - study polled more than 1,000 youths in fifth through twelfth grades.) Additionally, almost one-third of 6th to 10th graders - 5.7 million children nationwide - have experienced some kind of bullying. (National Institute of Health study released in the Journal of the American Medical Association.)
  • Homicide is the second leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24 overall.
  • A study done in 2004 reported that 17% of teens had carried a weapon of some kind to school in the last 30 days. 33% of teens had been in a physical fight with a schoolmate in the last 12 months. 9% were physically violent with their boyfriend/girlfriend in the past 12 months.
There are more statistics. But what is at the heart of the problem? The following factors seem to be a large part of why teen violence is on the rise:

1. Antisocial beliefs and attitudes.
2. Cliques in school.
3. Fame lust.
4. Culture and entertainment.
5. The breakdown of the family.

Number five on the list is the most critical. While every teen needs to learn responsibility, the bigger problem is with what is being allowed by the parents. In the case of the Florida cheerleader pack attack, a mother of one of the culprits tried to defend her daughter's actions on the Today Show. She basically implied that the beaten teenager got what was coming to her. What can we possibly say to that? Only that we hope the state of Florida will also see the need to try the offenders as adults, and allow the law to give them the punishment they deserve.

Parents, guard your children. Teach them respect for authority. Teach them respect for their fellow man. Teach them to love their neighbor. Teach them the vengeance of a perfectly just and holy God.

"The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, "The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth." ~ Genesis 6:11-13

Monday, March 31, 2008

A General Lack of Respect

March 30, 2008 marked opening day in Major League Baseball here in the states. As is customary, our president threw out the first pitch. This time it was a special inaugural pitch, the first pitch to be tossed from the mound of the Washington Nationals' new baseball stadium.

Unfortunately, the whole scene became a mockery. George W. Bush was booed by thousands of fans. What should have been a celebration of America's greatest pastime instead was a political statement. It was a general lack of respect for the highest office in our land. I don't want to mince any words here. The fact that the president was booed really bothers me.

I know we are in a very unpopular war right now. I know a lot of people blame George Bush. I don't want to be over there, either. I want all of our service men and women to come home just as much as you do. I know the economy is in straits. I know gas prices are at all-time highs. I would like to see some changes, too. But you don't boo the president. You don't disrespect the office of the president.

What is happening these days in the political realm is a microcosm of the moral slide and ignorance of our population as a whole. The apostle Peter once wrote, "...the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries" (2 Pet. 2:9-10).

I think it is interesting that Peter describes those who conduct themselves with a fleshly mind as those who "despise authority," who are "self-willed," and who "are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries." I believe the point is that there are a good number of people in our land who don't want to be governed at all. The only master they desire is the one in the mirror. They make no sacrifices for the country, but they want all the freedom. They are never satisfied, and they always cry for change.

Whether you agree with the president or not is not the thrust of this article. It is about allegiance to a cause, respect for authority, and couth. America is only going to stay great if Americans will demand that they themselves be great. The same is true for the church. Do you respect your elders, even when you don't agree with them? Do you honor the Bible, even when there are some things with which you struggle? Do you obey the elders, even when you know their faults?

If we cannot respect authority, we cannot be ruled. If we cannot be ruled, we cannot have Jesus Christ.

"Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work." ~ Titus 3:1

Monday, March 24, 2008


Let me begin by apologizing to everybody about the fact that I have not been able to update my blog in some time. First it was the flu, then it was our big day that was coming up.

This last Sunday we had our "Coming Home Sunday." I had been busy trying to invite everyone I knew to worship. The whole congregation had a big part in this successful day.

When the count was tallied, it was 591 in attendance. But actually, the count was taken early and more than 20 came in afterwards. I also attempted to have everyone fill out a registration card and list number of antendees on each card. That total ended up being 592, but I know of a few families and individuals who were there that never filled out a card. So my best estimate was somewhere just over 600.

This was a great day for us, to say the least. Since I have been at Pulaski St. this is the largest number we have seen. Now, I know numbers are not everything, but 600 souls is better than 500, and 500 is better than 400. So we are happy to know that each person was able to hear the gospel and hopefully it will bring fruit if we are patient and do our work.

The longer I preach the more I realize it is all about souls. I have always known this, but this truth is confirmed to me time and again. For those of you who work full time in the kingdom, I want to encourage you not to worry too much about housekeeping. Get out there and win some souls for Christ. I am speaking to myself as well. The more time we spend spreading the word about the truth and the church, while inviting people to worship, the more we can do for the cause of Christ.

I am very thankful for 592+! God deserves all of the glory. He is the only reason why we met. He is the only reason why we do anything.
"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen." ` Ephesians 3:20-21