The Tradition of Being Non-Traditional

Almost every day I read or hear someone talk about how they wish their church would be “less traditional.” I read or hear people say that they would like to be more “non-traditional.”

Sometimes the reasons are wholly against Scripture, as some push for mechanical instruments of music (which violates Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16, and other passages) or other changes.

More often, though, I read or hear these words when people talk about things like dress or the “formality” of worship. Comments are often worded in these types of ways: “I think more people would come to our church if we were not so traditional about how we dress.” Or, “Our church is so traditional about being formal in our order of worship. It’s song, prayer, song, sermon…. every week. We should be more non-traditional.”

This post is not meant to talk about those issues specifically. How we dress in worship or the order of our services is another post for another time.

What I want to challenge today is the constant push to be “non-traditional,” and how it is actually illogical.

If we take how we dress for worship as an example, people will often say that there is some type of unwritten dress code in a congregation and it pushes people away who do not have nice clothes. The argument, then, goes to how we should dress down so as to be more welcoming to other people.

Again, this post is not about that issue. It’s about the arguments that are often made.

Think for a moment. In an effort to push back against the “tradition” of dressing up for worship, there are calls to be more non-traditional…

…and now, being non-traditional becomes a tradition in itself! It becomes the unwritten dress code to dress down.

You see, one thing we must realize is that everyone has–or at least desires to have–traditions. By pushing for being non-traditional, one is actually trying to make a tradition out of being non-traditional.

In just the same way that there can be an unspoken dress code or traditional order of worship, the push to remove those things now becomes the unspoken set of rules for a congregation.

The first step in these discussions needs to be that we all have traditions. Some are good. Some are bad. Some are completely neutral.

But if you are arguing about “tradition” and wanting to push for something that is non-traditional, you are, in reality, not making an argument at all. You are seeking to make non-tradition the new tradition.

Our primary focus, instead, should always be on what is Biblical; not on what is traditional.


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

Which Commandments Should We Keep?

Many lessons and sermons have been taught and preached concerning the rich young ruler (Mt. 19:16-22; Mk. 10:17-22; Lk. 18:18-23). No matter how many times we have read these passages, there is always something new we can learn.

After this young man had come to Jesus asking him what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus responded about the goodness of God, and that one should keep the commandments (Mt. 19:17). In Matthew’s account, the rich young ruler responds this way – “Which ones?” (Mt. 19:18).

“Which ones?” What an interesting question! It sounds so similar to our culture and what many call “supermarket Christianity.” Can we pick and choose from the Bible? Can we keep only some commandments, binding some and disregarding others, almost like a person picking out the best tomato in the grocery aisle?

People who are afraid of being totally committed to Christ are very much like this young ruler. They might pick certain worship assemblies while blatantly disregard others. They might consider the elements of worship as very important but are not interested in being evangelistic. They might love personal Bible study at home, but feel like fellowship meals and gathering with the saints outside of worship is not for them.

The rich young ruler claimed that he had kept all the commandments from his youth, and yet when Jesus told him to keep the commandments it is obvious that he was hoping he could get by with just a few. This is the “easy way out” method or the “just get by with it” approach. Trying to do as little as possible and hoping that it will be enough to please God is not the attitude of Christ. It is not the attitude of genuine discipleship.

If we are going to belong to God, we need to stop looking for what we think is essential and embrace the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:26). There should be nothing that we aren’t willing to learn and do for the cause of Christ. We should call no time or earthly thing “ours,” but consider it God’s possession to be used to His glory.

The Bible says this man, when challenged to sacrifice the one thing that meant the most to him, “went away sorrowful because he had great possessions.” How tragic! In reality, we all know we own nothing. Everything is His, even our own souls, which he purchased with the blood of His Son.

Let’s not ask, “Which ones?” After we have kept all the commandments, let’s ask, “What else can I do?”

“Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!” – Deuteronomy 5:29


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AUTHOR: Jeremiah Tatum

Jesus Wept at Jerusalem, Too

It has been my observation that it is very rare for a person to be totally undeserving of treatment that could be described as unfair. What I mean by that is that there may be some degree of justification for somebody being upset with you or me for something we said or did (or did not say or do). 

It could be that our timing was wrong. Maybe our intentions and actions were less than noble. Maybe our tone of voice sent a message we did not intend to send. We may have been totally unaware of how our action or inaction would affect another person. The possibilities are almost endless.

The bottom line is that none of us can claim sinless perfection (cf. Rom. 3:23). Neither can we claim a degree of wisdom that would guarantee that we would handle every situation in our lives in the best possible way.

How would you react if you were, in fact, totally innocent? What would you do if you knew that there was no legitimate or logical reason for the cruel treatment you were receiving? What would be your emotional state if you knew that those who had unfairly mistreated you were, as some say, “about to get theirs?”

The New Testament gives us a great deal of information about the only One who “…committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth” (1 Peter 2:22). In the immediate context, the discussion is about how our Lord handled cruel and unfair treatment. The context also informs us that He “[left] you an example, so that you might follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21).

Recently, I was reminded of one particular incident during the earthly ministry of Jesus that demonstrates how He handled unfair treatment. At the same time, it serves as a challenge to us. You can find the inspired record of that incident in Luke 19:41-44. As you read those verses, you will read some very descriptive and disturbing words He used about the destruction of Jerusalem. 

That destruction would be due, in large part, to the rejection of Jesus by many of the citizens of “the city of David.” This would be especially true with regard to the religious leaders.

How did Jesus feel about that? Was there smug satisfaction? Did He gloat? Does a reader get a sense that Jesus was glad that so many of the people who had treated Him so badly and unfairly were going to “receive their just due?”

Here are the words the Holy Spirit inspired Luke to write:

“And when He drew near and saw the city, He wept over it” (Luke 19:41).

Most of aware of the fact that Jesus wept at Bethany after the death of Lazarus. Did you know that He also wept in Jerusalem – and for a totally different reason?

As you read (and I type) the following words, maybe we both need to pay particular attention to the portion I’ve chosen to highlight:

“When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23).

The book of Acts begins with Luke informing the reader that his gospel had been written about “all that Jesus began to do and teach” (Acts 1:1). Please notice that order. He did not merely give orders or present theories. He did what He wants others to do and asks that we follow His example.

In The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told His followers to “…Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). He did just that. He challenges us to do the same.


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AUTHOR: Jim Faughn

Episode 71 : Forever His (with Shelley Hazel) [Podcast]

(Player not working or displaying? Click here to listen.)

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What can a congregation do to help families who have children with special needs? Forever His is a ministry that helps in that area. Recently, the Forest Park church of Christ in Valdosta, Georgia held a Forever His Bible Day Camp, and on the podcast this week, Shelley Hazel joins Adam to talk about this wonderful and uplifting day.

LOFpodcast

Links

Forest Park Church of Christ (homepage)

Video: Forever His [vimeo.com]

Forever His information at Karns church of Christ (includes registration form)

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Photo credit: Annika Leigh on Creative Commons

The “Flip or Flop” Principle

Last week I was doing something unusual: I was watching TV during the day. I was home sick so my TV was tuned to a channel that I enjoy: HGTV. The show of the day (and I literally mean all day) was “Flip or Flop.”

I enjoy watching them take run-down houses and turn them into pretty homes for a profit. I also enjoy watching a couple – read: not me and my husband – differ on the spending-versus-return-theory involved. She always wants to buy higher end finishes to maximize the potential profit whereas he wants to do nice enough to guarantee a quick sale. It’s fun when it’s not you!

Often in the program, the husband makes the statement that “the bigger the risk, the bigger the potential reward.” This made me think about our spiritual lives. What are we willing to risk? Am I willing to risk my comfort level to invite someone to worship? Am I willing to risk my reputation to stand up for God’s laws? Am I willing to risk my friendships if the potential reward is an eternal soul saved?

You see, God already took all of the biggest risks. He risked His heart when He created man and gave him (us) free will (Gen. 3:8-9). He risked a second disappointment in man when as He placed the rainbow in the sky (Gen. 8:21-22; Gen. 9:16). Over and over again He took the risk as He gave mankind chance after chance to see that His way is best. In all culminated in the risk He took in sending His only Son (John 3:16).

But, you see, in God’s eyes, all of that great risk was worth the potential reward – your soul. What will you risk for Him?

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:9-11)


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AUTHOR: Amber Tatum

The Foolishness of Alcohol

Almost five years ago, I wrote this post, wherein I talked about an experience I had in trying to help a lady who turned out to be drunk.

Then, just a couple of weeks ago, I saw it all on display again.

As my dad wrote on Monday, our family was able to enjoy the recent Music City Bowl together. It was a wonderful time with family; a day I will not forget.

However, not every detail of the day was a delight. Sitting behind us were some fans of one of the teams (I will not reveal which team, because I am certain there were fans of both teams in the stadium who this could be said about) who cursed and slurred their way through a pretty decent football game.

In fact, at one point–probably late in the third quarter–one of the men yelled out to his friend that they needed “to go watch the [team name].” To that, his buddy explained, “We are watching them!”

You read that right. Almost 3/4 of the way through a game, one of these men did not realize he was even at the game. Oh, and at the time, the team he was rooting for was winning!

Certainly, this was not the only case of foolish behavior at the game. We heard racial slurs yelled. We later saw a video (from another part of the stadium) of fans who were rooting for the same team in a fistfight with each other. We heard language that was indescribably bad…and incessant.

This is not an anti-sports post. It is not a post meant to keep people from attending sporting events or concerts.

However, it is a reminder to us all of the complete foolishness of alcohol. The beer (and other drinks) were flowing freely in that stadium that day. The speech got more slurred and the smell of alcohol grew stronger all around us as the game wore on.

And no one seemed to stop and wonder what in the world they were doing to themselves, or how utterly foolish they were acting.

Our society just says it’s all part of “having a good time.” It’s just a small piece of the “game day experience.” It’s why you work, so you can afford to “let go and unwind.”

The Bible calls it foolishness.

The Bible calls it sin (see Galatians 5:19-21).

I know Christians who believe that social drinking is fine. I’ve heard and read all the arguments (more times than I can remember).

And then I go to a game and am reminded of reality: it is nothing more than playing the fool to drink.

All the arguments about “it’s just a little fun” or “I can handle it” or “I know my limits” look nothing more than foolish when you think about them.

Give your arguments to the parents who are burying a child killed by a drunk driver who “could handle his liquor.”

Share those statements with the teenager who would love just one day where dad didn’t come home and “drink away the stress of the day,” and instead would listen to his children.

Point out your wise counsel to the business owner who has to fire a good employee who thought he could handle just one more, then made a nuisance of himself at the company party.

Share your wisdom to the teen who drank just one beer at the party last Friday–the first drink he ever took–and, because took and shared a photo, now is off the basketball team and is socially an outcast for that decision.

And then, the next time you think about drinking, remember how you said that this would just be a “one-time” thing to get through the day, or to help enjoy the game. And ask yourself, who is really in charge here?

Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? [If I may add, who doesn’t even know what game he is at? ADF]

Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly.

In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things. You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast.

“They struck me,” you will say, “but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake? I must have another drink.” (Proverbs 23:29-35; emphasis added)

Society says is cool.

But Scripture says you are a fool.

After what I saw at the game, I was reminded of the absolute truth of that Biblical claim. I may not be as “cool” as some people, but you know what? I actually remember the game I went to watch and can share every memory of it with joy and with no shame.

Now that sounds cool to me!


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

Streep, Trump, or the Holy Bible?

This week the buzz was actress Meryl Streep’s speech at the Golden Globes. Her obvious disdain for the president-elect sounded out in a quiet room of actors and actresses and rumbled across the landscape of America. In response came a few tweets from Donald Trump, discounting the comments and defending himself. I know for myself personally it was no fun to watch from either side, and nothing was accomplished that made for peace and tranquility in a nation already divided.
There was one thing, however, that immediately crossed my mind. As this was all being digested by Americans I wondered to myself just how much, really, do people let public figures influence what they think? Do we side with one person’s view over another because they have a political stance that is closer to our own? Do we believe in them because they are rich and famous, or because we like them, or because they have social acceptance or political clout?
People are fallible. Even if they have good intentions we need to be very careful about ever putting our trust in people. If you are like me, you have been burned on several occasions when you really liked someone and admired them and even championed them in some fashion, only to have them do something that was so overly horrendous that you were embarrassed to admit that you had ever even been a fan.
I am reminded that the only person we can ever imitate completely and without reservation is Jesus. The only communicated code we can allow to influence and shape our views is the Holy Bible. The words of the Lord are pure words, they are righteous, true, holy, and without partiality. God’s message is love and grace and mercy to all, balanced with perfect discipline and judgment. Morality begins and ends with God, as does absolute truth and the peace which can only be found in complete obedience and surrender to His perfect will.
Let Hollywood and government and the media and every other realm of social order say what they want to say. We will continue to live within our society, obey the laws of the land, and respect the authority under which we have been placed. But let the record show that God my Father reigns in heaven, that Jesus the Son is my only example and my Savior, and that the blessed Holy Spirit dwells in me and will be the ultimate influence on what I think and believe as I read the Holy Word He has delivered.
“What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, ‘That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged’” – Romans 3:3-4
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It’ll Never be the Same Again

The picture reproduced here is an image of the way things used to be. It is also an image of the way things had never been before. 

Four of us used to gather around a table to eat – just like the picture shows. In that way, the picture shows the way things used to be. 

Four of us had never gathered around a table at a Panera Bread in Nashville. In that way, the picture shows the way things never had been before. 

This picture was taken on the next to last day of 2016. It was taken close to the end of a whirlwind and emotional week for the “Faughn Family of Four.” 

On Sunday of that week, I had preached for the last time as the full-time minister for the Central church of Christ in Paducah, Kentucky. I completed sixteen years of work with that congregation in that capacity and over thirty-eight years as a full-time gospel preacher. On Monday of that week, our family finally got together to open Christmas presents and enjoy some time together for a few days. 

On Wednesday, our son and his family left for their home in Haleyville, Alabama. On Thursday, our daughter and her family left for their home in Cookeville, Tennessee.

On Friday, the four of us met in Nashville because our son is a life-long Nebraska Cornhuskers fan. He had never had the opportunity to see them play in person, but they were to play later on that Friday in the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tennessee.

His wife had surprised him with a ticket to the game as a Christmas present. Our son-in-law did the legwork and secured that ticket and three more so that the four of us could enjoy the game together. (Yes, all the rest of us paid for our own tickets.) 

As you can see from the picture, his sister (our daughter) probably enjoyed the game more than he did. She has become a Tennessee Volunteers fan and, as you may know, the Vols beat the Huskers on that Friday.

It wasn’t about wins and losses on that Friday, though. It was about the four of us being together. It was about, as my late mother-in-law used to say, “making memories.”

The four of us spent a little time that Friday trying to remember when it was that just the four of us did something special like this together. None of us could come up with a definite answer to that. There have been some changes over the years. For one thing, when the family got together earlier that week for Christmas, there were not just four of us. There were eleven of us. 

While I could not come up with a specific memory of the last time the four of us did something special together, I did come up with a very distinct memory. I remember very well the night before we took our daughter to Freed-Hardeman University in order for her to begin her freshman year there. 

I remember the four of us lying on a bed together and “just talking.” I can remember all four of us crying.

As long as I have a memory, I will never forget something her brother said that night. Through the tears, he said, “It’ll never be the same again.”

I’m not sure he realized then how right he was. In the years since that statement was made, there have been more changes than I need to document here. There have been changes in the composition, ages, and locations of our family. Degrees have been earned. Careers have changed. Loved ones have been lost. The list could go on and on.

The words of a song that we sometimes sing present a pretty accurate view of the changes we all experience. The words also present to us some valuable admonition/advice.   

Time is filled with swift transition –

Naught of earth unmoved can stand.

Build your hopes on things eternal,

Hold to God’s unchanging hand.

Along with the admonition and advice in that song, I would add the following from one who has lived long enough to see more changes than I can remember.

Treasure time with your family and others with whom you share your life. Do all you can to make good memories. Do not take any moment, event, or experience for granted. 

Remember that it’ll never be the same again.


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AUTHOR: JIM FAUGHN

[Quote] Mark Twain on the Beauty of Forgiveness

Why Christianity is More Than “Just As I Am”

I love the song, “Just As I Am.” The words–especially the opening lyrics–are some of the most soul-stirring that we sing.

Just as I am without one plea,

But that Thy blood was shed for me,

And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,

O Lamb of God, I come; I come.

The concept is simple, but so moving. When we come to Jesus, we are not already “cleaned up” from our sin. Instead, we realize that only His blood can cleanse us, so we come just as we are.

If I am one who has a problem with alcohol, I admit it and let the blood of Jesus forgive me.

If I struggle with homosexuality, I come with that sin and allow Jesus’s blood to take that sin away.

If I am a gossip, I come with that struggle, realizing that Christ is my only hope.

But then, the struggle continues.

One of the hard things about becoming a Christian is that too many do not realize just how strongly we will be tempted after we put Christ on in baptism. Though we are cleansed of our sin at the point of being baptized, we are still tempted, and sometimes very strongly. Satan continues to war against our soul and, sadly, we often give in.

But for some, they carry the idea of “Just as I Am” too far in their Christian life.

Here’s what I mean. We live in a time when there are many people who wear the name of Christ, but who also say that we should be like the world so that we can win the world to Him.

If you have friends who drink, they say we should go ahead and drink some, but just make sure to talk about Jesus over your glasses of wine or while knocking back a few beers during the game on Saturday afternoon. That way, you are showing that a Christian is just another person, not some holier-than-thou saint.

If the people around you use coarse language, then, by all means, go ahead and use that same kind of language, just so long as you throw in some gospel with it. That way, others will see that you aren’t “too good” to talk to.

If the community around you isn’t very church-going, then why have services on Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, or even on Sunday for that matter? Just move worship to whenever you choose, without regard for the dictates of Scripture. That way, people will see that the church isn’t out of touch with the culture.

When people act this way, they give reasons that sound very kindhearted. They are reaching people that the church doesn’t care about, they say. They aren’t judgmental in the way most Christians are. They are showing people that Christians are just people and still have struggles.

That all sounds good, but let’s think just for a moment. Is this the way the world was won for the Lord? Do we have the God-given right to reach the world this way?

Paul went to Corinth and brought the Gospel with him. Can you for even one second imagine Paul going to the pagan temple prostitutes and committing such sins, just so he could show people that he was “just like the culture”? After all, that’s what was popular in that society, so shouldn’t he have just fit in, so they would see that he was just another guy?

Yes, Jesus went to people who struggled with many sins, but Jesus never took part in those sins in order to win them over. Instead, He lovingly confronted them, all the while remaining pure.

When Peter and the other apostles were accused of being drunk on the Day of Pentecost, they did not wear that accusation as a badge of honor which showed they were just like other people. Instead, they defended their purity and taught a very powerful message about salvation in Christ.

When we choose to do sinful things we are not shining the light of Christ. We are dimming our lamp.

I am not perfect. I came to Jesus “just as I [was]” in 1990, but I still sin at times. I readily admit that.

However, I do not wear my sins as a badge of honor, or as some way through which I can win other people to the Lord.

Instead, I see the sins I commit as an affront to a Holy God, a rebellion against the undeserved sacrifice His Son made on my behalf, and as the exact opposite of the example I need to show before a watching world. I am ashamed when I sin, not proud that it makes me look just like other people.

So, while it may start with “Just as I Am,” maybe our kids have it right when they sing the little words, “He’s still workin’ on me!”

Let’s not try to be like the sinful world in order to win the world to a sinless Christ. Let’s show them how beautiful and pure heaven will be, all the while realizing that we need to continue to realize, confess, and repent of our sins.

“Do not change yourselves to be like the people of this world, but be changed within by a new way of thinking.” (Romans 12:2, NCV)


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn