Press On!

I confess. I searched Pinterest for an idea for this article. But as soon as I saw it, I knew. The following quote is one that should be second-nature to me as a Special Education teacher. I often beg parents to celebrate gains instead of fixating on goals that seem unreachable. That said, sometimes we all need to be reminded. So, without further ado, here is the brilliant yet simple quote that gave me inspiration:

“Applaud progress, not perfection.”

Isn’t this what the Apostle Paul was trying to encourage in his readers when he said:

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)

As a teacher of students who have deficits they are trying to overcome, I celebrate the gains. If I don’t, it is very easy for my students to feel defeated and want to quit. By third and fourth grade they realize that they may have to try harder than some of their friends. It is my job to help them close those gaps and celebrate their progress on the way. That’s why I reward effort as much as ends. Yes, we have goals, but we publicize and praise each positive step toward that goal.

In terms of my spiritual life, I certainly know that I haven’t made it to perfection! And boy does Satan like to make me concentrate on those flaws. He knows that if he can make me feel worthless I won’t keep striving forward! But I do see progress in myself. I see growth in areas of former weakness even though new areas of need may arise.

And thankfully, we have a Father who praises effort. Consider the parable of the talents in Matthew 25. The only servant who was chastised is the one who made no effort. The servant with a gain of two talents was praised in the same way as the one who gained 5.

Instead of letting Satan discourage you with your mistakes, let God encourage you for your efforts: “…if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Jesus did tell His followers to “be perfect” even as their Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). This command is there to point us to the goal.

Like Paul, let us all “press on!”

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AUTHOR: Amber Tatum

Leaders Must Come Down from the Mountain

Leadership is a difficult thing. Whether it is a parent in the home, elders in the Lord’s church, or one who runs a business, there is a responsibility inherent in leadership that can cause all sorts of issues.

One of those issues is the “mountaintop leader.” This is the leader (or group of leaders) who sees their role as giving dictates from on high, never to be questioned by the people down at the bottom of the mountain. Their authority is never to be questioned, and they have no desire to get down in the middle of the regular folks and be a real person around them. After all, doing that might make them look weak.

But I want you to consider two leaders in Scripture and how one simple act–coming down from the mountain–disproves this mindset.


Few would dispute that Moses was one of the greatest leaders, not just in Old Testament times, but of all time. He organized and led hundreds of thousands of people (if not millions) out of Egyptian slavery and through a 40-year period in the wilderness.

But on one occasion, Moses went up on the mountain. There he received the 10 Commandments. What an amazing experience that had to be, as he interacted with God in receiving those tablets of stone that would be the foundation of the civilization of the Israelites.

It would be interesting to think about Moses staying on top of Mount Sinai and just yelling out these commands to the people. After all, these laws had literally come from God Himself!

However, that is not how Moses delivered these laws. He came down from the mountain to share the laws, and then he lived under those same laws with the rest of the people. While he was still in charge, he was one of the people and was himself subject to the same laws.

But it all started with coming down from the mountain instead of yelling some series of commands from on high.


The greatest sermon ever preached is the Sermon on the Mount, recorded in Matthew 5-7. In that sermon, Jesus set the course for what He was going to be doing in His ministry and caused all who heard Him to think deeply about more than just law-keeping, but about heart and motive.

In fact, so powerful was this message that the people “were astonished at His teaching, for He was teaching as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:28-29).

But chapter 8 of Matthew begins with this important phrase: “When He came down from the mountain” (verse 1). The text tells us of a leper who sought healing from Jesus.

Did this leper not know who he was talking to? This was the man with authority! This was obviously a great leader.

Yet Jesus healed this leper because it was time to come down from the mountain and live a life that reflected the message He had just taught.


Yes, leaders must go “on the mountain” at times. They are leaders, after all, and sometimes that means they must get away or say things that are from that authoritative place.

But too many leaders stay up on the mountain, and when they do, they lose nearly all credibility with those they are trying to lead. They seem standoffish. It seems they feel they are above the law. They seem to lack personality. At times, they almost seem nonhuman.

So, leaders, come down from the mountain. Be among the people. Live by the rules. Work side-by-side. Get your hands dirty.

When you do, you may just be amazed at how many people are willing to follow your leadership.

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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

Dealing with Disappointment

Warning! What I am about to write here may depress you. From a counseling perspective, it is probably the worst approach and advice anyone could ever give. But guess what? This world is full of disappointment and some of it you will likely never get over. This is just truth. This is why this world is not our home. Sometimes life is just disappointing and difficult.

People deal with disappointment every day. There is what people wish for and then there is their real life. Maybe they wish they had more physical blessings. Maybe they wish they had a certain portion of ability or talent in some area in which they will never excel. Perhaps people want a strong relationship but are either unable to find that special someone or they are lonely in their marriage. Maybe people are unhealthy and they can’t seem to get well no matter how many doctors they visit. Maybe everything they have ever wanted and have sacrificed to achieve has never come to be.

How do you deal with that? If your heart is completely set on something that never happens, how do you deal with the realization that your dream has to end? Hope is a powerful thing…so when the object of your hope is not going to be realized, when all hope is lost, what then?

We need to realize that the real problem is that we have often misappropriated our hope. Psalm 49 speaks of those who set their hope and trust in temporary things: wealth, possessions, positions, earthly relationships. It explains further that people assume they will keep these things, that their land will stay in the family, and that their houses will always be theirs to live in. In reality, nothing earthly lasts.

Even people married over 50 years will eventually lose their spouse. And nothing we have here in a physical sense can we take with us to the grave. Our health is going to fail. Our days of glory are going to fade. As we age we go through series of losses – so misappropriated hope is going to lead to disappointment every single time.

Notice these words from the apostle Peter – “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:13, emphasis added). He is saying, get it together, people! Start thinking correctly and get in your right mind! Hope is supposed to be eternal in its direction. The only thing fully sufficient is grace. The only One who will never disappoint us is Jesus.

While we lose our health, he heals us on the inside. While we lose our possessions, he is building us a mansion in glory. While we lose our relationships, he will never leave us or forsake us. He is the only real thing, the only sure thing, and the only faithful thing. We can trust in Him. We can hope in Him, We can believe in Him. He is all any of us will ever need.

How do we deal with disappointment? Just know it’s coming from time to time in different forms. And when it comes – give me Jesus! Jesus knows. Jesus understands. Jesus cares. Jesus loves. Jesus delivers.

There’s a balm in Gilead.

“Come, and let us return to the Lord; For He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; On the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight.” – Hosea 6:1-2.

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AUTHOR: Jeremiah Tatum

What is the Greatest Challenge for a Preacher?

Many who will be reading these words may be aware that I “retired” from full-time preaching at the end of 2016. I used the quotation marks because I have not stopped preaching altogether. It is just that I am no longer the full-time located preacher for one particular congregation. 

As I think back on my (almost) forty years of full-time located work and as I consider the role in which I am presently trying to serve, I am aware of any number of challenges faced by preachers of the gospel. It seems to me that many of those challenges would fall under two broad headings:

  • Time management – How does a preacher find adequate time to fulfill all of his roles; not only in the local congregation, but also to his family, community, the brotherhood at large, etc.? How does he find time for his own personal devotional time? When does he have time “just for himself?”
  • Expectations – Unless you’ve served as a preacher, you cannot possibly have any idea about all of the (often conflicting) expectations that people have. It is even difficult to imagine all of the different “categories” into which various expectations would be placed. In addition to these challenges, a preacher is also aware that the One whom he serves has some very definite expectations. The preacher is also very aware of the fact that this is the only set of expectations that truly matters.

While there are many, many more categories (and subcategories) that could be mentioned and discussed, I would like to “turn the clock back” about half a century. To be specific, I would like to turn the clock back to a moment in time when a man made a prediction that, sadly, has proven to be true.

In 1966, a group of young men were students at what was then known as Alabama Christian College. The name of that institution has changed in the intervening years, but, in my opinion, the message delivered to those who were preparing to preach the gospel of Christ is as relevant today as it was then. In fact, I would argue that it is even more relevant now than it was then.

According to some material I read fairly recently, the late brother W. B. West is quoted as saying the following words to those who were in attendance on that day:

Young men, the challenge you will face in your preaching life will be about the authority of the scriptures.

I graduated from high school in 1966. I can very easily think of a long list of things that could have been discussed. The authority of the scriptures would not have even been on my list. As I reflect on this, it seems to me that many of the things that might have been on my list were only peripheral issues. 

I may not be alone in this. It seems to me that many of the issues being discussed at the time by gospel preachers and others might have missed the main point. I am not trying to imply that these discussions were a waste of time. Some important issues were discussed and clarified. 

Many, if not almost all, of those discussions concerned the proper way to interpret scripture. There was much less discussion about the validity of scripture. It was typically assumed that the scriptures were authoritative. Most of the disagreements that arose were about how the scriptures authorized and/or what they authorized. 

It seems that brother West may have put his finger on something that others may have overlooked. Apparently, he was aware of forces already at work that would undermine the entire concept of the scriptures being authoritative at all. 

He was right. 

We now live in an environment in which men who have chosen to give their lives to preaching the saving message of the gospel of Christ all too often find themselves delivering that message to people who no longer believe the scriptures to be authoritative. It is increasingly fashionable today to view the Bible as a collection of uninspired “stories” or “myths” written by uninspired men. 

Sadly, some of those people who have abandoned any real respect for the scriptures are sitting in the pews in church buildings on a regular basis. It is even more sad to have to acknowledge the undeniable fact that some of those men who are behind the pulpits are in that same category.

If you know a preacher who truly believes in the authority of the scriptures, I would request that you do two things:

  • Express your gratitude for him. Express that gratitude to God and to him.
  • Pray for him. He is facing more challenges than most of us can imagine.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:  That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works (2 Tim. 3:16-17, KJV).

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AUTHOR: Jim Faughn

Episode 99: The Importance of Teaching the Whole Bible in Elementary Bible School Programs [Podcast]

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We all know it is important to teach the Bible in Bible school, but on this week’s podcast, Adam and Leah talk about the importance of teaching the whole Bible, and share tips and resources to help a congregation do just that. This is part one of a two-part series on this subject.

Below, you will see some of the resources that can help you get started.


Shaping Hearts for God

Egermeier’s Bible Story Book [Amazon]

Free Bible Images

Photograph of Bible Timeline at 9th Avenue [Facebook]

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Thank You for Thursday Mornings

I was sitting in a ladies’ class at the recent Freed-Hardeman Lectureship. It was one of the early sessions held in the lobby of one of the dorms, and it was a little less formal than some of the other sessions. 

Most of the sessions begin with a song and a prayer before the presentation begins. On this particular morning a young lady, who was a student at FHU, was leading the prayer. She began with these words, “Father, thank you for Thursday mornings…”

I had never heard it expressed like that before and it made me think about my own gratitude for each day of the week and the blessings I encounter on those days.

Do I ever say “Father, thank you for Mondays?” The beginning of the work week for so many people should be one for which we are thankful. Earning a living and providing for the welfare of our families should give us feelings of gratefulness, but far too often we hear about anything but thankfulness for Monday mornings. My routine on Mondays usually has to do with paying bills, straightening up the house, and beginning the laundry, before I sit at my desk to study my Bible and work on other writing projects. (I’m writing this on Monday morning!) I’ve never once thought specifically about thanking God for Monday mornings.

Tuesday mornings bring new events for me. I study on Tuesday mornings, usually meet friends for lunch before going to Ladies’ Bible class, and then grocery shopping and running errands. Not once have I said, “Father, thank you for Tuesday mornings.”

Wednesdays may break the mold for me. I’m almost positive I said thank you for Wednesdays many times when I was teaching school. You see, the middle of the week meant the weekend was in sight, and we would be on the downhill side of the work week. Instead, I should have been saying, “Father, thank you for Wednesday mornings.” I should have prayed, “This is the day I get to meet with my brothers and sisters in Christ and study from your word.” It is the “pick-me-up” we so desperately need when trying to live the Christian life.

Am I thankful to God for Thursday mornings? On that day I usually spend some of my time writing and doing some of the tasks to make life run smoothly at home. Thursdays are usually the night Jim and I like to invite folks into our home for dinner when we can.

Fridays tend to be a day of winding down from the workweek. Lots of couples have a date night and take in a movie or have dinner out. I was always thankful for Fridays, but I’m not sure I expressed it to my Father.

Saturdays tend to be a day of recreation or a time of catching up on household chores if you have worked all week. Are we grateful for having the time and the ability to take care of those projects around the house?

In case you think I have forgotten about the first day of the week, trust me, I have not. The Lord’s day, Sunday, is that wonderful day we get to gather and offer our worship to our Father. But have I ever said, “Thank you, Father, for Sundays?” Have I expressed in my prayers to Him how very much I appreciate this day of worship – the songs, prayers, study, opportunity to give, and the wonderful time of remembrance about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus as we gather around the Lord’s table?

I know that your list of activities for each day would be much different than mine, but that is really beside the point. The point I want to make is that each day is a blessing from God no matter what challenges it brings.

Thank you, Father, for a young woman who began her prayer with “Thank you for Thursday mornings,” which caused me to realize that there are no ordinary days – they are each a gift from God.

“This is the day that the Lord has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)

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AUTHOR: Donna Faughn

The Hardest Part of Agape Love

Well, it’s Valentine’s Day, which means love and romance are in the air. For about a month leading up to this day, you can’t walk into Wal-Mart or Target without being knocked over by the combination of red hearts and pink banners.

We are (hopefully) wise enough to realize that the type of love that is most often promoted and celebrated on Valentine’s Day is more romantic and attractional. While a wonderful type of love, it is far from being the deepest love one can express to another.

That love was the one the Greeks called agape, and it is the type of love we see often in the New Testament. For example, it is agape that is used in “the love chapter” of 1 Corinthians 13. It is agape

The word carries a very deep idea. I like to define it as “others-centered, self-sacrificial love.” It always seeks what is the ultimate best for the other person. To state the matter bluntly, true agape love takes effort and is difficult.

Knowing that, what is the hardest part of this type of love? To answer that question, some might return to 1 Corinthians 13 and start surveying those descriptions found there (“love is patient and kind,” etc.). Eventually, they might come across one of those descriptions with which they struggle and say that must be the hardest part.

I disagree.

While agape takes a strong effort and while I might struggle with one or more of the traits of this powerful type of love, I want to suggest that there is something far more difficult about agape that makes it difficult.

What is it? It is that, even with all the effort and struggle of one person, agape can still be rejected.

Think about it. God is love (agape), and He showers that love to all people. Still, how many people reject His perfect love? To ask is to answer.

Yet, despite all those countless rejections, God’s nature will not allow Him to stop being agape and demonstrating this type of love (see Romans 5:6-10). It goes on, perfectly, through all time, despite rejection after rejection.

And God demands that we do our best to be people of this type of love toward one another. Christians are to love one another (1 John 3:11). Husbands are to love their wives (Ephesians 5:25). Christians are even commanded to love their enemies (Matthew 5:44). In each instance, the word is agape, which means we put forward the effort, but that love might be rejected.

It takes more than candy, flowers, and dressing up to express this type of love. Today, let’s enjoy the romantic and attractional side of love, but may we never forget that the deepest kind of love takes work, and Christians are commanded to live it out constantly…

…even if we never receive it in return from another person.

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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

Are You One of the Good Guys?

Recently I was listening to a friend of mine as he was talking about growing up and imagining things while playing outside. He talked about all of the imaginary bad guys he used to defeat in his backyard. It occurred to me that this was just his style. You see, in real life he grew up to be one of the good guys. He became a Christian and he learned to care about souls and he wants to make a difference in the kingdom. It made my heart glad to see that a young boy who wanted to defeat the bad guys grew up to do that very thing in real life.

What about you? Have you grown up to be one of the good guys?

You are one of the good guys if you aspire to help others. What gives you joy? It’s what makes people cry happy tears that tells us so much about them. Do you rejoice when others are delivered from their struggle? Do you celebrate when good things happen for others? Does it make you happy when justice comes? If so, then you might be one of the good guys.

You are one of the good guys if you follow through with good intentions. The Bible says of Jesus that he “…went about doing good, and healing all those who were oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38). It’s not enough to just aspire to help others, we actually have to go about doing it. It is a lifestyle. Thinking about doing good is not enough.  Someone once said that, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

You are one of the good guys if you rarely think about yourself. The number one problem in the world may not as well be defined as sin, as it would be selfishness. Selfishness is the fuel behind every thought or deed ever done that will automatically end with a bad result. Our Savior defined love as keeping God’s commandments (John 14:15). That’s not selfish, but selfless. He said the greatest commandments were to love God supremely and to secondly love our neighbor as ourselves (Matt. 22:37-29). Only the humble selfless person can love the way God loves.

You are one of the good guys if you are willing to fight for what is right in the world.  I’m thinking again of my friend. He wanted to beat the bad guys. This meant it was more than an idea for him but something for which he was willing to sacrifice. My ten-year-old daughter explained to me yesterday that the baseball bat under her bed was for whacking potential robbers in the back of the head. I think she’s one of the good guys. She not afraid of defending the territory of the innocent and free.

With all of the evil in this world, I think it’s a good idea to be thinking about being one of the good guys. Because the good guys always win in the end. And although in reality only God is good all the time, it’s going to be the good guys who will eventually graduate to that heavenly country.

“Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.” – James 4:17

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AUTHOR: Jeremiah Tatum

Will They Know?

I am typing these words on a Sunday afternoon. I wanted to type them while a conversation I had this morning is still fresh on my mind. 

There are two brothers where I worship who are seeing to the needs of their mother. Their mother also is one of our members. She lost her husband a year or so ago. Before his passing, he was concerned that his wife was “slipping” mentally. She continues to live alone, but there are signs that she is, indeed, not as sharp as she once was. I know that, on those occasions when I have visited with her in her home, she repeats herself quite often.

Both of her sons are on her checking account. As many of us have done when our parents begin to age, this step has been taken in order to simplify some matters.

According to the son with whom I was talking, the normal procedure on Sunday is for one of the sons to fill out their mother’s check for her contribution to the church. She then signs the check. 

This week, though, there was a change. The son made out the check and then, without thinking, he signed his name to it.

According to him and his wife, his mother became very concerned and asked, ”Will they know?” When she was assured that the bank knew that both of her sons were on the account, her response was, “I know that the bank knows, but will the church know?”

The family assured her that our congregation does not have some sort of “check list” in order to keep track of those who do and do not contribute money each Sunday. I am aware of the fact that there are some legal reasons to record single contributions that exceed a certain amount. I am also aware of the fact that our treasurer could probably produce a list of those who contribute on a regular basis. In fact, he might even be able to inform somebody of the amount.

During the past (almost) four decades, I have served three different congregations as either a preacher and/or as an elder. During that time, I have made a personal policy to not know what individual members and families contribute financially. 

There are many reasons for my decision. Let me share with you only three of them.

First, I want to avoid the temptations that might be involved in “playing favorites.” If I knew that certain individuals or families were very generous in their giving to the local church, I might be tempted to “cater” to them, fail to confront them, etc. 

Second, I also want to avoid “judging” somebody unfairly. There is always the possibility that I could look down upon somebody because they are not meeting my standards. I suppose that a sort or “corollary” to this is that I might not have all of (or not any of) the facts. I might assume that the resources of a certain family or individual are much greater than they actually are.     

The third, and (in my mind) most important reason for my “policy” is closely related to that second reason. Nobody ever said that anyone needs to meet my standards. All of us, including me, are to be judged by the same One who watched people put money “into the treasury” (Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4). 

As you may remember, the Lord was not impressed with those who “gave of their abundance.” Rather, He was pleased with only the two mites given by a poor widow. To other observers, that amount was probably not much. The Lord, though, knew it was “all that she had.”

I am not too concerned about whether or not “they” know what I contribute financially to the cause of Christ each Sunday, but I am well aware of the fact that the same One who was watching those people when He was on earth is still watching me from His throne in heaven.

Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written,

‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall confess to God.’

So then each of us will give an account of himself to God (Rom. 14:10-12, ESV).

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AUTHOR: Jim Faughn

Who Held the Rope?

Today’s post is short and sweet but I hope it encourages you. Recently, Clarence Deloach asked the question that is the title of this article at Willow Avenue. He was referencing the events from Acts 9 where the Jews were unhappy with Saul’s newfound knowledge of, and enthusiasm for, the truth so they plotted to kill him. Fortunately for hundreds – maybe thousands – of future Christians, the plot was discovered and Saul was saved by being lowered over the city walls in a basket.

But the question remains, “Who held the rope?” You see, we know about Saul (turned Paul) and his great acts of evangelism. But none of that might have happened had it not been for those holding the ropes that allowed for his escape.

This made me think of the words in 1 Corinthians 12 where we read that God is the distributor of gifts and abilities, all of which are given “for the common good” (verse 7). In Romans 12:6 we read that no matter the gift we are given, we are to “use them.”

Some of the men who held the ropes lowering Saul to safety may have been great scholars or eloquent speakers, but what if they weren’t? What if they were “average” Christians with gifts of courage and strength? Where would the New Testament church have been had they chosen not to use their gifts?

The application is simple: whatever your gift, use it. If we don’t “hold the rope” we may be hindering great evangelism.

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might…” Ecclesiastes 9:10

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AUTHOR: Amber Tatum