Category Archives: Church Life

It May be Poisonous

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Last week when we were walking across the church parking lot my daughter showed me a medium-sized berry she had pulled off of one of the trees. My first reaction was to ask why she was pulling anything off a tree without permission. But that immediately became unimportant when I saw her motion to put this unknown object in her mouth. “Don’t eat that!” “Why not?” “Because it’s probably poisonous!” I couldn’t believe I had just gone there. I had been somewhat distracted by all of the other people that had been trying to talk to the preacher and that was a quick fix. I had no idea if it was poisonous or not. It was just one of those things that parents say to put a stop to something. Truthfully I did not know what she had gotten into. So it was time to do a more thorough investigation and have a follow-up discussion as to why she could not eat what she had picked.

I first explained that I did not really know if it was poisonous or not, and that I was sorry if I had misled her. I went on to say that we don’t eat what we don’t know. So I made her discard the item and told her since I was her dad and I loved her that I could not just let her eat something that might be unsafe. She seemed to be pretty satisfied with that explanation. So she chucked it. Her inquisitive mind was won over by a loving appeal from her daddy for her physical well-being.

This incident is not too far removed from our spiritual walk with our own heavenly Father. We often happen upon things that look good, but our level of judgment and education about this thing may be limited. We may convince ourselves the fruit will taste good for whatever reason. Then we may likely ingest it before we know what the consequences will be. The fact is that it may be perfectly harmless. It might not be poisonous at all. But wisdom still says you need to know what you’re eating before you put it in your mouth.

That’s life. Not everything that looks good is good for you. So God’s loving discipline forbids us from taking part in certain things that we may desire. God knows more than we do and His warnings are meant for our protection. A god who is not so loving would just let us do whatever we wanted to do and show no concern. But a rational plea to our sense of discernment from a loving father will often talk us out of doing something that may be harmful. At the end of the day, we will be content knowing that he cares. And even though we didn’t get to do it our way we have someone who loves us too much to let us hurt ourselves because of our lack of knowledge and our human weakness.

And I am pretty sure that we will decide fairly quickly to chuck that fruit that for a moment had appeared to be so exciting. Because heavenly love tastes so much better than any berries we pick in the parking lot.

“You will guide me with Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.” – Psalm 73:24

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I Know a Man in Christ

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When Paul wrote his second letter to the Corinthians he spoke of a time when he was caught up into the third heaven. 2 Corinthians 12:4 says more specifically that he was caught up into Paradise. For a few verses in this text, he speaks of himself in the third person with phrases like – “I know a man in Christ…” (2 Corinthians 12:2). His purpose in writing was to defend his apostleship to those who were speaking against him in the Corinthian church. So he briefly reflected on an instance that proved God’s seal upon him as an apostle, as one having the Spirit of God.

But I want to focus on his phrase, “I know a man in Christ.” While subtle, it conveys a very important set of circumstances that every person should consider:

1. To consider the idea of being “in Christ” is to consider a specific identity. Not everyone is in Christ. Paul said elsewhere that those who are baptized into Christ have put on (lit. “have been clothed with) Christ (Gal. 3:27). Paul himself came into a relationship with Christ when he decided to “arise and be baptized” and wash away his sins, calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16). We are not in Christ unless we decide to obey the gospel and allow ourselves by the grace of God and the blood of Jesus to be placed in Him.

2. To be “in Christ” is to be separated from the world and owned by God. Again, Paul related his conversion as a complete change of state when he said, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). Having been purchased by blood Paul understood that he was no longer in charge of His life (Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 6:19-20).

3. To “know a man in Christ” is, for a Christian, a great blessing. I know a lot of people. But not everyone I know is in Christ. I have dear friends who I pray for daily, who never leave my mind because they are not yet in Christ. I love them, but I know I can never fully have them as a part of my family as long as they have not been redeemed by the blood of Jesus and adopted into the New Testament church. On the other hand, every week I see many people in Christ with whom I worship and with whom I experience spiritual family living. My greatest joys include the fellowship I have with those in Christ.

4. To not be “in Christ” is to sadly be nothing at all. It was Marshall Keeble who was first known to say that a “Christian without ‘Christ’ leaves only ‘ian.’ And those three letters just stand for ‘I ain’t nothing!’” How true that is! We will never fulfill our purpose without the Son of God and the Savior of the world. He is our Redeemer. He is the solution to our sin problem. He is grace and truth. He is our only avenue to the Father in heaven (John 14:6). What hope do we have, and what life are we living, if we are not in Christ?

When Paul spoke of knowing a man in Christ, he was actually referring to himself. This was his confidence – not that he was special, but that Christ was special, and that by the grace of God he had been allowed to belong to the One he once ignorantly persecuted.

I am thankful, that I, like Paul, can look into the mirror and say, “I know a man in Christ.” If you cannot say the same, friend, then what are you waiting for?

“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” – Romans 8:1

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An Appropriate Place for “George”

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What you are about to read is the very first paragraph of an uncorrected proof of a book that is scheduled for publication on August 25, 2015. Let’s see if you find anything strange about that paragraph:

George pulled a silver house key out of the smallest pocket of a large red backpack. Mom had sewn the key in so that it wouldn’t get lost, but the yarn wasn’t quite long enough to reach the keyhole if the bag rested on the ground. Instead, George had to steady herself awkwardly on one foot while the backpack rested on her other knee. She wiggled the key until it clicked into place.

It wasn’t really too difficult to catch, was it? Somebody named George was referred to as “herself,” “her,” and “she.”

The publisher of this book is Scholastic Press. As you probably already know, the target audience for Scholastic Press is young people; especially young people involved in public education. 

The person who allowed me to borrow a copy of this book is both a public school teacher and a Christian sister. From both of these perspectives, she is appalled that anybody would publish anything like George for people of any age to read. I join with her in being appalled at the specific agenda and target audience for this book.

Enclosed with the book was a letter from The Editors at Scholastic Reading Club. I will reproduce below (without comment) almost all of the letter. The only information I am not including is the place to provide feedback and the thanks from the editors to those who have a “…commitment to getting books into your students’ hands…”

Please read the bulk of the letter very carefully. You will find both the message the book is sending and the target age group to whom it is being sent.

Dear Reading Club Teacher,

Our commitment at Scholastic Reading Club is to bring you books that open the world to you and your students–to help them find themselves and others in literature.

George by Alex Gino is scheduled for publication on August 25, 2015. It is s special novel starring an eight-year-old girl named Melissa, who was born a boy named George.

George, the middle grade novel, just like George, the character, faces head-on a complex subject that is very much in public discourse. We wanted you to have a chance to read it prior to publication.

Everyone who’s read George has been talking about it, in both the Scholastic offices and in the publishing community. Librarians and bookstores have said that there is a place for George on their shelves, and we would like to invite you to join the conversation. What do you think of George, and do you see a place for it in your classroom?

I had planned to write a letter to Scholastic Press, but could not find a physical address for them. I did find a place on their website where I could–and did–express my opinion about this book. If you would like to do the same, I sent my message to this location: http://scholastic.custhelp.com/app/ask

It is my opinion that the only appropriate place for a book of this nature is in the trashcan. What do you think?

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Book cover photo via Scholastic Book Club

Filling Your Ears with Truth: An Overview of The Light Network

[NOTE: Our guest post this week comes to us from Robert Hatfield. To learn more about Robert, check out his bio at the end of today’s article.]

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Perhaps there has never been a more fertile time for Christian growth than right now. For years, New Testament Christians have used technologies such as radio, film strips, television, CD’s, and DVD’s as a means of evangelism and spiritual edification. Advancements in technology have given rise to new media which not only provide us more outlets through which to spread the gospel, but also make it easier than ever to consume spiritually-focused media wherever you are.

Podcasting is one such medium that has enjoyed rapid growth in the past decade. A podcast is a program (audio or video) that is distributed over the Internet. Users may subscribe to their favorite shows to automatically receive the latest episodes on their smart phones.

In January 2013, a network of Christian podcasts was launched, known as The Light Network (TLN). Today, we have produced over 900 audio podcasts that have been heard all around the world and downloaded over 200,000 times. God has greatly blessed our work, and He deserves all of the glory.

TLN is committed to producing biblically sound, high-quality content that engages culture and encourages God’s people. Our twelve regular podcasts offer something for everyone. Most of our shows are weekly, but we have one daily podcast and one bi-weekly program.

We often hear from families who use The Light Network’s podcasts as family devotionals, for homeschooling, or for something good to play as they ride to the grocery store. Here are three things that The Light Network will do for you and your family.

1. The Light Network will encourage your soul. There’s enough negativity in the world. TLN is a place of hope and encouragement. Our hosts are not afraid to tackle the difficult subjects, but are careful to spend time focusing on the hope that the Bible offers. TLN’s podcasts help us escape the “Elijah mentality” of 1 Kings 19 by reminding us that we are not alone as Christians. Shows like Ready to Worship, Preachers in Training, TLN Specials, Late Night at TLN, and Under the Juniper Tree are designed to facilitate a community of like-minded listeners who are all working toward the same goal.

2. The Light Network will enlighten your mind. We want to bring you content that interjects Scripture into cultural conversations. The Bible is just as relevant today as it was when the Holy Spirit inspired the Bible’s penmen. Podcasts like Culture Shock, The Book Club, Light from the Past, and The Royal Family Podcast take current issues and expound God’s truth on the issues that are affecting our world.

3. The Light Network will empower your faith. Our goal is to give you what you need to live biblically today. We truly believe that faith is the victory that overcomes the world (1 John 5:4). Podcasts such as The New You, Arrows in Our Hand, and Wifey Wednesdays are especially focused on living lives that glorify God and lay hold on eternal life.

The newest season of our shows begins in just a few days, August 3, 2015, the Lord willing. Beginning then, you’ll find brand new, daily content from our shows.

Why not check out The Light Network and see what we have for you and your family? You can find all of our content – with more information about our shows, our hosts, and much more – by visiting our website at www.thelightnetwork.tv. You can also find us in the iTunes store, on Facebook, and on Twitter by searching for “The Light Network.”

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Robert Hatfield lives in Charleston, South Carolina with his wife, Emily. He preaches for the North Charleston church of Christ and directs The Light Network. Robert hosts The New You and Preachers in Training on TLN.

Love Wins

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Despite the title, this is not another article about the recent Supreme Court decision. For my personal beliefs on that issue, click here and/or here. If you struggle with your feelings toward our government and the direction our country is headed, I would direct you here or here.

That said, despite all of the misuse of the phrase “love wins,” love does, in fact, win!

Love wins in our marriages when a husband and wife follow the example Christ, given to us in Ephesians 5:25-33. Instead of a home where the battle for supremacy is waged at every turn, you have a unit functioning together in love: forgiving, supporting, encouraging, and helping each other as God would have us to do.

Love wins with our children when we “bring [our children] up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Instead of homes ruled by childish whims and tantrums, we will have homes where children are disciplined in love (Proverbs 13:24) and teaching is done through example, discussion, and instruction instead of yelling, demanding, and domineering. Love wins when our children respond in kind, respecting, obeying, and honoring their parents (Ephesians 6:1-3; Proverbs 31:28).

Love wins in our churches when members support each other and recognize the varying functions that God gave to each as He willed (1 Corinthians 12:11). When the behind-the-scenes members do not envy the public eye members and the public eye members learn to appreciate and validate the behind-the-scenes members, love lets them understand that all those gifts were distributed “for the common good” not for arguments and divisions (1 Corinthians 12:4-7).

The list could go on: love wins in our schools, our friendships, our workplaces … The list is infinite. That is because the Source of love is infinite. May we never forget the ultimate definition of love found in 1 John 4:7, “God is love.” In fact, reading 1 John 4 tells us that if we do not allow love to rule, we cannot even know God.

Love: not accept, tolerate, like, permit or condone.

Love – as defined and exemplified by God – wins every time.

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57)

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Shining Light for Darkness

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In Isaiah’s day, the prophet spoke of people who were putting “darkness for light and light for darkness” (Isaiah 5:20). The idea was basically that the people had gotten their moral bearings so wrong that what the Lord called evil, they called good, and vice versa. They were willing to say the things associated with darkness were actually light.

And then we come to America in 2015. Not only are we calling things that are dark light, we are actually lighting up the darkness to make it appear as if it is light.

For proof of that, just consider two buildings that have been lit up for darkness in recent days.

First, the White House, instead of simply being lit up in white as it is each evening, was lit up in rainbow colors. It just so happened this lighting decision was made on the evening that the Supreme Court of the United States legalized homosexual “marriage” across the land. Of course, the rainbow is a symbol of the gay pride movement, so our President was saying that our nation–since he lives in the “people’s house”–was accepting of this decision. By lighting up the White House in these colors, he was symbolically saying that America thinks this is an action of light. Scripture, however, affirms that practicing homosexuality is an act of darkness (Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Then, just a few days ago, the Empire State Building continued a tradition of lighting up the top few floors in green to celebrate the end of the Islam month of Ramadan. What drew the ire of most people, though, was that this was just hours after a Muslim had killed American servicepeople in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Still, the owners of the Empire State Building–a private building–decided to go ahead and celebrate Islam by making the top of the building resemble a green-domed mosque. They were, symbolically, stating that Islam is light. Scripture, on the other hand, affirms that there is only one way to God (John 14:6), and we are to worship no other than Jehovah alone (Exodus 20:3).

Throughout the Bible, there is an emphasis given on the need for true light in the world. There is also an emphasis, however, on how evil can get twisted and turned into what people think is the light, when in fact it is still darkness; it is still evil.

In John 3, Jesus stated:

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evi. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out by God. (John 3:19-21)

What a contrast that is to our world! Our world is not trying to run away from the light. Instead, our world is using light to shine evil and sin for all to see. Our world is using the symbol of light to try to say that evil is good.

What does this mean for us? It means we have to shine brighter as God’s people than we ever have. It means we need to always bring more light than heat to conversations and relationships. It means we have to continue to show that what the world calls good and light is actually still evil and darkness.

In short, it means we must be light, shine light, teach light, and walk in the light.

God did not call us to light up buildings. Instead, He commands us to let our own personal light shine, even in the midst of a dark world (Philippians 2:15), and always to His glory (Matthew 5:16). Are you shining?

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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

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Where Is Your Line?

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I wish I could remember the person with whom I was having the conversation. Unfortunately, I cannot, but I can very easily remember what I was told.

The conversation had to do with Disney World. The person with whom I was talking knew some of the “ins and outs” of that place.

I was told something that I thought was fascinating about the parade they have there every day. According to the information I was given, all of the floats, characters, etc. pass through gates at the conclusion of the parade. The people portraying the various Disney characters must remain in character until there is no chance of being seen by any of the tourists. “Mickey” has to stay in character longer than any of the others due to the fact that he rides high on a float. As I remember the information, there is a line that the characters in the parade must cross before they can go out of character.

To coin a phrase, the bottom line is that somebody has to stay in character until a line is crossed.

I wonder where my line is. I wonder where your line is. I wonder if we should even have a line.

What I am really wondering is this: Do I portray a character in certain environments and, after crossing some imaginary line, revert to my real self?  Am I in character on the job or at school and the real me when I get home? Am I in character at church and my real self elsewhere? Am I in character when I’m around people I want to impress, but the real me when I couldn’t care less about what somebody might think?

The scenarios and possibilities are almost endless. The bottom line is that our Lord calls us to be consistent in our behavior, our language, our dress, our choices of entertainment, and in every other area of life. Further, He calls us to be consistent in our attempt to please Him, not ourselves or others around us.

There is often much discussion about erasing lines that separate us. It is, indeed, true that socio-economic, racial, educational, and many other “lines” need to be erased by those who “…are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). It is also true that I need to have as my goal in life to erase any line that separates me from my Lord. 

Where is your line? I hope you don’t have one!

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How Families Can Encourage Children to be Missionaries

[NOTE: This week’s guest post comes from Jessica Markwood. To learn more about Jessica, check out her bio at the end of today’s post.]

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We often joke about praying for missionaries to rise up and spread the Gospel in this dark world … but that they’ll be someone else’s children. It’s difficult to wish our children into the sin-sick world where they risk disappointment, rejection, and their very lives. But it’s into that world that God sent His own Son, and the world into which God sends His children – perhaps your children – still. In a world increasingly harder to reach we must influence the youth in our lives to go increasingly farther. We must foster faith in them that carries Christ into the workplace, classroom, ghettoes, public sphere, and unreached ends of the earth. If we want children to grow in Christ we must prepare them to go for Christ.

Let them see you

The best way to encourage the young people in your life to live missionally is to set an example of living missionally. The only way to truly teach the Great Commission is to live it. Exemplifying a passion for God, dedication to prayer, drive toward evangelism, love for truth, submission to others, detachment from materialism, joy in living, and hope for Heaven will inspire the same in others.

Let them see God

The world doesn’t hold back any punches when it comes to living faithfully. Nothing challenges my faith more than encountering the struggles of a lost world. Regurgitating a family member’s faith doesn’t solve the problem of evil, eradicate poverty, save those who have never heard the gospel, explain the Trinity, or answer any number of difficult questions that the world asks. Children have to be personally transformed by the gospel before they can transform others with it. Raise them in spirit and in truth, but also to seek spirit and truth for themselves.

Let them see the world

Many of us are afraid of the world – for good reason. The news shows us war, pestilence, poverty, and corruption. But it’s far scarier than the media portrays. The world is terrifying because so much of it operates outside of the Kingdom of God. But for those within the Kingdom the world offers an incredible opportunity to bring hope to beautiful people of a despairing world. Families can neither shield children from the realities of the world nor paint a picture of the world bent on destruction. Children must be able to seek the good in the world, because they will never seek to save something they do not love. Just as God loved the world in such a way that He gave up his Son for it, so we must love the world enough to give up our children to advance Christ’s kingdom in it.

Let them experience diversity

Like a lot of other kids who were raised in the church, I grew up in a bubble. Everyone with whom I interact is just like me. Luckily, I had a pretty porous bubble that afforded me opportunities to interact with people of various worldviews. We are called to go into the world, but thanks to globalization, much of the world has come to us. Just outside the bubble stand people of various ages, backgrounds, economic brackets, ethnicities, political stances, sexual orientations, religious beliefs, and opinions. The experiences that expanded my comfort zone made the words “Muslim,” and “drug addict,” and “atheist” more than abstract groups of people. They are names. Those names are some of my biggest motivators to study Scripture, share Christ, and serve others. Effective missions are not fueled by intellect or obligation, but love.

Let them do what they love

We tend to limit our understanding of ministry. What’s so incredible about the body of Christ is that it doesn’t only function behind a pulpit, but also in the classroom, on the ball field, on social media, across the street, and across the world. I once thought the only thing I could do was teach children’s class, and let me tell you – children’s class is not my forte. As I grew I realized that there were infinite opportunities to minister to others doing things that I loved. The best way to ensure that your child loves ministry wherever they are is to teach them how to make ministries out of the things they love. Every passion is a way to reach a different group of people with a different service in a different way. Don’t put ministry in a box – make ministry their world.

Let them do the impossible

Nicholas Kristof, a non-religious human rights journalist, recently wrote an article about “Dr. Tom,” a Christian doctor diligently serving in the rural Nuba Mountains of South Sudan. Kristof notes, “…the people I’ve encountered over the years in the most impossible places – like Nuba, where anyone reasonable has fled – are disproportionately unreasonable because of their faith.” The Gospel often calls upon the unreasonable to attempt the unreasonable for a God who can do far beyond reason. Jesus, meek and mild, also calls for the extravagant. The faith to which we are called moves mountains into the sea, pushes camels through needle eyes, and prevails against the gates of hell.  Let childlike faith pursue great things for God, even if they seem naïve or impossible. For what is impossible with man, and what you may think is impossible with your children, is possible with God.

If we’re going to raise children to be faithful, we must also raise them to be missional. Faith in Christ and participation in His mission are inseparable. As we strive to see the next generation progress and be better off than we are, may we not forget to mold people with faith that is stronger, influence that is wider, and love that is fiercer than ours – even when it scares us. Because the Great Commission is not only a command, but a promise from the omnipotent Lord to all who follow it. “And behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

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Jessica Markwood is a student at Harding University and a member of the Lebanon Road church of Christ in Nashville. She has been on numerous mission trips in the states and around the world, and has a heart for missions. Check out her blog, “Rivers and Roads.”

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Why You Need a Hard Copy of the Bible

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We live in the electronic age. Almost everything is digital and instantaneous. Whenever I see someone who is 25 or younger and I ask them a question for which they have no immediate answer they quickly pull out their phone. I can’t tell you how many times in the last few years I have seen preachers and youth ministers preach and teach without a bound copy of the Bible with them. It is all tablets and touch screens. And while I am thankful for the blessings such technology affords I would like to make an argument as to why everyone needs an actual paper copy of the “good book.”

1. Not everyone you meet is going to have technology. If you go on a mission trip or if you do any evangelism at all you will soon find there are many people who can’t afford your iPhone. You need not make them feel inadequate because they don’t have an electronic copy like you do. You need to be able to give them a copy of the Bible if they don’t already have one. You need to have enough knowledge of your Bible that you can sit down and open it up and know where to find things. You should know where the 66 books are individually and in what order. You should even know passages and texts and where they are found on a specific page because you have turned to them so often in your own Bible.

2. Technology is not always dependable. If you don’t have the Bible on paper you are going to be out of luck when apps shut down or your device is out of power. I am just waiting to see the first preacher attempt to read or teach a lesson when his tablet/phone shuts down on him. He will really need a Bible and a copy of his notes in that moment – that or a perfect memory. And believe me: when he is in a bind I don’t want him to “wing it.” I want to be taught the Word. That’s what I came to hear.

3. Tablets, phones, and screens can turn us into robots. If you don’t believe me then please let me ask you how many hours your kids have played video games this summer. I am thankful for Paperless Hymnal, Powerpoint presentations, and other computer operated programs that can enhance the worship. But sometimes I think they are a crutch. When our paperless hymnal malfunctions the song leader becomes a soloist. Is God out of luck on our worship to Him because the screen went black? In many churches, every passage is now up on the screen. This is a blessing and yet it makes me wonder if anyone is opening their Bible anymore? One of the most discouraging things a preacher can ever hear is silence when he asks the congregation to turn to a passage. Pages flipping will cause your preacher to preach even better! Don’t come to worship to be an audience. The church is supposed to be performing the worship to the only true Audience and object of worship which is in heaven.

4. I am afraid the day is coming when people won’t leave behind a worn-out Bible. I was at a funeral this week and the preacher referenced the departed one’s used Bible. She had notes and passages that she had underlined. This told us all a great deal about who she really was spiritually. While computers have programs where you can take notes and mark digital Bibles I believe it is not the same. Not the same as one’s personal touch – their feelings and their emotions and their memories of how certain passages changed their life. I have a Bible I have preached out of for the last 20 years, it has been rebound and it is falling apart. But there are markings in it that have enhanced personal, spiritual growth that collectively help me to understand texts and passages with the cumulative knowledge of the past 20 years of study. I just cannot get that from a screen.

There was a day when members of the church were known as walking Bibles. That day has long since passed. But I know a few people who still do meet that description. And for me it is no coincidence that most of them don’t even own a computer.

“Bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas when you come—and the books, especially the parchments.” – 2 Timothy 4:13

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A Church Growth Tip from An 8-Year-Old

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Some who read this will know that, a few months ago, our son and his family moved from a metropolitan area to a much smaller town. The town to which they moved had been their home a few years earlier. For our son and his wife, it was somewhat of a homecoming.

However, this was not exactly true for their children. Due to their ages, they do not remember as much as do their parents about the smaller town.

Recently, I took advantage of an opportunity to talk to our eight-year-old grandson about the move. I asked what I thought was a pretty open-ended question. I merely asked him how he liked it where he now lives and how it compared to city they had left.

I thought it was very interesting that he said nothing at all about the populations of the two places, the places to shop in either place, the recreational opportunities, or many other things that one might consider to be very important. He chose something completely different to talk about.

His first (and only) thought had to do with the number of friends he had in each place. He liked the fact that there were more friends on the street where he and his family used to live in the larger community. At the same time, he told me that he also had a lot of friends where he is now; especially at church. His “final analysis” was that both places were good.

I know that church growth is a fascination for many people. It would almost not be an exaggeration to say that it is an obsession for some.

Books are written; seminars are conducted; speeches are made; CDs and DVDs are produced, and so on. All of this is done in order to help local congregations to grow. 

While I am sure that most, if not all, of these have much to be said for them, it is my very firm belief that none of them will produce the desired results if a congregation is not friendly.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that providing a friendly atmosphere would do more to attract and keep people than any other technique devised by some of the “church growth experts” of our day. Things like architecture, facilities, worship styles, building location, etc. struggle to overcome a cold, unloving, and unwelcoming group of people.

We all know people who desperately need to have a close relationship with the Lord. It might very well be that a close relationship with a Christian could help pave the way for that relationship with Him.

I’m thankful to our grandson for a reminder.

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