Category Archives: Church Life

[Quote] Chip Ingram on Faithful Prayer

SOURCE: Good to Great in God’s Eyes by Chip Ingram. (Page 108)

Ashamed of the Words of Jesus

If you were to read Luke 9:23-27 carefully, you would notice that there are a number of the more well-known teachings of our Lord packed into that one short passage. When there is such a dense section of Scripture, it can be quite easy to overlook certain words or phrases, but we do so to our own detriment.

Included in that passage is this statement from Jesus: “For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in His glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” (verse 26).

I don’t know how many times I have heard people talk about how we do not need to be ashamed of Jesus. Without doubt, that is taught there and is necessary if we are to be considered faithful to Christ.

But that is not all Jesus said there. He did not speak only of being ashamed of Him, but also of His words.

And I have to wonder: how many people–many of whom wear the name “Christian”–are ashamed of at least some of the words of our Lord.

For example,

Jesus spoke clearly of one church (Matthew 16:16-18), but many Christians are ashamed of that close-minded view, so they espouse the idea of many churches.

Jesus gave clear teaching about divorce and remarriage (Matthew 19:9), but many Christians think that is out-dated and so do not speak about such “controversial” passages.

Jesus tied the essentiality of baptism to salvation (Mark 16:16; cf. Acts 2:38), but many have friends and loved ones who are devout, but who have never been baptized. So, we just soft-shoe around that issue and act like it isn’t there.

Even in this same passage, Jesus spoke of the fact that, by following Him, it is not all easy, but that we have to “deny” ourselves and “take up [a] cross daily” in order to follow Him (Luke 9:23). But we would far rather present Christianity as some easy walk, so we can overlook such passages as that.

The fact of that matter is that we may not be ashamed of Jesus, but we can easily be ashamed of His words when they don’t fit a narrative we wish to present to the world. It is far easier to present Jesus as just love and acceptance and helpfulness, and leave off the controversial parts.

When we do that, however, we are ashamed of His words, because we cannot take part of Jesus without taking all of what He said. If I am ashamed of either Him or of His words, Jesus makes it clear that He will be ashamed of me.

And no one should ever want that to be true.


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

What the Church Needs Most

I recently held a meeting in another congregation where at the end of one of the services several people responded to the invitation. Some were restored while others were baptized. When the local preacher was expressing to the church the spiritual decisions that were being made by those who responded, he got very emotional. This was a natural reaction to a very important moment in the lives of those who had been touched by God’s Word. Watching this preacher in action reminded me of what the church needs most.

The church needs preachers who cry. A man who speaks the message must also be moved by it inwardly. This involves an awareness of his own sinfulness as well as an appreciation for God’s love and grace. The preacher needs to cry over people who are hurting physically or spiritually. The preacher needs to cry for joy when others are motivated to obey the gospel or make spiritual changes that will result in eternal rewards.

The church needs elders who shepherd. Unfortunately, most churches don’t really follow the shepherding model of leadership. Elders were not put in place by God to do what most of them do – which is make business meeting decisions. They were not given their position to run the church like a factory. Souls need counsel and support and spiritual guidance. The church needs elders who primarily function over the spiritual direction of the flock.

The church needs members who work. One of the reasons the preachers and elders and their families are discouraged is because the members sometimes hire out church work. The contribution, though supportive of ministry, is not to be treated as a collection that takes responsibility away from individual members. We don’t give into the treasury in order to not have to give in other areas. Growing churches that are pleasing to God are churches in which each one of the members is constantly ministering. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of a congregation with dedicated members who love the Lord and want to serve?

The church needs a God who is patient and forgives. There may be preachers out there who have lost their way and who have forgotten why they preach. There may be elders out there who have turned into rule makers and lords over the flock. There may be members out there who have simply become bench warmers who bear no fruit for Christ. But one thing is for certain, the church ALWAYS has what it needs when it comes to a loving and longsuffering Father. We have a long way to go as people. Churches will always go through strong and weak periods because of the inconsistencies and sins of people. We can be thankful that God is patient with us when we as Christians sometimes forget our roles and responsibilities. The church may be lacking in human areas, but it is never short of what it needs when it comes to God.

What the church needs most is pretty simple. It needs most to be more like One who created it.

“…leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” – 1 Peter 2:21


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AUTHOR: Jeremiah Tatum

The Best Translation of God’s Word

It seems to me that life was much more simple and uncomplicated as I was growing up. I realize that I revealed a great deal about my age as I typed those words, but I believe that most people of almost any mature age can look back on their childhood and make a similar assessment.

I’ve been doing some thinking lately about one way in which my life was much simpler than it is now. I’ve also been in conversations with people lately that have caused me to think about this. Some of those conversations have been face-to-face and some have been written exchanges.

You see, when I was growing up, I was only aware of one translation of the Bible. From time to time, there was some mention made of “certain religious groups” who had “their own Bibles.” Those groups and those Bibles were not held in very high esteem among people I was around.

Over the years, I became personally aware of more than one translation of God’s Word. I learned that some of these translations were not at all used exclusively by some particular religious group that may have had some “pet doctrines” to promote. 

To the contrary, I learned that some of these other translations were products of the work of multiple scholars of the original languages and that, in many cases, these scholars came from differing religious backgrounds. While it is very easy to let one’s individual tastes or prejudices influence how a passage is translated, the people who produced at least some of these translations had a stated goal of being impartial.

During the years since my childhood, even more translations of God’s Word than the ones available then have been produced. In fact, I recently listened to a podcast during which there was a discussion of the supposed benefits of one that is just now “hitting the market.”

I found the following information on the website of the American Bible Society. Since it was posted on December 2, 2009, it is already out of date, but I still find it informative and interesting:

I am afraid no one can give you an exact number for the English translations and paraphrases of the Bible printed since Tyndale’s New Testament of 1526. In part this is due to the difficulty of determining what should be defined as a new translation as opposed to a correction or a revision of an existing translation. There is the additional question of how we should count translations that include not a complete Bible or Testament, but just a group of books or even a single book. And then, of course, there is the difficulty of sheer numbers. With all these caveats in mind, the number of printed English translations and paraphrases of the Bible, whether complete or not, is about 900.

I don’t know about you, but my mind starts to get sort of numb as I consider all of the translations, the theories of translations, the methods of translations, the arguments for and against certain translations, manuscripts, etc. I long for that simpler time when things were much easier to understand.

I realize that it is impossible for me to go back to my childhood or to the time when the translation of the Bible with which I was familiar was almost universally accepted. It is not, however, impossible for me to offer my opinion about the best translation of God’s word. It may not be smart for me to do so, but it is possible.

In my opinion, the best “translation” of God’s message is seen in people. How does God’s message “translate” into my life and into the lives of others around me?

Whenever I see myself or others as being contentious for the faith instead of “…contend(ing) for the faith…” (Jude 3), I really do not believe I am seeing a good translation of God’s Word. Truth and love are not mutually exclusive. In fact, Paul was inspired to write that we are to supposed to be “…speaking the truth in love…” (Eph. 4:15). Whenever I see an individual whose understanding of “truth” causes him or her to be mean, sarcastic, and argumentative, I think I am seeing a very poor translation of God’s Word.

At what might be considered the other end of the spectrum there is also the possibility of rejecting God’s written revelation to us in favor of feelings, the opinion of some so-called expert, our family heritage, “church tradition,” the current culture, etc. Any one (or all) of these things can stand in the way of allowing God’s Word to be accurately “translated” in my life. Since I will be judged by the words of Jesus (cf. John 12:48), I must read, heed, and practice what He authorizes.

I think that most of us have probably heard something like the following statement:

Your life may be the only sermon that many people will ever hear.

I do not believe it is beyond the realm of possibility to suggest that our Lord had something like this in mind when He said:

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matt. 5:16, KJV).

Not only do I believe that it is accurate to suggest that my life may be the only sermon some will hear, I also believe that my life may be the only Bible some people will ever read. Instead of spending an inordinate amount of time in studying, discussing, and debating which volume to hand people to read, I might be more well-advised to consider something else.

I may want to do some serious self-examination and ask myself if the people who know me are observing a good translation of God’s Word in my life.


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AUTHOR: Jim Faughn

Making An Impact

It’s interesting to see what people will write about you when you don’t know they’re writing it.

For example, a few months ago, I finally decided to get online and see what this “Legacy” that my family keeps mentioning is all about. While I was blown away by the number of fantastically written articles and podcasts that I saw (not that I’m biased), what struck me as the most interesting was what my family had written about me in the “About” section.

For those of you who have only heard about me from this short snippet, most of what was said is true. I will point out two flaws in this paragraph, however. The first is that I am not the perfect “preacher’s kid” model that I’m built up to be. I still have major faults and sympathize with my worldly friends more than some might believe. The second is that I am 13 no longer, having turned 16 this past March. [Editor’s note: Whoops!]

This personal realization regarding what those closest to me decided I should look like to the world reminded me that every person carries with them some level of influence on those around them. In a way, this is God’s mode of communicating to us that we are all alike and are made to coexist peacefully, a fact that many in today’s world would deny altogether if totally honest.

However, this coexistence can also cause a great deal of chatter. When someone does something that is deemed significant, we want to talk about it. Hence, both Facebook and Twitter have hundreds of millions of users worldwide. Although the public announcement of an event, especially an impactful one, is sure to garner some attention, it is also true that some of the greatest stories about a specific person are told without their knowledge.

I’m a history geek, so I have experienced this fact firsthand. Without getting into the ongoing debates about the causes of World War I, the truth of the downfall of the Olmecs, and how involved E. T. was in the construction of the pyramids, I would call attention to one historical figure who many still talk about today. Paul, the apostle of Christ, is credited as the writer of several letters addressed to several churches of the first century. While Paul probably believed (and hoped) that his letters would be read some time into the future, it is doubtful that he had prior knowledge regarding every published commentary or speech given on his material. Whether his writings would be acclaimed or criticized by each individual member of his audience, the author had no idea.

All of this serves to bring to my mind the fact of OUR impact. Any letter any of us writes will probably never gain as much traction as those of Paul, but we still influence those close to us. This is both fantastic and frightening because, as we all know, even Christians are still human. While we are flawed, we can still choose to love those around us enough to make an impact and help them find both their way and their Way. Often, the decision to love the lonely kid down the hallway, or even a close friend, is a struggle. When I remember the impact that my Savior made for me, though, it’s no contest.

Matthew 5: 16 – “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.”


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AUTHOR: Lucas Tatum

3 Words We Need to Remove from Bible Study (and 3 We Need to Always Keep)

Ask any Christian, and they will inevitably speak of how important it is to read, study, and talk about the Scriptures. Bible study and Bible discussions are vital to the growth of a Christian.

However, too often, we allow three words to stand in the place of a true study of the Bible, or (more often) a true discussion about the Bible.

They are three words that we need to remove from our Bible discussions, because they do not help one bit. What are those words?

“I feel like.”

How often do we hear (or say) that our feelings are what matter when it comes to matters of morality and doctrine?

Maybe some of these sound a little familiar:

“I heard our preacher say that a lot of people are going to end up in hell, but I just feel like a loving God wouldn’t do that.”

“When someone talks about there only being one church, all I can think is that I feel like other people are doing their best, too.”

“For all these years, we’ve been saying that only men can lead in public worship, but I feel like that was just something from an ancient and out-dated culture.”

While few of us would take it to that level, far too often, we hear similar thoughts in many of our Biblical discussions. Far too often, when we talk to others about moral matters–and even far too often in Bible classes–someone saying “I feel like” is the trump card. It is as if one’s feelings are the end-all-be-all of the discussion.

Certainly, our feelings matter. Christianity is not a cold, heartless religion. How we feel about things does matter.

But there is a major problem when our feelings are the driving force behind what we believe and stand for. Feelings are fleeting. They change. They can be easily manipulated. My feelings have no more authority than yours on a matter.

Thus, we cannot use “I feel like” as the major foundation in our Biblical studies.

So, what can we use? It is another three-word phrase, and it is one that needs to always be statement number one when we are considering any matter of doctrine or morality. What is it?

“The Bible says.”

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness…” (2 Peter 1:3).


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

Once We Have Encountered Jehovah, Will We Stay?

The book of Ruth takes place in the time of the judges, a period after the Canaan conquest but before the time of Israelite kings. It was a time of war, violence, idolatry, and spiritual confusion. Everybody did as they saw fit (Judges 21:25). It is in this dark and desperate time that Ruth emerges as a person of loyalty, godliness, and character. She literally “found God;” a God she did not know before.

Many people don’t realize that Ruth was raised in Moab. This means she was a descendant of Lot, Abraham’s nephew. Though she was related to the Jews, she was not one of them. Her clan worshiped Chemosh, the god of fire, as well as other pagan gods. But when Elimelech left Bethlehem because of a famine and went to Moab, his two sons married Moabite women. Ruth and Orpah were the women they married. It was through this relationship that these two women were introduced to Jehovah.

Tragically, Elimelech and his sons died. Naomi was the mother-in-law that was left with two daughters-in-law, and they were all three widowed. The two young women no longer had any obligation to Naomi. The text points out that Naomi knew this, so she encouraged both Ruth and Orpah to return to their people and even to their foreign gods (Ruth 1:15).

Orpah went back to her people and to the false gods of Moab, but Ruth refused. We may ask, “Why?” Was it out of pity for Naomi? Was it because she was afraid to be alone? Was it because she felt it was the honorable thing to do? Did she just truly love her?

Ruth 1:16 explains that Ruth not only wanted to be loyal to Naomi, but she wanted to worship the same God Naomi did. Ruth had come to believe in Jehovah and had rejected the pagan gods she was raised to know. Something happened in Ruth that caused her to stay with God and not turn back to her old ways.

The story of Ruth begs the question, “What causes a person to be loyal?” Some people are naturally loyal and others struggle with faithfulness and devotion. We can be faithful in relationships for all the wrong reasons. Maybe we stay because it’s normal even though it’s dysfunctional. We may stay out of fear of being alone or the unknowns that go with starting over. It seems that Ruth stayed for the only correct reason anyone might stay when they had a choice. She stayed because she had learned to trust in the one, true God of heaven.

There are going to be times in our lives when the gods we once worshiped will call us to return. There will be moments of doubt and confusion and unexpected turmoil that may test our faith. We may in these moments lose faith in the God of heaven…that He would allow such devastation to infiltrate the life of peace and comfort we have come to enjoy. It is in these moments that our love and loyalty to God will be most tested. Will we stay? Will we cling to him? Or will we go back into the world and seek fulfillment in its temporary solutions?

Ruth must have learned through her marriage into God’s family that Jehovah would not forsake her. She must have learned that He is the one and only Creator and Sustainer of the universe. She must have learned that difficult times come even to people of God, and that we should not be dismayed by such events. In the choice she made to stay she was both temporally and eternally redeemed.

Ruth’s decision to stay with Naomi and to stay with Jehovah was truly heroic. This is why the book of Ruth has been set before us by the Holy Spirit for our consideration. There is a reward that is coming to the people who stay loyal to God.

“In your patience (endurance – ESV) possess ye your souls” – Luke 21:19


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AUTHOR: Jeremiah Tatum

My Favorite Pen

It was the time for gift giving this past December. Our children, their spouses, our grandchildren, Donna, and I were all assembled for the yearly ritual.

As you might expect, the grandchildren were especially excited. That just seems to come with the territory when young children are involved.

However, this time there was something different about the excitement. To be sure, one of our granddaughters was excited about the gifts she might (and did) receive. She was also excited, though, about the fact that she had found gifts to give to the other family members. 

We found out later that she did a lot of her “shopping” around the house in which she and the rest of the family live. Her mother told us that she had to step in and “supervise” so that some valuable and useful things weren’t given away.

Finally, it was my turn to open my present! I’ve told people repeatedly that they’ve never seen something exactly like the gift I received. I carry it with me most of the time.

What I received is a combination ballpoint pen and stylus. It is a ballpoint pen on one end and a stylus for a tablet on the other.

Again, before you say that you’ve seen something just like this or before you say that you own one (or several) like this, I need to let you know why I don’t think that is true. You have not seen one that has the story behind it that this one does.

You see, when I opened the present and saw what I had received, I thanked my granddaughter. I’m sure every grandparent would do exactly that. That would not be unusual.

What was unusual was her response. She seemed very proud of herself and very satisfied that I liked her gift as she said:

“You’re welcome, Grampy. It didn’t work on my tablet.”

As I joined the other members of our family in laughter, my mind was racing in several different directions. One of those directions has to do with the openness and honesty of children. There is something refreshing about the fact that they haven’t quite mastered tactfulness, political correctness, etc. 

I also thought about the concept of “payback.” As our daughter tried to “make the situation better,” I thought of an incident that happened when she was even younger than our granddaughter is now. We had a couple of elderly ladies in our home for a meal.  During the meal – and for no apparent reason – our daughter said, “You two sure are old, aren’t you?” 

There was a kind of perverse satisfaction on my part that she was now the one dealing with something like this.  As they say – what goes around comes around. 

On a much more serious note, though, one of the directions in which my mind went had to do with how God views what I give Him. When it comes to my time, my energy, my financial resources, etc. do I offer to him only what is left over or what won’t work for me?

If that is what I do, I need to spend a lot more time in studying and meditating on the Word of God. If I will do that, I will find that I am wasting my time. 

God expects and deserves to be first in our hearts and lives. He expects and deserves and to receive only the best of what I have to offer. Anything else is unacceptable to Him.

I’m hoping that this somewhat humorous incident that occurred in our family will cause all of us to do serious soul-searching. I know it has caused this “Grampy” to do that.

By the way; the answer is “no.” The stylus does not work on my tablet. 

I carry it anyway. It is a reminder to me that somebody very special to me did what she could think of to do to try to show me that I am special to her.

I hope the Lord views my feeble attempts to serve Him in the same way.


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AUTHOR: Jim Faughn

Transitions

Cousins’ Camp 2017 has come and gone for another year. We have worshiped together, played games, done crafts, done sidewalk chalk, jumped at Vertical Jump Park, had our picture taken wearing our Cousin’s Camp T-shirts, eaten food (and lots of it), won prizes, put new flowers on the graves of their great-grandparents, fussed a little, cried a little, laughed a lot, had our talent show, sung together, prayed together, and had devotionals presented by Grampy and the three boys.

This was our fifth year for this gathering and it seemed like everyone had a good time. Three years ago we began assigning a theme for each year. The first theme was “Discovery” and the second was “Exploration.” This year’s theme was “Transitions.”

We’ve had some transitions in our family (just like each family does) that were worth thinking about. Jim retired from full-time pulpit preaching, Luke turned 16 and will be getting a driver’s license, and the younger ones have transitioned to higher grades. While no one moved to another place in the last year, each of them has undergone transitions in their lives as they moved to new places to live and attend school.

We want our grandchildren to understand that transitions come into each of our lives, and while some of them seem of little importance, some are much larger and affect life more drastically.

When the boys gave their devotionals, we were pleased to hear them talk about those in the Bible who underwent transitions in life. They talked about Saul of Tarsus, the Ethiopian eunuch, Jesus, and others who had great transitions in their lives. One even mentioned people from history like Martin Luther who made transitions in life.   

When our final prayer was said on our last morning together, Luke (our oldest grandson) talked about this theme and asked God to help us with the transitions that come into our lives. He thanked God for the time we got to spend together, and asked God for safety as they began to travel home.

Jim and I have been blessed to watch these grandchildren transition through life. With all of the ups and downs they still are moving in the direction of Heaven. Our daily prayer for them is that they will always live in such a way that their final transition will be to their heavenly home. I think they understand that a little better now after Cousin’s Camp 2017…”Transitions.”

“Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life.  Make them known to your children and your children’s children…

so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.“  Deuteronomy 4:9,10


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AUTHOR: Donna Faughn

Free Resources for Pew Packers (or Family Devotionals)

Nearly every Sunday evening, I get the privilege of sitting down front with some of our elementary and preschool children at 9th Avenue and leading Pew Packers. While you just never know what might happen during those 10 minutes, it is a joy to watch these students sing and learn Bible facts.

Pew Packers is considered by some to be outdated, but that is only if we treat it as such! Instead, I see it as 10 invaluable minutes each week with these precious children. As such, we are always looking for ways to improve Pew Packers and to make it a helpful time for our students.

Today, I am pleased to let you know that we have compiled a good amount of the information we have used, are using, and plan to use in Pew Packers and we have made it available on our website…for free!

At Polishing the Pulpit last year, I heard someone give an idea for a “Bible Passport,” and immediately wrote down the idea as something for our Pew Packers to do. We waited until after the Lads to Leaders convention to start our “Bible Travelers,” but I think the kids are really catching on.

Each week, we sing some songs, then we rehearse a few Bible facts. If a student memorizes a list, they are given a stamp that reads “9th Avenue Pew Packers Bible Traveler” in their passport. They also can get stamps for memorizing Bible verses.

With that in mind, you will find 3 pages of information on our Pew Packers page:

Bible Adventures Achievement List. This page lists the requirements for students to earn stamps in their passports. Some are very easy (sing the books of the New Testament), because we want quick “wins,” and also because we have some preschoolers in Pew Packers. Others, however, are more difficult. I’m sure that, over time, we will add more lists so our students can earn even more stamps.

Pew Packers Songs. We sing a lot in Pew Packers. Most of the songs are well-known, but we still wanted to provide a recording of the song, as well as the lyrics, just in case some do not know them.

Memory Verse Songs. Since students can earn stamps for memorizing Bible verses, we want to have a resource for families to help their kids with this. So, we have a page where we put short, simple, and memorable songs that teach Bible verses to kids. This list is growing constantly, especially as we emphasize memorizing verses from 1st and 2nd Corinthians this year for Lads to Leaders.

We hope this page is one you bookmark and will use often. Certainly, there are so many other things that can be done in Pew Packers or other similar programs, but we hope this at least gives you some more material to use. If your congregation does not have a program like this, these pages still contain information you may want to use in your family devotionals.

Either way, we hope you will take advantage of our Pew Packers information and help precious children learn the Word of God.

To access the page, simply click here.


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn