Category Archives: Church Life

It Is For a Good Cause

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“It is for a good cause.”

How many times have you heard those words? How many different kinds of activities have been promoted and justified with that statement? 

Sometimes it takes something totally absurd to make us stop and think about our actions. I remember such an absurd thing I read in a newspaper years ago.

There was an advertisement for an event that was for what probably was a very good cause. The ad said that the proceeds from the event would go to a specific charity: Dads Against Drugs. 

I am a dad. In fact I am a granddad. I am also against drugs. 

However, I chose not to participate in this fundraiser that was “for a good cause.”

The event being promoted was a topless car wash. (The pictures in the paper made it pretty clear that the fundraiser had nothing to do with washing convertible automobiles, either.)

I would hope that all of us can see the absurdity of “helping a good cause” in this way. I would also hope that this extreme example might cause some of us to think about other things that have gradually gained acceptance over the years.

For example; a favorite fund-raising activity for some organizations is a raffle. My dictionary defines raffle as, “A lottery in which a number of persons buy chances on a prize.” There is another word in that same dictionary that has a very similar definition. The definition is “to play a game of chance for money or other stakes.” The word being defined here is gamble. 

There are many other examples of similar activities and “reasoning.” I won’t get on my soapbox and discuss all of them here.

However, I will make one suggestion. If you are involved in some club, organization, cause, etc. that you think is worthy of my being asked for financial support, why not just ask me to make a donation?

It might surprise some people to learn how many generous people there are in the world. It might also come as a surprise that the direct approach often works better than gimmicks.

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Should Christians “Do” Right or “Believe” Right?

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If you want to stir the pot, religiously, write or speak on some particular issue. While there will be some who very thoughtfully share their studies about Biblical context or historical settings, there will be others who always respond with something along these lines: “We shouldn’t be worried about [insert issue here]. We should be out living our faith.”

I could not agree more with the final part of that sentiment. Here is the problem, though: the “living” that so many talk about is only drawing people to part of the Gospel, and not to the fullness of belief in Scripture.

We cannot reach people with just part of the Bible. We must live out the Gospel in fullness, and teach people its fullness, too.

For example, people want to tell us that Jesus was near to the brokenhearted, the outcasts, and sinners. That is as true as can be. However, they fail to mention that the Lord also spoke to such issues as the necessity of baptism and the one church He would build. He did not reach people and then say, “Now, just go on your merry way, living however you want to live.” Instead, the Lord would tell people, “Go and sin no more.”

Paul ended virtually every letter he wrote with a string of ways to “live out” our faith (e.g., “Pray without ceasing”) that are usually quite easy to share with others, especially when lifted from the context of the letter. You see, he nearly always began each letter with a deeply theological and faith-building section that needed to be inculcated into the mind of the Christian. (If you want probably the deepest example of this, spend some serious time in the book of Colossians.)

You see, it is not about just “believing” or just “doing.”

I must believe right and do right.

And I will not do all the “right” I can until I believe right.

When I come to believe what Scripture says, for example, about how every person is my neighbor, I will do what I can to reach each person with the love and compassion of Christ. I will try to help the poor, touch the untouchable, and do so many other things that many people say the Church is woefully short on.

But, when I come to believe what Scripture says, for example, about the necessity of baptism, I will also do right in defending the faith and speaking the truth in love about such issues.

Yes, I know there are countless lost souls out there who need to know the love and mercy and grace of God. So, I believe Him and strive to reach out to them through compassion.

But we must also know those same lost souls cannot be partially saved, so we must reach out to them with the fullness of Scripture, not just with the parts we think are palatable and easy.

Jesus both taught and did (Acts 1:1). Why would be not follow His example?

Let’s believe all that is right, and do all the right we can.

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A Covenant Worth Keeping

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And so it begins. The previews are now showing for “50 Shades of Grey.” Honestly, it makes me sick. Go to the movie theatre and you will be reminded that there are many movies that don’t need to be seen. Do we even screen what is on the big screen? I know many people who consider themselves Christians who have absolutely no problem letting Satan have control of their lives for two hours while they are entertained. And they have done it so many times that their hearts are calloused. They believe it is their God given right to watch activities that if they participated in them themselves would seal their doom in eternal hell.

The saddest thing about writing this article is that I know that the majority of people are going to think that I am close-minded when it comes to entertainment. They would love to begin an argument about degrees of sin. But if what that really means is that I am open to what God wants for me and closed to what the world wants – then I am alright with that. I want to be like Job, who said, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look with lust upon a young woman?” (Job 31:1). I understand what Jesus was saying in Matthew 5:27-28 – “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

I know that sin begins in the mind and heart; therefore I want to make a covenant with my eyes, to avoid putting my heart and mind in jeopardy. Does this mean that I can be perfect and never lust? Does this mean it is possible for me to completely avoid temptation? Does this mean that I have made a decision that I will never sin again, and that in making such a decision that I will never break my promise to God? My desire to make a covenant with my eyes cannot mean any of those things because I am human. But such a covenant needs to be made so that I will intentionally not put myself in situations where failure is a very good and certainly real possibility.

I believe humans, though weak because of their carnal side, are also intelligent enough to discern between good and evil. It is in our initial discernment that wise decisions and moral decisions can be made. True Christianity is not just a ceremonial washing of sins. It also involves a game-plan from God. This is what the New Testament can provide. I need to live for God on purpose in every waking moment of my life. That means making moral decisions to fight against what my flesh may be suggesting. It involves making covenants, not just with some parts of my body, but with my entire body, soul and spirit.

As a Christian, there are some things I will not do. There I some places I will not go. There are some things I will not watch or listen to. There are some people I will not follow. Since I have decided to follow Jesus, the only other people I can follow must also be following Him. This is a black and white issue. There is no “grey” area.

“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” – Romans 8:7

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Kids Say the Truest Things

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Those of us “of a certain age” remember when Art Linkletter had a television program based on the idea that children often say some very funny things. The program was very entertaining and it lasted a number of years.

It is, indeed, true that children often say some very, very funny things. It is also true that, often, children say some things that are very honest and true.

That point was driven home to me a number of years ago when our children were still at home. During one of our family vacations, we spent some time at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, Illinois. 

As we viewed some of the exhibits, we notice that there was one exhibit along one of the walls that seemed to be attracting a sizable number of people. When we made our way to this exhibit, we found that the title of the exhibit was Prenatal Development

Along this wall, there were forty different examples of the various stages of development that all of us went through prior to our mothers giving birth to us. The “examples” were not pictures or models. Instead, they came from pregnancies that had been (according to the museum) naturally terminated. 

Each display gave information about the development of human beings. Those who were responsible for providing the information informed those of us who were reading the information that there was a stage in the development when it was proper to stop using the term embryo and start using the term fetus

I noticed that there was one term which was conspicuously absent from the displays. Although the “experts” did not provide that term for us, a young boy looking at the exhibit did.

This young man looked to be about eight or nine years old. As he and his grandfather made their way down the line, I heard the word that the scientists and educators were unwilling to use.

The boy looked up as the man and said, “Grandpa, I feel sorry for these babies.”

To his credit, the young man instinctively understood something that many so-called educated people in our society refuse to admit. Even in the mother’s womb, a human life is a baby. Many may want to use “scientific” and “technical” terms to deny this fact, but one young man was not fooled. 

When I heard this young man make this statement to his grandfather, I immediately thought of the Holy Spirit described John, the forerunner of our Lord, prior to his birth:

And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb (Luke 1:41).

Yes, it is true; sometimes kids do say the truest things.

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The First Step in Evangelism (It Might not be What You Think)

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Oh no, you are thinking. It’s an evangelism article. Every time I hear a sermon or read an article about evangelism, I feel guilty.

Join the crowd! Even those who are deeply evangelistic often feel guilty about this subject, simply because every Christian knows someone else with whom we have not shared the Gospel.

However, this is not a guilt-trip article. Instead, it is a post written for me. In other words, this is a post that I need as much as anyone else (and I need it more than a lot of folks).

If you have read this far, I am assuming that you are a Christian. In reality, that is the first step in evangelism: being fully committed to Christ yourself.

Knowing that, however, what is the first step to reaching out to others with the saving message of Jesus? What is the first step to evangelism?

Is it some innovative program?

Is it some great invitation technique?

Is it memorizing just the right set of Scriptures?

Is it forming some questions to ask people around us?

Nope. It is none of these. In fact, the first step is even more basic than these things, and it is so obvious that we often overlook it.

The first step to reaching others is to see each individual person as a soul headed for eternity.

That’s it.

What about the person who regularly scans your groceries at the store? She will stand in judgment one day.

How about the teacher you’ve got who is a bit nerdy and out of touch with technology? That teacher will meet their Maker at the end of time.

You know that restaurant manager that everyone says is gruff? He has a soul that needs to be touched.

Your new neighbors who everyone is worried will bring down property values because they don’t seem to take care of their stuff? They won’t spend eternity in that neighborhood; they will spend it in either heaven or hell.

The first step is not to try to devise some “catch all” strategy. The first step is to remember that everyone needs “catching” in the first place!

What can you do today to open your eyes to the souls around you? Who do you see on a regular basis that needs to be treated in a little kinder way? Who have you failed to befriend simply based on rumor or perception? What person could you speak to instead of shuffling by today?

In our splintered, self-centered world, just seeing other people as–to borrow from C.S. Lewis–souls with a body instead of bodies with a soul is the first step to reaching each person for Christ.

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Celebrate Life “Eternal”

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At each year’s end there are many holidays and celebrations. We celebrate blessings, family, and the year that was. In the sports world, there are even more celebrations. Bowl games and national championships and even the Super Bowl, which is arguably the biggest national event on the radar. At the end of these games there is always music and confetti; so much so that you can hardly hear or see. And it seems that there is always one song that will be played at some point during the time that the winning team is holding up the trophy and exchanging high-fives and hugs – “We are the Champions.”

These scenes bring to mind the time when the apostle John was on the island of Patmos and received a heavenly vision through the means of an angel. In that inspired vision he delivers the book of Revelation, written specifically to seven churches in Asia, but with a lasting message for Christians. You might say that the theme of Revelation is the same as the song that teams play in celebration at the end of winning seasons. We are champions! – but not through who we are or what we have done, but because of the Lamb!

In the fourth and fifth chapters of Revelation John invites us into the throne room of God. There are trumpet sounds in the throne room. There are beautiful and precious stones in the throne room. There is a sea of glass, and there are the four beasts, and there are twenty-four elders all in the throne room. There are crowns and sounds and spirits and angels and things beyond comprehension in the throne room. And on the throne, above all, is the One who is seated and who receives continual worship.

The central thought of these two chapters is that God is going to be worshipped eternally for what He has done for His creation. He is certainly worthy of such worship, and in the very presence of God this has always been the most natural response for any created being. But a secondary and crucially important idea expressed in these chapters is the reality that heaven is going to be the location of the greatest celebration that will ever take place. Sin and Satan, death and demons, have been forever defeated through the blood of Jesus Christ. His faithful followers will reside in heaven in everlasting glory with the Godhead and the angelic host of ether plains.

If one examines these two chapters, the bliss and exuberance of those who are gathered can be observed from the words that are leaving their lips. They are celebrating life eternal. They are praising the one who purchased them with blood. They are extoling the Creator. They are expressing love and adoration for a glorious and holy and perfectly powerful God. Their worship is without pause, their peace is without interference, and their complete joy is without end. This is what it means to be a child of God! These are the feelings and blessings of an ultimate victory.

Christians are people who have already printed hats and t-shirts that say “champions.” They are finishing the final plays of the game and they can see that the scoreboard plainly shows Satan has lost and there is no chance of him coming back and winning. They are beginning their celebration, by living in the splendor of the greatest play in history, the play that sealed the game at a place called Calvary. They can celebrate by living the Christian life. They can anticipate the celebration of the throne room of God! Because in Christ, and only in Christ, they are forever champions!

“Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” – Romans 8:37

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Happiness

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Happiness can be a lot of things to a lot of people. In one instance Happiness was the name of a store I walked by in a mall on one occasion. 

The name of that store has made me think of an implied message of many stores. It seems to me that the “hidden message” of so many stores is, “If you will come in and buy some of what we sell, you will be happy.”

I’ve never had the nerve to walk into any store (even one named Happiness) and ask them to wrap up a year’s worth of happiness for me. I wonder what they would do. 

I imagine that somewhere in the conversation they would try to make the point that they do not, in fact, sell happiness. I’m sure that, at the same time, they would try in some way to convince me that they can sell me things that will make me happy.

The sad truth is that this way of thinking is also a lie. Things do not and cannot make us happy. We are all aware of people (maybe even the ones we see in our mirrors) who keep accumulating things, but are not at all happy. 

It is interesting that, in some translations of the Bible, the people spoken of in what we sometimes call The Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-10) are referred to as blessed. In other translations, they are described as happy

It makes sense that people should be happy if they are blessed by God, so I am not going to quibble about which word is the more accurate. What I think is more beneficial is to read through The Beatitudes and see who these people are. 

Does God bless the getters or the givers? Does He bless the served or the servers? Are the belligerent, proud, and forceful the ones who are blessed or does God bless those who are peacemakers, humble, and gentle?

It seems to me that, when we find the answers to those questions, we will find where we can really find happiness.

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My 2015 Word of the Year

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For the past couple of years, there seems to have been a trend of people selecting a single word to focus on for each year. The word typically represents some area of life in which the person wants to improve, or at the very least, in which he/she wants to focus.

In late 2013, I thought about doing this for 2014, but (honestly) just never selected my word. I thought about it, but just did not put any real time into it, so I let it go.

However, as 2014 wound down and 2015 approached, I knew this was something I wanted to try. Moving and the holidays made it where I didn’t select a word until a few days into the year, but that’s okay. Today, I want to share my thought process and reveal the word I have chosen for 2015.

From the time I started thinking about my word for 2015, I had a general concept that I wanted to work on. Thinking of one word to convey that, however, proved more difficult than I thought.

In short, I want to improve on things such as manners and having a dignified spirit. I do not feel these are things I am woefully inadequate at, but they are areas I need to spend some time focusing on, for sure. Further, I see these ways declining in the larger society, and I would like to do what I can to buck that trend.

Knowing that, I narrowed my thinking down to three words. The were quite similar, but the one I chose seems to capture all of this the best. It may be a very specific word, but I think it puts in my mind what I want to be better at.

First, I considered the word “manners.” While manners are certainly part of what I want to improve upon this year, that seemed to not capture the dignity part of what I was thinking.

So, I moved to the word “gentleman.” I liked this word, and almost went with it, but I think this word has taken on such a double meaning (think “gentleman’s club,” for example) that it did not capture, in a focused way, what I wanted.

Finally, after a lot of thought and prayer, I have settled on this word for 2015:

“Chivalry”

That may be a very old-fashioned word, but it is what I feel is lacking among many men in our society, including myself. It includes having very good manners, but it also carries the sense of dignity that I want to have in my life.

I settled on this word for three reasons:

1. Spiritual. Some may think that a man who treats ladies properly and has great manners is a bit odd, but no one can think that a man who has chivalry is a stumbling block to knowledge of God. Honoring others through good manners and real dignity will mean that I do not stand in the way of people seeing Christ in my life.

2. Relational. Other people deserve to be honored. Most importantly, this goes for my wife, who deserves to be honored simply because she is a lady and she is my wife. But others deserve to be treated with true dignity. I am going to work on things like standing before those who are older than I am, saying “yes ma’am” and “no sir” more often, and trying to bring dignity to various conversations. This should be done for the simple reason that people deserve to be treated with dignity.

3. Parental. As a dad, I want my son to be a man who still is chivalrous simply by following my example. I want my daughter to know that this is how a real man treats ladies, especially the lady to whom he has pledged his life.

Will I be perfect at this? Certainly not! That is why I have chosen it for my word. I have a long way to go to be a man who has real dignity and decorum in all settings and who treats people with the respect and honor they deserve. But a few steps in that direction this year will be a great way to spend 2015.

Here’s to being a person of chivalry!

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I Am Not Going to Do That

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There are some things that must be done in life that are not on the top of the favorites list. Kids don’t want to eat their vegetables.  People are generally afraid of public speaking and they don’t like trips to the dentist. Not everyone smiles at a Monday morning after a long holiday. Life demands doing many things that are not always fun or easy. Some people work at hospitals and nursing homes. Some people pick up our garbage. Others are advocates for those who are abused. Not every job is full of tasks that are enjoyable all the time.

This is why I sometimes struggle when I hear preachers of the gospel say that there are certain things they are not willing to do. “I will preach on Sundays, but don’t expect me to visit much.” “I will write articles, but I am not going to deliver food to the sick.” “I will study and teach Bible classes, but I am not going door to door.” “I will prepare radio programs, but I am not going to drive Brother Jones to his appointment.”

I could make a very long list of things that preachers end up doing that they will never learn about in college or preacher’s training school. It would take up several pages. Many of the things on the list would not be believed by those who read it, except for preachers who have been working for quite some time and who have been there and done that. But I will say this: There is absolutely nothing that I will not do for people as a servant of Jesus Christ.

People are created in God’s image. People need other people. Every person who preaches the gospel must be dedicated to becoming all things to all men (1 Cor. 9:22). When you sign up for evangelism you have to lay personal preferences aside and just go. The commission says, “Go.” You don’t go on your terms. You certainly aren’t saved on your terms.

If you want to preach the gospel, you can’t have an “I am not going to do that” list. And really, if you are going to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ, you can’t have one either. Jesus left heaven, being equal with the Father, humbled Himself, came in the likeness of men, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. And this is the mind of Christ that we are all supposed to have ourselves (Phil. 2:5-8).

I leave you with these thoughts: The world needs the gospel. It is the only power that exists that saves men eternally (Rom. 1:16). Christians are the envoys of this glorious message. It must be delivered at every cost. If not us, who? If not here, where? If not now, when?

“If You say go, we will go. If You say wait, we will wait. If You say step out on the water, and they say it can’t be done, we’ll fix our eyes on You and we will come.” – Rita Springer

“And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.” – Colossians 3:23-24

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From Passive to Participation

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Most of the people who will be reading these words will know that A Legacy of Faith is a cooperative effort. It is the brainchild of our son, Adam , but he would be the first to tell anybody that it is not a “one man show.”

While he does most of the work, he has asked other members of our family to contribute to it from time to time. His wife, Leah, contributes blog posts; as do his sister Amber Tatum and her husband, Jeremiah Tatum. Mom and Dad even “get into the act” every so often. My wife, Donna, and I submit materials for the blog.

What some may not know is that A Legacy of Faith is a “multi-media” endeavor. One example of that is Adam and Leah produce a podcast every two weeks. [Editor’s note: Starting last week, we started experimenting with a weekly podcast on Thursdays.] In their words, the podcast is “…designed to help your family survive the day, plan for tomorrow, and always keep an eye on eternity.”

The purpose of this article is to comment on a phrase I heard during one of the podcasts. Adam and Leah were talking about some ideas for helping young children understand the importance of, and prepare for, worship. In a phrase that Adam said just kind of came to him as he was talking, he said the purpose was to move the children “from passive to participation.”

It has been weeks since I first heard that podcast and that phrase, but I keep thinking about it. It seems to me that this should be a worthy goal for any parent, elder, preacher, Bible class teacher — anybody. Should it not be at least a part of our purpose to guide people to a place where their worship, indeed their entire relationship with God, moves from passivity to participation?

It occurs to me, though, that, before I can help others do that, I need to look into the mirror. It would seem to me that it would be very difficult to encourage, exhort, or to use any other means to move people to participation if, in my own life, they see nothing but a person who is passive. 

Is it not true that James was trying to encourage people to move from passive to participation when he wrote the following?

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.  For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.  But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets, but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing (James 1:22-25, ESV, emphasis added)

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