Category Archives: Church Life

Praying Together

praying together
One recent religious survey noted that the average minister only prays three minutes each day. I found this astounding. I do not know if it is accurate, but if this is true, is it any wonder why the church is not growing?Hey wait a minute…maybe we should ask ourselves how much we are praying? It’s not that there is a required amount, but rather it has to do with where we are in our spiritual lives. Prayer is key. Prayer can change everything.

I am finding that one of the most important things I can do to change and improve my own prayer life is to pray with others. When we pray with our spouses it changes our marriage. When we pray with our family it brings God into our home in a greater way. When we pray with our friends we share our lives together and our friendship grows. When we pray with the church we have more confidence in our spiritual journey.

Here are a few suggestions that I believe will enhance your prayer life:

1. Have a prayer list.

  • Sit down and think of all the people who have special needs and all the problems people are facing. A prayer list helps you focus on issues others are struggling with and humbles you. You will realize how many people need prayers, and you will be reminded about how many blessings you have.
2. Pray more in your Bible classes.
  • It would be a good idea for each of our Bible classes, if we started and ended with a prayer. It will change the way you study. It will allow God to be present with those who are looking into His word.
3. Make a regular time each evening to pray with your spouse.
  • When couples communicate with God they also communicate with each other. If you have never heard your spouse pray, you are missing out on knowing them as well as you could.
4. Teach your children how to pray, and help them to pray regularly.
  • There is nothing more rewarding then listening to your child as they learn to pray. As they improve, you are developing in them a relationship with God that they will never regret.
Prayer is not a job, it is a privilege. We desperately need to pray.
“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” ~ James 5:16
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Zager & Evans Miscalculated Slightly

zager and evans

Those of us “of a certain age” may remember an unusual song recorded in 1969. Among the things that were unusual about it were the following:

  • It was recorded by a folk-rock duo from the state of Nebraska (of all places).
  • It held the #1 position on the record charts longer than any other record of that year (even though such notables as Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Fifth Dimension, The Temptations, and others also had #1 hits that year).
  • It has no chorus. It just sort of progressed through an imaginary future timeline.
  • It had a unique (and unusual) subtitle; Exordium & Terminus (Beginning & End).

For those who are not “of a certain age” and for those who are, but who may have forgotten this unusual song, I have in mind is In the Year 2525 by (Denny) Zager and (Rick) Evans. (No, I did not remember or even know their first names. I had to look them up.)

Anyway, here are some of the lyrics of that song:

In the year 6565

Ain’t gonna need no husband, won’t need no wife
You’ll pick your son, pick your daughter too
From the bottom of a long glass tube

Folks, we are there! In fact, if my math skills haven’t completely deserted me, we are there 4,551 years earlier than the song predicted.

As evidence of that, consider the following headline from the online edition of The Washington Post of October 2, 2014:

White Woman Sues Sperm Bank after She Mistakenly Gets Black Donor’s Sperm

The opening paragraph of the article states:

An Ohio mom and her same-sex partner are suing a Chicago-area fertility clinic for sending sperm from a black donor instead of the white donor’s sperm that she ordered.

A little further in the article, the reader learns this information:

After poring over pages of donor histories from Midwest Sperm Bank three years ago, Cramblett and her partner, 29-year-old Amanda Zinkon, selected donor No. 380, who was white. Cramblett used the sperm to get pregnant and, months later, the two decided to reserve more sperm from that donor so Zinkon could one day have a child related to the one Cramblett was carrying.

During that process, the couple learned the truth: An employee at the fertility clinic allegedly misread a handwritten order — and Cramblett had been inseminated by donor No. 330, who was black.

So, having a child is no more than a business transaction now. I can’t help but wonder what sort of “return policy” there would be on something like this.

God’s design was and is for one man to marry one woman. Together, they were and are to bring children into the world and nurture and train them.

He is eternal. His will is binding; Zager & Evans and Crablett & Zinkon notwithstanding. For that matter; the government, social pressures, liberal theologians, etc. notwithstanding.

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“A Promise to Claim?” Not Always

a promise to claim

Reading through the Bible, one will come across any number of great promises by the Lord. From beginning to end, in both the Old and New Testaments, there are a large number of promises. Each one is rich with meaning and provides a shining beam of light to the story of Scripture.

Today, when we read or hear people talk about how to read the Bible, we often hear the mantra “name it and claim it.” The idea is simply this: when you see a promise in Scripture that touches your life, claim that promise. After all, does not God always “make good” on His promises?

Of course, He does. God never lies (Titus 1:2), and He always works out things in the end for His ultimate will. His people are victorious in the end, and living the Christian life is filled with innumerable blessings.

However, this idea of looking for “a promise to claim” can be dangerous territory if we are not diligent in our Bible study.

Why? Too many “claimed” promises are taken out of context and were never intended for my own personal claiming.

For example…

God promised Abram (later, Abraham) a land in which his descendants would dwell (Genesis 12:1-3). The same promise was later given to Isaac and others in Abraham’s family line. Should then I claim that promise if I want my descendants to have a great farm or beautiful countryside on which to live?

God promised David that his offspring would sit on the royal throne forever. Jesus, of course, was the ultimate fulfillment of that promise, and sits ruling over His Kingdom–the Church–today and forevermore. But, if I want a child to be a ruler, should I not just claim this promise for my life?

These may be extreme examples, but they prove the point. When we just claim any promise of Scripture, we could be removing the promise from the original context. God often made specific promises to specific people for a specific set of circumstances. Those promises always came about and showed God’s providence, sovereignty, and power. That is why they are contained in the pages of the Bible.

Now, does that mean there are no promises believers can claim today? Of course not! We have many precious promises that help us through countless hours of our lives. Without changing the context of the Bible at all, the Christian can “claim” a great number of promises that provide hope and help.

For example…

Peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:4-7).

The presence of the Lord (Hebrews 13:5)

Wisdom (James 1:5-8)

and many, many more.

Still, even with these great promises, the context is key. I cannot just “claim” the promise of wisdom and expect to gain such from the Lord. James said that I must ask for that wisdom in faith and have no doubt that God will give it. Just like Abraham had to actually travel to the land in order to receive it, I hold a part in gaining the great promises of God for my life today.

As you read the Bible, look for those wonderful promises. They truly are “great and precious!” (2 Peter 1:4). But when you find one, do not neglect your Bible reading and study skills. Never neglect the context, and make sure the promise is one that is for followers of Christ today.

But, if it is? Claim it!

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Training Your Children for Worship 4: “My Worship Notes” Handout {Free Printable}

Today, we conclude our four-post series designed to give you encouragement and (most importantly) resources to help you train your children for worship.

If you have not been following these posts, here are links to the previous three:

1: A Devotional Guide about Worship

2: A Set of 5 Devotional Guides about the Acts of Worship

3: Prayer Checklist and “Time for Worship” Cards

Today’s final post in this series is also a printable to be used by children in worship. It is one that we have used before, and even make available to our families at Lebanon Road. While designed for smaller children (lower elementary is the target age), it can easily be adapted to children of just about any age.

The key to this printable is that it engages the child in every aspect of worship and has them write down specific things, rather than general aspects. We hope you find it useful!

To view/download this printable, simply click on the picture below. Enjoy!

kids worship handout 2

The Omnipresence of God

the omnipresence of god
An elderly woman met a preacher while traveling across the country by train. As they talked she told him how lonely she had become since her crippled daughter had died. She was used to caring for her, and had done so all of her life. In spite of all the heartaches and labor in caring for her sick child, when she could no longer watch her bed, an insurmountable feeling of emptiness came into her life.
The man gave her great advice. He told her to greet Jesus each time she came into her home. After the greeting, she was to tell him about her day. If someone had been kind or unkind, if something interesting or significant had occurred she was to share it with Jesus. She was to tell him about her life and talk about all of the things that she would normally have talked about with her daughter.

The woman took his advice. Within six months she believed that not only had she overcome her loneliness, but she had gained a best friend. She had no time to think about her loss, because she was so busy buidling her relationship with the Lord.

There has never been a human being, except Jesus, who ever had to go without God for even one minute outside of their own choice. David once asked of God, “Whither shall I go from Thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from Thy presence?” (Psalm 139:7). Truly God is everywhere, and is with us at all times if we would just recognize him and talk with him and share with him our lives.

We are supposed to be spending our earthly time living in such a way that we will assure ourselves of an eternity with the God who created us. If we are going about it in the right way, this means we are literally fleeing unto him, running into arms that are willing to embrace us with love at the end of the road.

We need to remember that God has never left us. He wants to be in our hearts and in our homes. He wants us to lean on him and live in harmony with him. He wants to be at our very core and reside as the most important thing in our lives. God is right here. He is not going anywhere. He is at our door and ready for us to tell him all about it.

“You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” ~ Psalm 16:11
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Whitewash Can be Dangerous

NOTE: This post originally appeared on jimfaughn.com. It is reprinted here with permission.

whitewash can be dangerous

It may be that the most famous use of whitewash in literature is found in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. You may be familiar with Mark Twain’s fictional account of how Tom “conned” his friends into whitewashing a fence by making them believe it was fun and that it was a rare opportunity to get to participate in this “wonderful” activity.

According to some translations of the Bible, God had a message for His people that involved whitewash. Unlike the scene in Mark Twain’s book, there was nothing humorous about this message in God’s book.

Please consider these sobering words concerning the false prophets of Ezekiel’s day:

Precisely because they have misled my people, saying, ‘Peace,’ when there is no peace, and because, when the people build a wall, these prophets smear it with whitewash, say to those who smear it with whitewash that it shall fall!  (Ezekiel 13:10, ESV) 

Notice carefully what is being described in this translation of this verse. The people built the wall. In the context, the wall was to be their protection, but it was made from inferior materials. Interestingly enough, it was those who claimed to speak for God who whitewashed the inferior wall in order to merely make it look like everything was alright.

Ezekiel could very easily have been talking about our own society. Is it not true that many who claim to be religious leaders are, in fact, religious whitewashers? It is difficult to think of a type of improper worship, false doctrine, and/or abhorrent lifestyle that has not been “whitewashed” by many in the “religious establishment” of our day.

For far too many people (including religious leaders) the standard of authority has long since stopped being God’s Word. The Bible has taken a back seat to public opinion polls, church or community surveys, personal preferences, decisions by a congregation’s leadership, etc.

Preachers are “hired and fired” based upon how effective they are in making people feel good about how they are already living. Likewise, elderships are respected or ignored based upon how well they are “keeping up with the times,” not in how well they are applying God’s Word in the congregations in which they serve.

There has never been a time in the history of mankind when God looked for spokesmen to give a stamp of approval to what people had already decided to do. That would make people the authority; not God.

To borrow a phrase, we need to throw out all of the whitewash and give people “the unvarnished truth” as long as we make sure we are —

“…speaking the truth in love…” (Eph. 4:15, ESV)

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I Hope He Makes It

i hope he makes it

Leaving my house one afternoon this week I pulled on to the main road that leads toward the interstate. About a quarter mile down I noticed a small turtle just getting started across the busy pavement. I made sure not to hit him with my right front tire and I said to myself, “I hope he makes it!” Poor little fella! Life for turtles can be tough, right? Good thing they have a hard shell, right?

I continued down the road about another quarter mile and my heart stopped and I began to worry about the turtle. I stopped in the middle of the road. I turned around in an awkward place not meant for such activity. I went back to get the turtle. As I came close to him two vehicles approached ready to smash him to pieces. I saw that I was not going to arrive in time to get out of my truck before they came to him. So I stopped on the other side of the road and turned on my emergency lights. I waved at the drivers of the van and pick-up to look down at the road. I was not sure they would see or care. But they moved, and they missed the turtle. I got out of my vehicle quickly and moved him to the other side of the road, just on the grass. A cataclysmic demise for the turtle was at least temporarily averted.

Formulate your own opinions about me, no big deal. But there was a reason I could not let the turtle die. Oh, he may have made it, but the attitude “I hope so” was not sufficient when there was something I could personally do about it. How many times have we said about a person, “I hope they make it”? How many times have we said, “I am praying for you,” but have done nothing to help? How many times have we said, “I hope that situation works out,” when we could have been a part of the solution?

So, is someone you know lost spiritually? What are you going to do about it? Is someone you know hungry or naked or in prison or sick or in need? What are YOU going to do about it? Is someone grieving? Is someone lonely? Is someone hurting? Is someone in a situation where you could make a positive impact and help promote change or simply be a friend? I believe there is more than just someone in your life in such a place. No matter how hard their shell, and no matter how true it is that they will probably cross that road again at some point – they are on it now – and you can help them safely to the other side.

God is going to hold us accountable for more than just our activities. He will also call to remembrance our opportunities.

I have peace of mind about the turtle. It is my greater aim to be at peace also with both God and men.

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” – Galatians 6:10

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The Next Six Years

the next six years

I might as well go ahead and admit it; I like C-Span. Well; I like some parts of C-Span.

I’m not “into” the daily committee meetings, live sessions of the House of Representatives and Senate, etc. What I do like is some of their weekend programming. I don’t get to watch a lot of it, but I enjoy some of that programming when I get a chance to watch or listen.

I especially find interviews with authors about their books to be of some interest. Recently, while doing something else and listening to one of those interviews, I heard a comment that captured my attention.

The man being interviewed was an historian. I’d seen and heard him before. He has written a number of books about various historical characters and events.

The comment he made that I thought was interesting had nothing to do with one of his books, though. It had to do with him, his life, and his career.

He was talking about a new position he was taking, the responsibilities of that position, the move he would be making, etc. In the course of talking about all of that, he said (and this may not be an exact quote, but it is pretty close)

The next six years of my life are pretty well mapped out.

Really?!

Earlier in the interview, he had talked about a time when he had almost died due to a heart attack. He told of a friend who got him to a hospital in time for his life to be saved. It seems to me that, with that experience in his background, he might be wise to not be so sure about the future.

Interestingly enough, just one day after I heard that interview, our local news was filled with stories about the murders of members of a family who had returned home after a Sunday morning worship service. I do not know what their plans were for the next six years, or for the rest of that day for that matter. I think it can be safely assumed that their plans did not include leaving this earthly existence when they did.

A huge part of being an historian is doing hours and hours of research. I might suggest to the man I heard interviews–and to all of us–to dust off a book we might use all too sparingly and read these words:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For  you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. (James 4:13-16; ESV)

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Celebrations

celebrations

You can find out a good deal about a person simply by observing what they celebrate. To celebrate is to “observe or commemorate with ceremonies or festivities.” There are certainly times where celebration is in order. But it seems that our self-centered world is rejoicing in many things that are not worthy of celebration.

We should not celebrate when we perform ordinary responsibilities. Twice this year an NFL defensive player has injured himself and perhaps ended his career for celebrating the execution of a tackle. Stephen Tulloch and Lamarr Houston both tore their ACL’s because they tried to jump and make a dance move after they sacked the quarterback. They are supposed to sack the quarterback. They should have gone back to the huddle and prepared for the next play. God made us in such a way that we can’t kick ourselves our pat ourselves on the back. We should understand that doing our job is the least we can do.

“So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’ ” – Luke 17:10

We should not celebrate when people suffer. We justify such feelings if the one suffering has been unkind to us or hurt us. We tend to enjoy watching the defeat of any person who is or has made themselves our rival. Perhaps we may even go so far as wishing for bad things to happen to certain people for reasons that seem fair to us. And yet God never rejoices over the loss of a soul, no matter the reason. And love never rejoices when sin abounds or when wounds are inflicted.

“Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’ – Ezekiel 33:11

We should not celebrate when the game hasn’t ended. “The Music City Miracle,” “The Bluegrass Miracle,” and “The Play to Beat the Band,” should all remind us that the game isn’t over until the last second has come off the clock. Many people misunderstand salvation by believing it happens in a baptistery. In reality it begins with grace that comes from God alone, it is realized in obedience, and that same obedience that gave birth to forgiveness is required until our physical death. We can live in grace and at the same time understand that in stewards it is required that one be found faithful.

“And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end shall be saved.” – Mark 13:13

We should not celebrate a victory that comes at too high a cost. One Sunday morning an elder met a Christian baseball coach in a restaurant at lunchtime. The baseball team had just come from the field having won a tournament, and the elder had come from worship. A stressful greeting was met with the coach making this comment, “I am sorry we missed the assembly, but at least we won the game.” Unfortunately the coach was mistaken. There were no winners on that field on that particular Sunday. Every person who forsook the assembly lost. In spiritual matters Jesus taught that we can only win by losing.  When we let God be first-place in all things, everyone wins. If a choice we are making cannot be celebrated in eternity, it cannot be celebrated now.

“For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” – Matthew 16:26

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Friendly Fire

[NOTE: This post was originally published on jimfaughn.com. It is reprinted here with permission.]

friendly fire

Military spokesmen and the news media seem to use a variety of phrases in an attempt to sanitize some of the unpleasant aspects of war. From time to time, we hear reports of troops being wounded or killed by “friendly fire.” That somehow sounds better than having to report that the damage was done by one of our own bullets, missiles, bombs, etc.

Sometimes, the evidence indicates that the fire was not so friendly. At times, some apparently take advantage of the confusion caused by the intensity of a particular battle to settle some personal grudge with a fellow soldier (maybe a superior officer).

I have wondered at times how often “friendly fire” damages the Lord’s army. Could it possibly be that some of our wounds and casualties come from our own ranks?

We know that Paul had to deal with “…perils among false brethren” (2 Cor. 11:26). He also warned that: “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another” (Gal. 5:15).

Sadly, it seems that some have neither learned from Paul’s experience, nor heeded his warning. Some in the Lord’s army seem more intent fighting a brother or sister, discrediting them, spreading gossip about them, and/or ignoring them than they are on waging war against our real enemy.

“Friendly fire” among us may cause the loss of two souls. The one “fired at” may be so wounded that he or she never recovers. The one who does the “firing” is most certainly damage beyond measure until and unless he or she repents.

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