Category Archives: Church Life

The “Hawkeye Cauci” and Me

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Unless you’ve been under a rock for months, you surely must be aware of the fact that we are in a presidential election year. Those with an interest in politics were interested in the results of the recent caucuses in Iowa. Those results have been analyzed, scrutinized, and criticized. I have no desire to add to any of that discussion.

However, before the dust completely settles from the results of the “Hawkeye Cauci,” I would like to make one non-political, non-partisan observation. I have no desire to endorse any particular candidate. I merely want us to transfer some of the methodology from Iowa to something much more important. 

As I understand it, if I happened to be a citizen of Iowa and wanted to show my support for a candidate, there is a way of doing that which is unique to that state. Here is (again, according to my understanding) what I must do. On a given date, I must go to a specific location. Once I am at that location, I must “caucus” with others who support the same candidate whom I support. That is to say that I must physically assemble with them.

If I want my preferences to count, I must do this even though the caucuses are held at night. I must be there physically, even if the night and time during which the caucuses are scheduled is inconvenient for me. For my vote to count, I must be there regardless of the weather (which in Iowa in February can be very “iffy”). The bottom line is that, if I truly care about “my candidate,” I will make every effort to show my support by my presence.

There are other “caucuses” held on a regular basis all over the world. Followers of Christ meet together to, in one sense of the word, show their support for Him. Just as there is strength in numbers in the political arena, there is strength in numbers among Christians. Besides our show of strength for our Lord, we strengthen each other as we assemble. 

The times of those assemblies may be different in different areas. What many of us are familiar with are Sunday morning Bible classes; Sunday morning and evening worship; and Wednesday evening Bible classes. The regularity of my presence and the amount of my participation says a lot about my real support for the cause of Christ and my concern for my “fellow supporters.”

Let’s suppose that I am a citizen of Iowa. Let’s suppose that I had been very vocal about my support for “candidate A.” Let’s suppose that you live in another state; are a friend of mine; and know of my support for him/her. After all, I have saturated social media with positive comments about “my guy/gal.” It seems that I want the world to know how committed I am to this cause. 

Let’s suppose further that you turn on your television and discover, to your surprise, that the network you are watching has cameras and reporters where I am supposed to be caucusing. You look and look, but you don’t see me there. 

While we are supposing, let’s suppose you care enough about me to get in touch with me in order to find out why you didn’t see me. You learn that there is a very simple reason why you didn’t see me. You didn’t see me because I wasn’t there!

Why was I not there? After all of the vocal and “posted” support, why did I fail to attend this very important event? 

That could be any number of things I’ve heard over the years as I’ve tried to encourage people to be more faithful in their attendance when the local church assembles. The excuses include (but are not limited to)–my child had a ballgame that night; my wife and I chose to go out to eat and watch a movie; I thought it would be a good time to go shopping since everybody else was tied up with these caucuses; I had to get up early to go to work the next day; my children have a lot of homework; my favorite television show is on at that time; I had tickets to a concert/ballgame; or that the weather forecast was slightly less than optimal.   

Every four years, the people of Iowa make an important statement merely by “being there.” I make a much more important statement on a regular basis by my presence–or absence–when the Lord’s people assemble for worship and Bible study. 

I did not grow up in Iowa. I grew up in Illinois. One of the jokes about the politics of that state is that the citizens are encouraged to vote early and vote often during each election. Of course, that is not legally possible in politics. It is, however, possible with regard to my support for the Lord and His church.

I pray that all who read these words will “make their votes count.”

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My 5 Favorite Bible School Links

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Any Bible school teacher who is responsible for teaching a class of squirmy children needs all the resources she can find. Unfortunately, not all teachers have access to a “resource room” full of ideas. The good news is that the internet is full of ideas. That is really good news for moms like me who want to teach but don’t have loads of time to devote to coming up with everything from scratch. Today, I wanted to give you some of my go-to Bible school links and give a brief explanation of each one.

On to the links!

  1. Bible Fun for Kids is written by Debbie Jackson. This is one of my favorites. Debbie’s lessons are packed full of printables. The great thing about this blog is that Debbie’s lessons are “complete.” She tells the Bible story and includes pictures. Then, there is always a worksheet, chart, game, or activity to print. I have always thought that a Bible school teacher who is a member of a congregation who couldn’t afford an entire curriculum could use Debbie’s blog and have a good start at teaching her students chronologically through the Bible. She even has lessons about Paul’s letters, which, let me tell you, is almost unheard of – even with a bought curriculum.
  2. Free Bible Images is a website where you can print, well, free Bible images! These are beautiful pictures, and I love that the images include a brief script that corresponds to each picture. In fact, I have used these images to make flip charts for our teachers at our congregation. This site is very well organized, and it is very user-friendly. You can search by Bible book or by Bible character. There are illustrations for roughly 250 Bible lessons on this site. It is well worth your time.
  3. Apologetics Press has an enormous amount of material. Not only do you have full access to all of the articles of past Discovery Magazine for Kids, but they have also been hard at work preparing a 4-year Bible school program. The online curriculum comes with complete lesson plans and links to their own activity pages and also correlates with the beloved Discovery articles. This one is great. Just look for the “Bible School Curriculum” tab. There is an outline of all the lessons, and you should be able to go from there. [Note: The Bible School Curriculum area of their site requires sign-in, but it is free.]
  4. Mission Arlington. I wanted to include this site because I have always loved the hands-on ideas on the “Learning Activity” section of their lessons. Sometimes it is as simple as “bring animal cookies,” but if you’re like me, sometimes you need just a little creative reminder.
  5. Pinterest. Almost anyone who is reading this knows that Pinterest has countless ideas. I like Pinterest for the craft ideas. I also like that Pinterest allows you to share boards, so that all the teachers of your congregation can add items to the same board. I am in the process of rearranging my Pinterest boards, and you can follow me here.

* I do want to be clear that just because I recommend a website, I don’t necessarily endorse everything on that website. I am assuming that each teacher is consulting her Bible first.

These are my favorite websites for Bible school, and I hope they will help you feel more prepared to teach your children!

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AUTHOR: Leah Faughn

The Only Label I Want to Wear

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I get so tired of labels among Christians.

You know what I’m talking about.

“He’s a liberal preacher.”

“This is a conservative congregation.”

“I would say he’s a bit to the right.”

“We’re trying to be progressive.”

I get sick of it. It seems as if every congregation, leader, and member has to figure out where they fall on some sort of spectrum in order to describe who they are.

The problem is not necessarily the labels per se, it is that no one has any idea what the standard is for these labels. What one person called “progressive” another would say is “mainstream.” What you might say it “ultra-conservative,” a friend might call “just right of center.”

I understand the fascination with these labels, but all they do is lead to less discussion. When someone hears that this person is a liberal, they now refuse to listen. Or, if that person is a conservative, many will not listen just because of the label itself.

Listen: God did not command us to be “liberal” or “conservative” or “progressive” or “left” or “right” or any other label.

I am certain that people have labeled me in any number of ways. (In fact, I’ve heard a few of them, so I know it to be true.) That is certainly their right, and I get where they come from.

That said, I do not wish any of those labels upon myself. For example, when I speak somewhere, I send a biography for the congregation to have (maybe for introduction purposes). It does not say, “Adam Faughn is a conservative, right-of-center preacher….” or “Adam Faughn has been considered progressive about…”.

Why? Because there is only one label I ever want to wear, as it pertains to my walk with Christ. When it comes to my Christianity, the only label I ever want to wear is…

faithful.

That’s it, because it is the only label Christ gives to those who enter heaven: “Well done, good and faithful servant” (emphasis added; Matthew 25:13).

Quit trying to fall into some type of label of Christianity. Study the Bible. Live it out daily. Be humble before the Lord.

In the end, if He calls you “faithful,” that’s the only label that will ever matter.

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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

All Aboard Noah’s Ark!

Have you ever wondered how Noah and his family must have felt toward those people who were outside of the ark once God shut the door? It was probably not a feeling of vindication or celebration that Noah’s preaching had proven to be correct. It was more likely overwhelming thanksgiving mixed with sadness and concern for those who were scratching at the ark from the outside. People wanted salvation but it was too late. In terror, one by one, they all slipped beneath the surface of the waters and were lost. The apostle Peter later noted that God was longsuffering in the days of Noah while the ark was being made ready, but finally God’s just wrath for man’s sin was satisfied (1 Pet. 3:20-21; 2 Pet. 3:4-10).

Whether the human race accepts it or not, God has set a time for the closing of the door. It could be today, tomorrow, or a million years away. Mock it as man will, the moment that door is closed everyone will want to be inside. In today’s Christian age, it is the same as saying: 1. Everyone will want to be a Christian. 2. Everyone will want to be a member of the Lord’s church. 3. Everyone will want to be found faithful.

When the door closes there will be no time to debate about whether or not baptism is essential for salvation, what constitutes acceptable worship, or who is and who isn’t a part of the church. All that will matter is whether or not we have obeyed the word of God and whether or not we are practicing what it teaches.

When the door closes there will be no time for getting around to asking people to worship. There will be no time for knocking doors or setting up potential Bible studies. There will be no time for someday maturing enough to where we are comfortable enough with ourselves to share our faith in Christ with others.

We should not wait for the door to close before we feel remorse for not being evangelistic. We should not wait for the door to close before we get in the boat ourselves. We should not wait for the door to close before we become salt and light in a world of death and darkness. The door is still open! And even if people aren’t yet scratching to get in…they will be!

“So those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the Lord shut him in.” ~ Genesis 7:16

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And You Didn’t Even Know I Liked Poetry!

A Reminder of the Necessity of Truth

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One of the most popular ideas today is that sincerity trumps truth. Over and over again, we hear the following statement (or something very close to it): “It doesn’t matter what one believes as long as he or she is sincere.”

Gospel preachers, elders, Bible class teachers, and a host of other members of the body of Christ have tried to help people to see the fallacy in that type of thinking. Because of their concern for the souls of those who are religious, but wrong, they have employed a variety of methods, lines of reasoning, etc. to help people to see…

  • that there is such a thing as absolute truth (cf. John 8:32)
  • that it can be known (cf. John 8:32)
  • that it must be obeyed (cf. Romans 2:8: Gal. 3:1, 5:7)

We have tried to reason with the uninformed and/or misinformed by using the apostle Paul as an example. We have suggested that his statement that he had “…lived in all good conscience before God until this day” (Acts 23:1) included the time when he was zealous in his attempts to destroy the followers of Christ. There could be no doubt about his sincerity. There can also be no doubt about the fact that he was wrong.

Sometimes a type of a logical argument is employed to demonstrate the weakness of this “sincerity only” type of thinking. It has been pointed out that sincerely believing that black is white does not make it so, or that sincerely believing 2 + 2 = 5 will not keep a teacher from correcting the student, or that those who sincerely believed that the world was flat were correct in their misunderstanding.

Anything that has the potential of having an impact on our eternal destiny is very serious. The little poem below is not meant to be an attempt to treat such a serious subject in a flippant manner. I came across the poem in some reading I was doing recently and thought that it might be another weapon in the arsenal of those who are attempting to persuade those whom we love and with whom we study to know, believe, and obey the truth.

If you are like me, you may smile a little as you read this poem.  You may also start thinking, “You know; there’s a lot of truth in these four lines.”

Shed a tear for Jimmy Brown;

Poor Jimmy is no more.

For what he thought was H2O*

Was H2SO4**

*water

**sulphuric acid

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Seeing God in Unusual Places

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We had a beautiful snowfall last week. The scene outside our sunroom window was picturesque. Along with the beauty of the snow, I noticed that the tree by our patio was filled with cardinals. That beautiful bright red color was almost glowing against the white snow. 

As I sat and enjoyed that scene, I began to think about all of the small things in life we often overlook because of all the “business” surrounding us. Life has a way of keeping us so busy that we miss those small blessings God has given to us.

I was reminded of a passage in the great Sermon on the Mount which says, “…consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Matt. 6:28).

I began to compile a short list of small things with which God has blessed us: buds on trees in Spring, berries on bushes in Winter, daffodils and crocus sometimes pushing up through the snow, my husband’s eyes, a tiny baby’s hand or foot, a smile on the face of a child or grandchild, puppies and kittens, ripples in a pond, and many more too numerous to list.

The words to a song which our family often sings when we are together also came to mind as I thought about all of God’s blessings.

For the beauty of the earth, for the beauty of the skies,

For the love which from our birth over and around us lies.

For the beauty of each hour of the day and of the night,

Hill and vale, and tree, and flower, sun and moon, and stars of light.

For Thy church that evermore lifteth holy hands above,

Offering up on every shore her pure sacrifice of love.

Lord of all, to Thee we raise this our sacrifice of praise.

–Folliot S. Pierpoint (1864)

May our lives never get so busy that we miss the “small” blessings from God.

“Let them thank the Lord for His steadfast love, for His wondrous works to the children of man.”  Psalm 107:21

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Why “They’re a Bunch of Hypocrites!” is a Poor Excuse for Not Attending a Church

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“They’re just a bunch of hypocrites!” Yes, I have heard it said. Yes, I have read it (many times). I’ve heard it said in jest, but–tragically–I have also heard it said with all sincerity.

When asked why someone won’t attend a church, that hurtful answer is regularly given.

Often, when those words are spoken, it is done to virtually halt the conversation. It is a default answer, meant to cause the person doing the inviting to just go along his merry way and stop bothering the other person. At other times, though, the person is serious. They have seen “so-and-so” who goes to church “over there” do something wrong, so why should I go to church? After all, I’m just as good as “so-and-so.”

Here is why that is a poor excuse for not attending a church: it is a misunderstanding of what the word “hypocrite” means.

The word “hypocrite” does not merely mean that someone makes mistakes, or stumbles in his/her moral decisions at times. We all do that, more often than we would like (Romans 3:10; 3:23).

Our word “hypocrite” originally came from the Greek culture; specifically, from their theaters. An actor would put on a mask to play the part, maybe of a very happy character in the play. Then the very same actor would change masks, either to display a different mood (e.g., sadness) or to play a completely different character. So, the idea behind the word became that of changing masks…

….intentionally.

And there is the key. A hypocrite is not someone who just makes mistakes. It is not one who “walks in the light” (1 John 1:7), but who stumbles at times.

Instead, a hypocrite is an actor. In fact, the word, literally defined, means, “a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc. that he or she does not actually possess” (emphasis added).

Do you see it? It is someone who knows that he or she is putting on a front, and is not ashamed to do so. It is not just someone who makes mistakes, or even someone who struggles mightily with their spiritual lives.

Is it possible there are true hypocrites in a congregation? Of course, it is possible. Sadly, there are some individuals who “play” church, and are not ashamed to live however they want to live, but who also intentionally put on a religious mask on Sundays.

Any honest person, though, would have to admit that those people are few and far in-between. If nothing else, after awhile, who would want to sit through worship–where God is praised and His commands are taught regularly–when they aren’t following Him the other 167 hours during the week? Wouldn’t that get old…and pretty fast?

God’s people are not perfect. I’ll grant you that. We struggle. We sin. We face temptations. We are burdened.

But we are not hypocrites, because we are trying.

We are trying to do what is right. We pray for forgiveness. We make fervent effort to be submissive to the will of God. When we struggle, we rally around each other and pull each other closer to the Lord’s example.

And that’s what we want to do for you. We want to help you in your struggle, and we desire for you to help us when we struggle.

So drop the excuse of “they are a bunch of hypocrites” and just see if God’s people aren’t the most tender-hearted, kindest, most humble, and most caring people you’ll ever meet…if you’ll just give them a chance.

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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

Stop Being Afraid of the Holy Spirit!

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 11.21.12 AMAt the turn of the twentieth century came the beginning of the Charismatic movement. For the first time in many years, a well-organized religious entity gathered to proclaim miraculous works were still being done through the hands of men. As the movement gained steam a large portion of the Christian community began to embrace the idea of genuine supernatural healings by the laying on of hands. To date, no modern day miracles have been proven, and many–due to lack of study–have for decades misunderstood God’s purpose in miraculous works.

But perhaps a bigger problem than a misunderstanding of miracles has developed. Many Christians in reaction to false claims have become afraid of the Holy Spirit altogether. They don’t want to study about the Holy Spirit. They don’t want to hear sermons about Him. They are so concerned that the worship is going to turn into a free-for-all that they would rather the Holy Spirit remain neither seen nor heard. To believe such is just as much a sin as denying the very deity of Christ.

1 Thessalonians 5:19 is a five-word verse with a direct and proper response for those who seem to want to avoid the Holy Spirt – “Do not quench the Spirit.” The word “quench” literally means, “To extinguish, to stifle, or to suppress.” Ephesians 4:30 also commands Christians, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” Again, we are told not to offend Him or make Him sad, since He has become the down payment on our eternal inheritance.

In reality, the fear associated with the Holy Spirit becomes unhealthy because, in our avoidance of Him, our ignorance remains. It may be true that the Spirit is more difficult for us to conceptualize than the Father or the Son. But He can be known and understood and He is just as much a part of the Godhead as the other two divine beings. Imagine completely ignoring one of the members of your family. This would lead to a dysfunctional home where the proper balance of love was not being distributed to all. In the same way, many churches become dysfunctional and unbalanced by their disregard for the Spirit. How can we expect to become what God desires when we refuse to accept one-third of His identity?

We can embrace the Spirit without changing the worship. We can love the Spirit without believing that we have lost our free will to accept truth. We can enjoy the Spirit without thinking that He is doing more than the Bible claims. Our corporate worship, as well as our individual relationship with God, could use more of His influence and power. Without the Spirit, there would be no revelation (2 Pet. 1:21). Without the Spirit, there would be no comfort (John 14:16). Without the Spirit, there would be no earnest on our future reward (2 Cor. 1:22). Without the Spirit, there would be no intercession in the prayers we offer without words (Rom. 8:26). Without the Spirit, there would be no witness in heaven or on earth (1 John 5:7-8).

The Holy Spirit is an eternal and intrinsic part of the God we serve. Study about Him. Recognize Him. Praise Him. Thank Him. Believe in Him. Love Him! Allow Him to bring you everlasting and surpassing peace. Stop being afraid of the Holy Spirit! Unless the fear you fear is the same you display for the Father and the Son!

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” – Jude 20-21

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A New Name for An Old Problem

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There are a variety of “isms” that should concern people who attempt to point people to God and His Word. Each of these “isms” poses a real threat to the souls of individuals.

Just a partial list of such “isms” would include such things as:

  • Materialism
  • Post-modernism
  • Secularism
  • Denominationalism
  • Humanism
  • Hedonism

The list could go on and on, but I think you get the idea. Each of those “isms” has the potential of keeping people separated from God for eternity.

Recently, I came across a new “ism.” As I understand it, the term was coined by a religious leader somewhere in California. In the material I read, the term was not fully examined or explained, but I certainly got the drift of what the man was talking about.

The term is “apatheism.”

As the title above suggests, the condition is not new. If we accept this man’s term, we now just have a new way to label something that most of us have been aware of for quite some time. It may even be the case that we have been more than just aware of this “ism.” We may have actually been guilty of apatheism. We could even be affected by it at the present time.

I suspect that the preferred body language of one who is practicing apatheism would be shrugged shoulders. Nothing would excite or interest them. They would merely shrug their shoulders and go on with their lives; even if matters of eternal importance were being discussed.

I suspect, too, that the favorite word of the apatheist would be whatever. I can easily imagine conversations with an apatheist. In fact, I’ve had conversations similar to the following:

  • “Do you believe that God created the universe and that we are accountable to him?” “Whatever.” 
  • “Did you know that God loves you enough that He sent His Son to be your Savior?” “Whatever.”
  • “It is important to prepare now for eternity.” “Whatever.”
  • “You really need to be more faithful in your attendance at worship services and Bible classes.”  “Whatever.”
  • “Somebody with the kind of talents you have needs to be more involved in the work of the local congregation.” “Whatever.”
  • “Are you concerned about how your language, lifestyle, and/or conduct affects others?”  “Whatever.”

As was the case earlier, this is only a partial list of all of the types of conversations that could be (and have been) carried on with an apatheist. I think these are enough to get the idea across that an apatheist just doesn’t care

Sadly, the things they really don’t care about are the things that matter the most. They may care a great deal about things that will not matter at all in eternity, but they care very little, or not at all, about their souls and the souls of others who are close to them.

I used to have the privilege of working with a godly man who served as a full-time elder where I preached. He often said something I thought was interesting. The word picture he painted was very interesting–and challenging. He would talk about people who, in his words, “would not walk across the road to watch an ant eat a bale of hay.”

From our conversations, I know he was talking about the problem of apathy in general. I also know that he was talking about apathy concerning spiritual matters. Those were the things that really concerned him.

Do those things concern you? 

There is coming a Day when there will be nobody who is practicing apatheism. All of us will care–and will care very deeply–about the words we will hear from the One who sits on the throne of eternal judgment. 

Are you ready for that Day? Do you care?

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“I’m Desperate for Snow”

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Those were the words of our bleary-eyed, barely-awake 8-year-old on a recent school morning. She had worn her pajamas inside-out and backwards, flushed ice, put a spoon under her pillow, and done her best snow dance, all to no avail. She had to wake up and go. (Don’t feel too bad for her. Her snow routine worked last night and I am currently in comfy sweats on our first official snow day of the year!)

As I have thought (and laughed) about Lyssa and her “desperation” for snow, I couldn’t help but think about David’s plea in Psalm 51:7 where he says, “Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow;” or the beautiful words of the Lord in Isaiah 1:18: ““Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord, ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow….'”

As those Bible words entered my mind, I realized Lyssa wasn’t really that far off. She certainly was thinking of a physical want, but she brought to mind my (our) desperate spiritual need. When talking to Nicodemus in John 3, Jesus says very clearly that “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” and “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (verses 3 & 5) Jesus also told his listeners in Matthew 18:3 that unless one is converted and becomes as a little child, will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

What does all that have to do with snow? Snow is a symbol of purity, cleanness, sinlessness. Jesus said unless I enter that state, I cannot see or enter His kingdom. With David, I plead to God: “Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.” I am spiritually desperate for snow!

“But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7)

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