Category Archives: Church Life

He Knows

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It happened to me again. I reread a familiar passage and something new jumped out at me. To me, that’s proof that the Bible comes from a Divine Creator. Who else could craft a book where people who are reading for the first time can understand it yet is complicated enough to reveal treasures of wisdom throughout lifetimes? But that thought is for another day.

Today I want to share what jumped out at me. I was reading from Luke 22. I had read about Peter’s denials and how the Lord turned and looked at Peter. In the next 3 verses, I read:

Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him. (Luke 22:63-65, ESV)

That’s when the thought hit me: He did know. He knew exactly who was hitting Him. He knew who had blindfolded Him. Jesus knew who his “hidden” tormentors were! And it goes even beyond that.

Jesus not only knew who they were, He had helped create them. He knew their intentions. He knew their thoughts. He knew their destinies. And He was headed to the cross for them.

Friends, when we think we have gotten away with a hidden sin, He knows us. He knows us. He knows our thoughts and intentions. He knows our destiny. And He went to the cross to provide the only way to change that destiny to one of hope.

Those men in verses 63-65 did not see Jesus turn and look at them like Peter did earlier in the chapter at his time of failure, but make no mistake: Jesus knew them and He knows us today.

He knows. May I always remember.


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What to Do When Someone Else Gets What You Wanted

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Everyone has had it happen, and it hurts. It is when you worked for something, you put yourself out there, and someone else was chosen for what you wanted.

You applied for your dream job…but were passed over.

You wanted to get into that graduate school…but you didn’t make the cut.

You sought a promotion…but someone else got it.

You tried out for the team…and were left to be in the stands instead of on the bench.

We know the feeling. It is painful–because we wanted it so much–to be told “no,” or even possibly, “you’re not good enough.”

(By the way, as an aside, I have often wondered about the man we are told about in Acts 1 who is named “Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus” [v.23]. Can you imagine being the one who was not chosen to be an apostle, while Matthias was? I have no doubt that Joseph handled it well, but it has intrigued me for a long time.)

When those times come and you are not the one chosen, what can you do? While this is not an exhaustive list, here are 6 things that I would hope every Christian would do.

1. Prayerfully Evaluate Yourself. It is easy to assume that you were better qualified, more prepared, or more gifted than you actually were. After all, we are striving to put our best foot forward, so we emphasize (maybe overemphasize?) our good traits. Is there something you could have done better? Is there some training or education you need? Could you have been more humble? More well-spoken? More prepared for the interview?

2. Take Your Frustration to God. God created us with emotions, so He understands when we are frustrated and hurt. While we must always remember to be reverent toward God in our prayers, it is acceptable to pour out our frustrations to Him. After all, as a loving Father, He wants to hear from His children!

3. Respect the One Who Got the Position. You did not get the job (or promotion or position), but someone did, and they have feelings, too. Scripture commands us to “rejoice with those who rejoice” (Romans 12:15), and that is not always easy! Even if you feel that you were more qualified or prepared, respect that the leaders did the best they could, and do not ruin this positive moment for someone else.

4. Be Gracious of the Leaders and the Process. I have literally seen people who were passed over for a job or position take to social media to blast those who did not choose him/her. Such is unbecoming of a Christian! Leaders, in a vast majority of cases, are doing the best they can and are trying their best to have the best process in place. Give them the grace they deserve as leaders and respect the system used of selection.

5. Learn and Grow. The sting of the moment is very real, but if you will use it properly, you will come out on the other side better. How many of our best doctors did not get into their first choice of medical school, but used that to better themselves, and we are better for it! How many preachers did not get that job, but are far better preachers because they know better how to have humility from that “rejection?”

6. Trust that God Has a Plan. Is it not at least possible that, in His perfect providence, God would like you to take this time where you feel rejected and use it to His glory? Maybe you didn’t make the team so you can use that time to learn Scripture better and teach a friend. Maybe you did not get the job over there because you need to shine His light right where you are. Maybe you did not get into that school and it is because it would have been a place where you were tempted to move away from the faith. Even through times when you feel passed over, trust that God has a plan.

None of this is meant to say that you won’t feel down, hurt, or even rejected. The pain is real and natural; every person knows that feeling. But as people of God, there is a right way to handle every situation, even when someone else gets what you wanted. I pray these things will help you when that moment inevitably comes.


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

Informing, Not Enforcing: Some Thoughts about The Salvation Army

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I fully realized that this may be one of my most controversial contributions to A Legacy of Faith. I have no interest in enforcing my practices or the practices of my family on anybody else. I would not presume to do so, even if I thought I had that right. 

A few weeks ago, while I was out doing some visiting, I drove by the local Salvation Army building. I took the time to stop and take a picture (which is reproduced below). I am doing this for one reason – and one reason only. 

I believe that there are many good people who donate to and/or buy from this organization without realizing that they are helping to support a religion. While The Salvation Army “markets itself” as merely an organization devoted to benevolence, the sign below demonstrates that it is, in fact, a religious institution.

While I have no interest in enforcing anything, I believe that, as a preacher and as an elder, I have the responsibility to inform others. It cannot be denied that those who choose to support The Salvation Army are (maybe unintentionally) choosing to support a group of people whose name, organization, worship, and plan of salvation cannot be found in the Bible. 

The following information may be found on The Salvation Army’s website:

The Salvation Army is an integral part of the universal Christian Church, although distinctive in government and practice.

Salvation Army places of worship are sometimes called ‘citadels’ or ‘temples’, but, whatever their name, they are Christian churches open to the community they serve and offering a warm welcome to all.

I will tell you that this is not merely an intellectual exercise for me. I have caught some flak from some of the bell-ringers who know that I am a preacher. They cannot believe that I would pass by those red kettles that seem to be everywhere about this time of the year without making a donation. One lady in particular really “raked me over the coals” for being a preacher and not supporting this “good work.”

It is precisely because I am a preacher of the gospel – and a New Testament Christian – that I cannot support or endorse any church other than the one about which I read in my Bible.

That’s where I am. That’s where I intend to always be. I hope you respect my decision and my right to make that decision. 

Your stand and your decision is up to you.

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And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (Col. 3:17, ESV).


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Our 2016 Holiday Gift Guide

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In past years, we have released a couple of gift guides that were very random (one year, we even included a toy car-making machine!).

This year’s gift guide is meant to be more focused, as most of the ideas listed below are meant to instill the Word of God in the hearts of your family. A couple of things are for more specific groups of people, but we hope you find everything below to be helpful in learning God’s Word.

[Disclaimer: Any links below that take you to Amazon are affiliate links. All other links are not affiliate links.]

Polishing the Pulpit Flash Drives. In past years, Polishing the Pulpit has had some flash drives with all the audio lessons for attendees. However, after the convention, there are some drives left over, and they keep them available for sale, so long as supplies last. They are $100 each, but each contains over 400 lessons! To learn more, call PtP at 877-338-3397, or visit this page.

God, Give Us Christian Homes [Book by Jim Faughn]. Every family needs encouragement. Jim Faughn wrote this 13-chapter book to help families, or to be used in a Bible class. It would make a great gift for a family, or just a “gift to yourself,” for your family to study together. Currently, it is $11.95 on Amazon and can be found here.

Shaping Hearts for God “Class in a Box.” We use Shaping Hearts for God as our curriculum at 9th Avenue from 4s-5s through 4th grade. However, their “Class in a Box” is designed for 2s and 3s and can easily be used in a family devotional setting. There are two “classes,” and each is $39.99. Talk about a great gift for a young family that you see trying to teach their kids about God! Find out more and make your order here.

Shaping Hearts of God Bible Timeline. Okay, so this would take some space in a house, but if you know a family who homeschools, or who has a room where they hold family devotionals, this would be an awesome gift. It is a LONG timeline that shows the history of the Biblical narrative in a wonderful way. (Personally, this is my favorite thing that Shaping Hearts for God puts out.) The timeline is $29.99 and can be ordered here.

A gift for your elders: Rest in Green Pastures. Why not get your elders a small token of your affection? This book is written by elders, for elders. It is a quick read but provides so much encouragement. On Amazon, it is currently $12.00, and can be found here.

Advanced Reader: Amazing Skin Designed by God. Our kids love the “Advanced Reader” books from Apologetics Press, and this one is fresh off the presses. These books are for smaller kids, but even up through “tween-age” will probably find them interesting. This book is only $2.00 and can be ordered through Apologetics Press here.

Advanced Reader Series. If you want to dive into the whole Advanced Reader series from AP, you can order all 8 books in the series for the price of seven. For $14.00, that’s a great investment (and can be a wonderful stocking stuffer). Order them all here.

Pryor Convictions, The Book of Genesis. We are currently using this book in our family Bible time and we love it! Each of the 13 lessons is designed to be taught over the course of a few days, and includes a reading guide, review questions, crafts, games, activities, and more. The books produced by Pryor are intended for home use, so you will find them very useful. A great gift for a family. The Genesis book is $14.95, and you can find out more here.

CD: “One Voice: Praise & Worship.” Even though we are living in the age of Bluetooth, our family still listens to a lot of CDs when we travel. This is one of our favorites. It contains wonderful old hymns of praise sung by an amazing male quartet. This would make a great gift for a gift exchange or a quick, last-minute gift at a party. It is $15.00 here.

Hymns of the Heart. Okay, if you don’t mind, I’m going to include my own book here! This book walks readers through 35 of the Psalms and is meant to help the reader learn more about the wonderful God we serve. As of this writing, it is $11.41 on Amazon, but they regularly mark it down from that. You can find it here.

One Word Study Guide. These devotional books walk readers through one Biblical word (e.g., “grace,” “God,” “justification”) each week. Written by ministers of the churches of Christ, the goal is to share five short devotionals about each of the words, one for each week of the year in 2017. Many churches (including 9th Avenue) are going to give these out, but if your congregation is not, it would make a wonderful gift for someone. And, even more amazing, the book–which is tremendously designed and put together–is only $3.00. Order several copies here.

Well, there you go! We hope you find some of these resources to be great gifts…or you just decide to get some for your own family!


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

You Don’t Have to be Famous to Have True Influence

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In the past 9 days, I have spoken at two funerals. The two services were for two ladies who meant a lot to me. One was in Nashville, and the other in Haleyville. It was a high honor to be asked to speak at each of the services, and in reflecting on the lives of these ladies, I was reminded of a powerful principle that every Christian needs to have in mind throughout our life.

See, unless you were near to these ladies, you probably would not have known of their passing. Their deaths did not make national news. No radio talk show is going to talk for hours about the impact on the world or on the national scene caused by their deaths.

No, they weren’t famous. But their influence will be felt for a long time to come.

We live in a time where people think you have to be famous to have influence. Certainly, those with a large platform (celebrities, politicians, and so forth) have influence. But when a celebrity dies or a politician is voted out of office, how many people really are touched by that change? Typically, it is not too many.

But when someone like these two sweet ladies leave this life and enter their eternal reward, their influence lives on. People are deeply hurt because there is a void. Their home is not the same. Their churches are not the same. Their daily routine is not the same. For a long time to come, even mundane decisions and actions seem different, because that person is not there.

Christians, I beg all of us to not worry about how large our platform is. We need to quit buying into the celebrity culture. (You know, the one that says, “If only *this* celebrity would become a Christian. That would change everything!”)

Instead, we need to shine our light and be the salt of the earth that Jesus said we are. More than likely, you are who you are today because of people who are not famous, but because someone simply took the time to love and encourage you.

These two sweet sisters did that, person by person, for years. So, they are missed, and will be for a long time to come.

But their influence will live on, too. It’s not the kind of power or fame that the world says we all need to seek. Instead, it is true influence, because it leads people closer to things that are eternal. In the end, that’s what really matters, and it is what we all need to seek.

“You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world.”

(Matthew 5:13, 14)


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

Photo background credit: Don LaVange on Creative Commons

Have You Said That You Were Sorry?

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This past weekend I received a random text from a number that my phone did not recognize. Here’s what it said, “I’m sorry for everything that happened. I just wanted to wish you and your family a happy holiday season.”
This text message literally took my breath away. Who was it from? To what were they referring? I immediately tried to think about anything that had happened that was bad over the last several years. Fortunately, I could not come up with anything I personally had done to hurt someone that was so significant that I would have to have a conversation about it.
As I learned of who had texted and the reason for the comment, I was reminded of several truths about life:
1. Sometimes we struggle in relationships. Feelings get hurt. People get mistreated. We can be the giver or the receiver of these troubles. We don’t enter into any kind of friendship or relationship because we plan on making mistakes along the way. But we will make mistakes. We will need to forgive and to be forgiven.
2. Decisions we make have long-term consequences. This person was contacting me over something they were sorry about that happened a long time ago and over a period of years. The fact that I did not have their number saved in my phone would indicate that we no longer had a close personal relationship. Sometimes when we have conflicts there is no easy resolution and it may lead to someone we care about just not being as close to us as we would have liked for them to be.
3. It’s never too late to ask for forgiveness. This person sent me this message because they had a burden they were carrying they needed to lay down. Jesus taught his disciples to forgive every single time a person asks for forgiveness. This is what God does for us. We should be thankful whenever someone asks for our forgiveness. I was thankful that when I received the message, I couldn’t think of anyone I was in conflict with. I couldn’t think of anyone I had not already forgiven.
4. We should be sad that wounds happen. Whether we are the one who has caused the wound or not, what overwhelmed me about this text was the very idea that I could ever have a conflict in my life that might cause another person pain and heartache. It should be our aim to love everyone and to get along with them as much as depends on us.
What at first was a random text out of the blue turned into a blessing, because somebody expressed something that they believe needed to be said. Life is short. So tell people what’s on your heart. Repent of anything that you may have done to disobey God or to hurt someone else. You will find that there is peace in finding the strength to say you are sorry. Pride solves nothing. A humble and contrite heart is what God is seeking in each and every one of us.
“The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.”
 – Psalms 34:18
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Thanksgiving…For the Wrong Reasons

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It is not an original idea to suggest that thanksgiving should be much more than a holiday. All people would be much better off and the world would be a much better place if an “attitude of gratitude” would be the norm. This should especially be true of a person who wears the name of Christ and is truly trying to follow Him. 

As I was thinking about the upcoming holiday and, more importantly, about the mindset that should be ours, my mind went to a passage where gratitude was expressed. It was even expressed to God. Sadly, however, it was expressed for all of the wrong reasons.

The passage that came to mind is Luke 18:9-14. No doubt you are familiar with this account that begins this way: “Two men went up to the temple to pray…” (v. 10).

As you recall, the Pharisee began his prayer with these words: “…God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector” (v. 11). At this point in his prayer, he began telling God about some of his good qualities. 

I’m wondering how many of us have expressed gratitude for similar things. Our gratitude may focus on what we have accomplished, how we are thought of, and so on. 

This “misfocused gratitude” may be a problem for an individual, a family, a nation, or even a congregation of people who claim to be loyal to and follow the Savior. Our focus cannot be on us (either individually or collectively). Our focus must be on our Lord and the wonderful salvation that is available in Him.

If we ever fall into the trap of thinking that we can be good enough, moral enough, or productive enough to “earn” our salvation and spend eternity with Jesus, we might want to consider the following passage (and many others like it):

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:4-7, ESV).

Then, we have thanksgiving, for the right reason.


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Make Baptisms Special Moments

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[Disclaimer: The “idea credit” for this post goes to David Shannon. At Polishing the Pulpit 2016, he spoke on a very similar topic as this post, and the concepts have been rolling around in my mind ever since.]

Someone steps out into the aisle during the invitation song. This is the moment of their decision to put Christ on in baptism.

Eternity is changed for that person. The old passes away in those waters, and a new creation comes forth, cleansed by the blood of Jesus.

And, as they go to a small room to dry off, someone gets up into the pulpit and announces, “Don’t forget to bring some canned peaches for the pantry tonight.”

Really?

Have we forgotten the glorious moment it is when someone decides to put Christ on in baptism? Absolutely nothing should detract from that moment. Church leaders should act like it has happened before, not like we have no idea how to handle it.

More than that, though, it should be a time of celebration. The whole congregation should be moved to praise and joy.

How can we do that? Here are a few suggestions.

Sing Appropriate Songs While You Wait (Before and After)

As the person is getting changed into proper garments, what better way to prepare than to sing “In Christ Alone,” “Victory in Jesus,” “The River,” or “O Happy Day”?

It might be a good idea for a congregation to have a list of song titles and song book numbers listed somewhere on/in the pulpit, so the song leader does not have to go searching. Other congregations have a certain “set” of songs, ready at the press of a button, to display on PowerPoint, so there is no waiting.

As soon as the person comes up out of the water, what better way to honor that moment than to burst forth in a similar song, such as “A New Creature” or “God’s Family”?

God’s people are known as singing people and if anything should cause us to sing, it is when one becomes a Christian.

Pause for a Special Prayer

I especially like to do this when someone is baptized and it is not at a worship service. Maybe there are only a handful of people in the building (or at the poolside at camp, or wherever). How special it is to that new Christian for an elder or a preacher to lead everyone in a focused, special prayer on their behalf!

Pray thanking God for His goodness and the plan He put in place through His Son. Praise God for His mercy, forgiveness, and loving kindness. Pray for this new Christian’s zeal. Pray for them as they now face a world that will not stand with them in their faith.

Spread the Word

We take lots of pictures of baptisms and post them to Facebook. In an idea I have adapted from a friend of mine, we “hashtag” all of them with #OneMore. The reason is because this is what the Church exists to do! If someone becoming a Christian is not worth sharing with the world, then what is?

Further, make sure that, if you have a weekly bulletin, the front page news is that person’s conversion. It truly is “front page worthy!”

Continue the Good News

At 9th Avenue, we present each new Christian with a new Bible as soon as we can get the Bible imprinted with that person’s name. Typically, it is the next Sunday, but sometimes it takes two weeks. Whoever is preaching (myself or our youth minister) presents these at the beginning of our sermon, because we want this to be at a “focused” time of our assembly.

Other congregations have regular dinners for new converts or other ways to continue the celebration in subsequent weeks or months. Whatever it takes, use this person’s decision as a powerful motivator, both for them, as well as for the congregation.

Conclusion

The point to this whole article is this: we must make sure that, when someone becomes a Christian, it is not a “run-of-the-mill” moment. It is time to celebrate. It is time to spread the Word.

After all, that person has allowed Christ to save them and change their eternal destiny. How can we ever treat that as common? Let’s vow to honor and celebrate these eternity-changing moments.


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

Photo credit: Stevan Sheets on Creative Commons

Investing for Evangelism and Edification

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At about this time of year or earlier, leaders in various congregations are involved in working on a budget for the next year. What “line items” would you include for us? How much should be budgeted for each one? What about your own individual or family budget?

It seems to me that there is a tendency to begin thinking that evangelism and/or edification is merely a matter of making the right purchases (or as good salespeople like to say – “investments”). A particular speaker, book, seminar, DVD series, etc. would be just what is needed. If we just “invest” wisely, we will experience tremendous growth in numbers and in our individual and collective spirituality – or so we think.

To be sure, all of us want to make wise purchases. As we peruse a variety of catalogues, exhibits, or online resources, none of us would want to spend money on anything that would violate the scriptures. We would want something that would meet God’s approval and, at the same time, meet our needs in these areas.

I would like to suggest a couple of investments that are absolutely vital. Without them, there will be no evangelism. Without them, there will be no edification. Without them, we will not be doing the Lord’s will, regardless of whatever else we do.

Unless we make an investment of time, we are wasting money with all of the other things on which we may be spending money. Why would we spend money on a good tool for evangelism and never use that tool to convert anybody? Why invest in a library, a course, etc. that is intended to help me or somebody else grow as a Christian and leave that resource in the packaging or on a shelf?

That suggestion is closely related to a second suggestion. That investment of time, needs to be coupled with an investment in the lives of others. It should go without saying that evangelism requires interaction with other people. While it is important for me to be concerned about my own edification, I am being more than a little selfish if I am not concerned about the edification of others as well. 

Without all of the modern resources we have at our disposal, the early church grew. It grew in numbers and in devotion as individual members (not merely the apostles) spent time in prayer and in proclamation of the Word of God.

They made some very wise investments. It is my prayer that we will follow their example.


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[Quote] Thomas B. Warren on the Value of Suffering

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SOURCE: Our Loving God: Our Sun and Shield by Thomas B. Warren. (page 44)