Category Archives: Church Life

The Last Will and Testament of Jesus Christ

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Because it is a fact that the God of the universe actually presented Himself to His creation in the flesh (John 1:14), it seems that His time here on earth would be most significant. And since He exited this realm after only about 33 years, it seems even more important that if He left something behind that mankind would be even more obliged to listen. This is, of course, where the value of the New Testament comes in.

When do men write their wills? They write them during their lifetime. In fact, they basically live their will until the time comes to draft the document that will continue their wishes long after they are gone. So Jesus Christ, the Son of God, wrote the initial remarks of His will during His lifetime. We can see this in the work of the four gospels. We can see how the preliminary teachings of Christ set the precedent for the complete will that would be presented afterward to the human family.

When are the terms of the will articulated to the beneficiaries? They are communicated after the benefactor’s death. This explains the time and the content of the rest of the New Testament. It makes perfect sense that the complete terms of Christ’s will would only be disclosed after His death, burial, and resurrection. Jesus left the Holy Spirit behind to continue to unveil the terms of His will until the reading of such will was completed. These terms are now documented in the pages of the New Testament.

What is different about Christ’s will that separates it from all others? Most wills deliver physical blessings to those who are qualified and who will meet the terms and conditions that are found therein. The inheritance is only temporary, and eventually whatever one receives will either decay or be given to someone else. But Christ’s last will and testament delivers to each person an incorruptible inheritance, reserved in heaven, which will never fade away. There is not another will; past, present, or future, that can bless men eternally.

The New Testament is much more than an historical document. It is more than a guidebook for Christian living. It is more than an ethical foundation for a peaceful society. The New Testament is the last will and testament of the one and only Son of God. It makes sense, then, that we would make sure to be present when the terms and blessings of His will are being publicly disclosed.

Weekly public readings and explanations of the terms of the last will and testament of Jesus Christ are happening regularly at a church near you. You would be blessed to attend.

“For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive.” ~ Hebrews 9:16-17

“And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” ~ Hebrews 10:10

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Some Thoughts about Freedom

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As we prepare to celebrate the fact that thirteen colonies declared, and then fought to win, their independence from the most powerful country in the world at that time, I thought it might be appropriate to share a few thoughts about freedom. There seems to me to be a connection between the freedom which was so dear to them and the freedom we have in Christ (cf. John 8:36).

Freedom is not free. Those who signed the document declaring those colonies to be free from the domination of England pledged their “…Lives…Fortunes…and…Sacred Honor.” While there was recognition of, and appreciation for, “…the protection of Divine Providence…”, it is of interest to notice that that pledge was made to “…each other…” 

History records that many of those who signed that document lost a great deal in subsequent years. History also informs us that, in the war to actually gain the independence that had been declared, freedom came at a terrific cost.

Nothing can compare with the price paid for our freedom in Christ. It cost the Father his Son; it cost the Son his life; and it demands that those who would have this freedom would have to “…deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow [Jesus]” (Luke 9:23).

The price is high, but freedom is worth it.

Liberty is not license. Some may find it amazing that those original colonies did not throw off all law. They just rejected British law. They soon set about drafting constitutions, laws, and other means by which behavior could be regulated. They knew the difference between liberty and license.

This is also the case with regard to spiritual matters. In fact, it is specifically stated in Galatians 5:13 that, “…ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”

Rhetoric is not reality. What the 4th of July celebrates is the Declaration of Independence, not the reality of independence. As alluded to earlier, the reality was not realized until many battles had been fought.

Jesus asked on one occasion, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46). In that statement, there is recognition of the fact that the words of many will not match reality. The claim may be that they are Christians; that they are followers of Christ; that they experience the freedom He promises. The fact may be that none of this is true.

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free…” (Gal 5:1)

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When Sister Goes Against Sister

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We call them differences, arguments, differing opinions, fusses…all meaning the same thing. There are times in the Lord’s church when women (and men) just can’t seem to get along. It might be a committee working toward some event and the lady in charge rules with an iron hand. It may be generational and the older women think they know more about rearing children (or any number of other things) than this younger generation does. It might have to do with modest dress, or songs, or activities, or tattoos, or teaching methods or carpet colors, or food to serve for refreshments, or… 

Suffice it to say that there are times when sister goes against sister in the church.

The apostle Paul begins the fourth chapter of Philippians in an unusual way for a letter written mostly about joy and love. In verse 2 he calls out the names of two Christian women who apparently aren’t getting along for some reason. That reason isn’t given, but we do know that they were not “agreeing in the Lord.” He further calls for the Christians around them to help them. How? He doesn’t really say, unless reminding them that at one time they “labored side by side with me in the gospel…” would help get them back on track.

I would like to share a few suggestions to hopefully help lessen the damage done when “fusses” between Christian sisters come about.

  • Tame your tongue. As is often the case, when there are differences of opinion concerning any matter, our tongues go to work. We feel the need to talk to others about “our opinion” and win as many as we can to “our side” of the dispute. We need to learn to work constantly on being in control of our tongues. James describes it as “…a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” (James 3:8)
  • Taste your talk. If we placed a taste on the words that come from our mouths, what would they taste like? Would they be bitter, salty, sweet, sour? Spend some time thinking about what comes out of your mouth. I know when I’m angry, not much sweetness is likely to come out of my mouth! (Col. 4:6)
  • Tame your tone. How you say what you say matters! I could say “I disagree with that” in several different ways just by changing the tone of my voice and the look on my face. Knowing this and remembering it when differences come up will go a long way toward stopping fusses.
  • It is ok to have differences of opinion concerning non-doctrinal matters. The problem develops when I think that my opinion is the only one that counts; that my way of doing things is the only right way! It hurts me when other sisters don’t agree with me! Do you see the selfishness in these statements? When I lose “self” in order to maintain harmony in the body of Christ I will be helping to keep peace? (Phil. 2:3)
  • Unity is important. Paul gives us a formula to maintain unity in the body of Christ.  “…Walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4: 1-3)  I certainly can’t improve on that formula.
  • Don’t give Satan a victory. When sister goes against sister, disrupting the peace in the congregation, Satan wins a victory. He moves us off-course. We lose our true focus. We forget what Jesus did for us. We begin focusing upon “our rights,” and forget that we have no rights because we have “been crucified with Christ.” (Gal. 2:20)

To paraphrase David the psalmist:

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when [sisters] dwell in unity!” Psalm 133:1

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Will You Lead?

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Recently, I came across some material I have had for years. In that material, I was reminded of a book written years ago by brother Norman Hogan. The book was entitled Leadership in the Local Church.

Contrary to what you might imagine from the book’s title, it is not at all merely for elders, deacons, preachers, and others in “leadership positions” in a congregation. The book contains material that, if taken to heart and put into practice, could benefit every member of every congregation of God’s people.

The very first sentence in the very first chapter of the book should serve as a “wake-up call” for all of us. Please carefully and prayerfully read, reread, and consider the implications of these words:

“If the members of a local church refuse to lead for Christ, it is certain that others, whose philosophy of life is alien that that of Christians, will lead people away from Christ.”

Did you not see in that statement what I did not see? 

I did not see in that sentence any of the following words: elders, deacons, preachers, Bible class teachers. The word I saw was members.

How do you react to brother Hogan’s statement? How do you react to the word “members?”

Do you believe that he is accurate in what he wrote? If so, what are you doing about it?

As you (and I) consider that, let me suggest something else I did not see in his statement. I did not read that he was discussing leading people to Christ. 

Please do not misunderstand. I am, in no way, meaning to leave the impression that leading people to Christ is not important. It is vitally important. It is eternally important.

However, what is under consideration here is leading for Christ. It seems to me that what is called for here would be individuals who will do more than lament the deterioration and decline of what some have called the “moral fabric” of our society – and other societies in the world.

What brother Hogan thought was desperately needed were people who would take a stand based on firm convictions. They would do more than merely take a stand. They would move forward in the right direction and encourage others to follow.

Leaders lead. They do not merely stand.

Leaders act. They do not merely complain.

Is our society all that you want it to be? What about your community? What about your workplace? What about your school? What about your congregation? What about your family?

Are you leading for Christ?

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A Piece of My Mind

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I have been in the unique position recently to spend time talking with some dedicated Christian servants who happen to be older than me. I feel the need to share some of what they have been sharing with me:

  • They care about younger people, both children and their parents. This care has led them to expend amazing amounts of energy and creativity working on summer activities that are geared mostly toward these young families. And they are pleased that the young families turn out for these events. However, they are hurt and/or discouraged that some of those families only turn out for these events that are catered to the young families.
  • While they seem to work tirelessly, they are tired … but they won’t quit. One dear sister I know spent her days taking care of grandchildren and taking her mother to the doctor in another city before coming to teach her class each night of VBS. You see, to her, teaching children is just something that must be done even if you are tired. It is not an optional service. Another lady, eyes worn out from studying her Bible, is worried that there are some who think her “too old fashioned” with her teaching, but notice from where that teaching comes!
  • More than one respected Christian sister has talked to me about younger mothers coming to them for advice and when Biblical advice is given – such as “if they live in your home, they follow your rules” (Proverbs 15:24, 19:18. 22:15, 29:17) – the advice is shunned. That hurts. Why ask? Proverbs 19:20 still reads: “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.”

While my natural inclination is to give people a piece of my mind for hurting these loving servants of God, I’m trying to learn from their example, and that of my Savior, to instead offer a piece of my heart. Young ones – myself included – please don’t disrespect the advice of those who have walked this path before you. They are the very ones who got you to the place where you now stand. They taught you in Bible classes, listened to your teenage woes, supported your young dreams and continue to love and serve your young family. They have a strong and unique combination of having your best interest at heart and the experience and wisdom of years to see things you (we) cannot yet see.

The Bible is quite clear about which group of people in this world is most likely to have wisdom:

Job 12:12: “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.”

1 Corinthians 2:6-7: “Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.”

It is up to us to understand and respect that and to follow the advice of the old preacher to his son in Proverbs 4:5 “Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.”

Oh … and don’t forget to say thank you! (That part is the piece of my mind! )

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What’s Missing from Too Many Vacation Bible Schools

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“I love Vacation Bible School.”

So begins a short little song that is often sung this time of year. Those words, though, also share my heart. I think VBS is a wonderful event. I have attended Vacation Bible Schools since I was a baby, I suppose. I have taught at a number of them and have directed (I think) 14 years’ worth of VBS.

Here at 9th Avenue, we are still a few week away from our Vacation Bible School for 2016, but I am encouraged by many of the conversations we have been having in preparing. The reason is that we are not leaving out what too many places forget when planning a VBS.

The Bible.

That “B” in VBS stands for it. Everyone knows that the “B” is for “Bible.” We have Bible stories as the basis for classes and so forth, but we really need to take stock of our Vacation Bible Schools.

As I look around and see much of what passes for Vacation Bible School, I have to ask if our children are getting much Bible at all when they attend.

Don’t get me wrong. I totally agree that VBS offers a chance for congregations to teach in ways that they may not normally be able to. Many do a great job of trying to reach out to the community and bring in children who might not usually attend services. Knowing that, we strive to make the Bible “come alive” in our Vacation Bible Schools. That’s all well and good.

Here is what we all need to consider, however: are we thinking of our creativity first, or are we thinking of the Bible first?

That might just be a sobering question to ask!

Our creativity is a gift from God, but it can be far too easy to think of the creative side as our primary goal, then just try to find a few Bible stories that fit the “image” we have already chosen.

(By the way, we can fall into this trap in Sunday school, sermon series, or any number of other things.)

Instead, we need to be certain that, when the children leave a VBS, they remember the Bible story in addition to the creative element. Too often, we think about them remembering some creative side and then we just hope they “get a little Bible” while they are with us.

To truly put on a Vacation Bible School, teachers need time to study the text, not just the decorations. They need to think about the glory of the Bible, and then let their creative juices flow as to how to present that lesson to each student who might be present.

Let us all be careful not just to have an event. Let’s all strive to have a Vacation Bible School.

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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

How Orlando is No Different than Sandy Hook

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It is a tragic act of absolute violence. It is cold-blooded murder. And it is happening more and more every day. The recent Orlando massacre is the latest shooting where innocent people became victims of terror. To try and figure out why these things are happening and what the motivation is behind them is really probably not going to solve the current situation in our world. And without being insensitive to any person affected by any of the mass shootings on our soil or abroad, let’s go ahead and state one thing that all of these terrible acts of violence have in common: A God who is very sad.
Whether it is a hate crime, a terrorist plot, or a person who is mentally ill who goes on a rampage, in the end, the result is the same. Innocent people have been violently murdered. For a moment can we pause and simply consider what is going on in the mind and heart of God? Let’s not try to spin each situation. Let’s not make it political. Let’s not make it about the presidency, or gun control or international terrorism, or the need for awareness concerning people who suffer from mental illness.
From Orlando to Sandy Hook, Blacksburg to San Ysidro, San Bernardino to Columbine, or any other location where innocent people are being killed, do we think that the why of it all makes any difference to God? It could be the Oklahoma City bombing or 9/11 or the incident at the Boston Marathon.  To God, it is all the same. God is the giver of life. Satan and his work in the world through weak humanity is the author of death. The chapters may be different and the writers may be new. But people are dying, innocent people who don’t deserve to be killed.
I am growing weary of anyone making it about race or sexually immoral activity, or bad parenting, or whatever. God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked. He has no pleasure in sin and death at all. We created sin and death. We keep recreating it in different ways for different reasons. The real problem is sin. It is the darkness that is typical of a world that is getting farther and farther away from God.
In Genesis 6 we read of a time in human history where every intent of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually. What else does it say? It says that God was sorry that He had made man on the earth. He repented in His heart that He had made man.  So God chose to start over through a man named Noah who found grace in the eyes of the Lord.
I am not suggesting that our world today is anywhere as bad as the Genesis 6 world. But I am suggesting a few things. I am suggesting that God is devastated when humans are wicked. I am suggesting that wicked people wax worse and worse and human morality (or lack of it) always trends in a particular direction from generation to generation. And I am suggesting that, no matter how bad it gets, there is still a God who is gracious and offers mercy for the people who will shun such evil and turn to Him in humility and repentance.
I see no signs of these mass killings coming to an end anytime soon. There is no safe place foreign or domestic except one. There is safety in the arms of Jesus. And God be thanked that if we are His there is nothing that Satan or man can do to us. Because He still has the whole world in the palms of His hands.
“So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” – Hebrews 13:6
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“You Know What to Do”

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I remember a conversation I had a few years ago with a preacher friend of mine. He was telling me about a lady who had been baptized a few days earlier.

He had only been at the church where he was preaching for a short time. The lady, however, had been attending worship services there for about ten years.

Her conversion to Christ was the result of a simple question:

“Are you a Christian?”

Isn’t it amazing that, in ten years, nobody had ever asked her that question? Had they totally ignored her? Apparently not. She did remember what had been said to her by some members of that congregation. They had “encouraged” her by saying:

“You know what to do.”

I’m sure they meant well. I’m sure that they sincerely hoped that she would obey the gospel. I’m also sure they really thought they were encouraging her.

However, it took a simple, but sincere, question to open the door for a Bible study which led to her salvation. 

Do you know somebody who apparently “knows what to do?” What if they don’t? What if nobody ever demonstrates sincere, genuine concern for him or her?

What if you were the one to ask that one simple question? 

You might be surprised at the answer you get. You might be surprised at the results of that one conversation. You might be instrumental in leading an eternal soul to the Lord.

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Are You “Church of Christ?”

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I don’t know how many times I have been asked, “Are you ‘church of Christ’?” or “Are you a ‘church of Christ preacher’?”

The answer, Biblically speaking, is “no.”

That may surprise you for me to say. After all, I do preach for a church of Christ, and have been a member of various churches of Christ since I became a Christian about 26 years ago. I love the church of Christ, and I graduated from a university associated with churches of Christ.

So why would I say that I am not “church of Christ?”

It is very simply because I am a Christian only. I do not belong to a denomination, nor will I ever do so.

When we speak of “church of Christ preachers” or “church of Christ schools,” we may not mean anything by it, but we are using “church of Christ” as a descriptor. Such is common in the denominational world, where there are “[denominational name] ministers” or “[denominational name] schools” or “[denominational name] publications,” and so forth.

But this was not the work nor prayer of my Lord.

Jesus stated that He would build but one church (Matthew 16:18), and He did just that, purchasing it with His own precious blood (Acts 20:28). Thus, it is His church. We have no right to denominate it; to break it into little pieces based on our own whims or fancies.

Part of His desire for His church was autonomy for each congregation. Jesus is the sole Head of the church (Colossians 1:18), and there is no other authoritative ruler between the local congregation and His leadership. Each congregation is shepherded and overseen by elders, but the elders of one congregation have no right to strive to tell other elders what to do. All are to appeal solely and wholeheartedly only to the teachings of Jesus found in Scripture.

I am pleased to be a member of a congregation that is called a church of Christ, but only because the congregation where I worship and serve seeks to be Christians only, following the teachings of the New Testament. We do not appeal to other congregations, conferences, conventions, or confessionals to tell us what to do. We have no hierarchy above our congregation, other than the headship of Jesus, Himself.

There is no governing body and no decision-making board.

If our congregation decides to change worship in a way that is wholly unbiblical, that does not reflect one bit on any other congregation of the Lord’s people. It would, of course, be wrong, but not because “the church of Christ” says it is wrong. It would be wrong because Christ clearly showed in the New Testament what His desire is. That settles it; no vote necessary.

If one congregation decides to bind things as necessary that are not to be bound, that does not change what our congregation will do. They would be wrong in binding what the New Testament does not bind, but not because “the church of Christ” decided that. They would be wrong because Christ decided that!

I love the church of Christ! I do not love it, though, because it is a “better denomination” than some other group. I love the church of Christ because it is the only church my Lord paid for with His blood. I love it precisely because it is not a denomination.

So, am I a “church of Christ?” No.

Am I a “church of Christ preacher?” No.

But, am I grateful to be a member of the church of which Christ is the head? I could not be any more grateful.

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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

Could You Be Wrong about Your Religion?

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Saul was wrong about Christianity. Peter was wrong about the Gentiles. James and John were wrong about discipleship. Thomas was wrong about faith. We could go on and on but the point is that even sincerely religious people are going to be wrong about what they believe and practice sometimes. This is why we have the Bible. This is why it is the supreme authority on all religious matters.
Some people believe in the wrong God. There is only one God, Jehovah (Deut. 6:4). Yet we have Allah, Buddha, the gods of Hinduism, or the other various false gods created by man. People believe in these gods and stake their eternal souls on their very existence.
Some people disciple the wrong master. Jesus is our only teacher and Lord (Matt. 23:10). Yet people follow men such as Luther, Calvin, Smith, Wesley, Graham, Osteen, and women such as Eddy and White. Literally hundreds more could be listed. Just google famous religious leaders and understand how many doctrines and practices have originated from people other than Christ.
Some people are wrong about salvation. What constitutes a person being saved or lost? Is it grace? Is it faith? Is it a prayer or a confession? Is it some mode of entry like sprinkling or baptism? The fact that people have various thoughts about how a person comes into a saved relationship with God is the perfect example of how many people have to be wrong about their religion! It makes no sense that everyone can disagree and be right at the same time.
Some people are wrong about worship. Jesus once talked to a Samaritan woman about worship (John 4). She asked Him a sincere question about the difference between Jewish and Samaritan worship. She recognized that these two peoples worshiped differently and she wanted to know from Jesus who was right. There has never been an example anywhere and Scripture that has supported the idea that God has to accept whatever worship we choose to offer Him. Yet many people treat worship this way.
Some people are wrong about the church. They don’t organize it scripturally. They don’t name it Biblically. They don’t carry out the daily practices of the church according to the doctrine of the New Testament. They make their own creed. They attempt to make the church a denomination when the only true church is the Lord’s.
We could continue for hours to discuss all of the things that are done in the name of religion that in a purely biblical sense are just incorrect. But only one observation concerning this truth needs to be made:
When a person examines their religion in the light of all of the teachings of the Bible, they are going to find out they are wrong about some things.
The question is, will we, like Saul, be willing to leave our old religion for the correct one? Will we, like Peter, repent of our sometimes hypocritical practices? Will we, like James and John, stop making it about us and start making it about Jesus? Will we, like Thomas, learn how to believe in things we cannot see?
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” – Psalm 119:105
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